Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Gates of the Underworld in Egypt's New Kingdom

     In the New Kingdom "Book of the Dead" the Egyptian concept of the afterlife continued to feature a series of gates that the deceased had to pass through to join with Osiris in the land of the blessed dead. Like the gates in earlier texts, such as in the Book of Two Ways (see the posts I did on September 21 and September 23, 2015), the gates in the Book of the Dead had guardians who needed to be overcome for the deceased to continue his journey. The names of these fearsome demons are completely different from the names of the gatekeepers in the Book of the Two Ways.

     In the Papyrus of Ani, there are seven"gates" and ten "portals" that Ani needed to pass. Each of the gates had a "Gatekeeper", a "Guardian" and an "Announcer" squatting in front of it, while each of the ten portals was barred by a single gatekeeper. Other New Kingdom texts have up to twenty-one entrances which can be passed only by conversing with the guardians. Here the conversations are only hinted at (see: Goelet, Ogden, et al. The Book of the Dead, San Francisco: Chronicle Books, Third Edition, 2015, p. 171). We will start looking at the seven gates in this post and the ten portals in later posts.

     Gate One was blocked by a rabbit-headed "demon" holding what looks like a sheaf of wheat, a snake-headed "demon" and a crocodile-headed "demon" (both of whom were armed with knives). The gatekeeper was called "Inverted of Face, Multitudinous of Forms", the Guardian was called "Eavesdropper" and the Announcer was known as "Hostile-Voiced". Ani arrived before this gate and proclaimed that he was a great-one who could "make his own light". He then commanded that the demons "open the way in Rosetjau, so that I might cure the illness of Osiris".

     Gate Two had a gatekeeper referred to as "One who opens up the breast", a guardian named "Seqed Face" and an announcer named Wesed. Ani asks to be allowed to pass forward so that he could "...see Re among those who make offerings". The demons were fish-headed (?), human-headed and dog-headed and all three bore knives.

Note: the translations for this post (and for the next few) were done by Raymond Faulkner and published in: Goelet, Ogden, et al. The Book of the Dead, San Francisco: Chronicle Books, Third Edition, 2015.


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