The Book of the Dead

The Egyptian Book of the Dead was a religious and funerary text used from the beginning of the New Kingdom (1550BC) to about 50BC. Its actual name (translated from ancient Egyptian) is the Book of Coming Forth By Day. The book contained the primary ideas and beliefs in the ancient Egyptian religion, and included a list of spells, passwords and charms for use of the deceased in the afterlife along with illustrations and hymns. The text was originally enscribed on the sides of a person's
A Section of the Book of the Dead - Courtesy of Creative Commons

sarcophagus; but later it was written on a scroll and buried inside the sarcophagus with the corpse. The book was intended to guide the dead through the trials of reaching the afterlife. It was presumed that the spells in the book were essential if you wanted a happy life after death. The text was often individualized depending on the deceased's social class, job, gender etc.

The book primarily describes the main ceremonies involved in the afterlife. For example, the book goes into a vivid description of the 'Weighing of the Heart' procedure, which Rachel wrote about in the 'What Happens In The Afterlife' section. Every Egyptian considered the Book of the Dead a sacred and important text.

´╗┐Comparison to Modern Day

The Book of the Dead was, as I said before, a sacred and religious text, and there are a lot of existing texts of that genre - the Bible, the Koran or Quran, the Torah and the Dao De Jing to name a few examples. Some of these texts (the Bible, for example) are considered to be divinely or supernaturally inspired, and some (i.e. the Dao De Jing) are just books of philosophy of a certain type rather than worship of a god/goddess. The similarities between the Book of the Dead and other books of that ilk, used in the modern day, are that the texts are considered sacred and of a high importance, and that they pertain to the beliefs of the people that use them. So, for example, the Bible contains the tales that Christians believe actually did happen, and the Dao De Jing contains the Daoist philosophies.

It would be hard to find a book that could compare to the Book of the Dead, because although we know that it is a religious text it also contains various spells and charms designed to guide a deceased person through the afterlife, and it is rare to find 'spells' in a religious text such as the aforementioned. Not even the Wiccan belief (a type of neopaganism), which entails a few spells and rituals, has a sacred text, although the Gardnerian Book of Shadows is considered of high importance. Also, most sacred texts are not individualised, rather the book contains the same parables for every edition.

The Gardnerian Book of Shadows - Courtesy of Creative Commons

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