I wanted to do an extra post this week because the Pagan Blog Project is up to the letter ‘D’ and I feel like I kind of cheated it hehe (see previous post).
This post is about one of my favorite books of all time, or to be more specific, my favorite translation of that book. The Egyptian funerary text, also known as the Book of Coming Forth By Day, better known as the Book of the Dead. According to many historical texts, it is a collection of spells created to help the dead in their journey through the underworld and into eternal life as a spirit. These texts are both magical and religious and there are many sources of historical documentation to read up on them. Don’t let the title mislead you, these writings are not about death, but about life, eternal life. This is what the Egyptians believed in and looked forward to. Living an eternity as a spirit, enjoying everything they loved, surrounded by the spirits of all those they loved.
The ancient Egyptians really cared a lot about the afterlife, and it showed in the construction of their tombs, which were made more elaborately and with better materials than their own homes. Their logic for this is simply that they knew this would be their eternal dwelling, while their mortal homes would be a place to live for the next 40 or so years (life expectancy back then wasn’t as high as it is now). One can imagine the comfort this would bring to a person who was getting closer to death, as opposed to the fear of death and dying which is more prevalent these days.
When I first wanted to learn more about the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the book I found at the library was the Wallis Budge translation. It is a great tool for learning and researching historical data. I wasn’t able to read the entire book though, I guess it wasn’t what I was looking for. I got my copy of Normandi Ellis’ Awakening Osiris: The Egyptian Book of the Dead in 1988 which I believe is the year it was published. Since then I have read so many times that I lost count. This book was definitely what I was looking for.
Inspiring, spiritual, beautiful, rhythmic, magical, powerful. Those are some of the words that come to mind when I try to describe Normandi Ellis’ translation. When I have felt the need for wisdom, I have looked in its pages. When I have felt the need for guidance, I have looked in its pages. I have even used it when constructing a spell or when I need a good affirmation. It is a book that I keep going back to, all these years it is still relevant to me, and it still has the same spiritual and magical power.
In my opinion, Awakening Osiris: The Egyptian Book of the Dead is giving us a window into the possibilities that the funerary texts have for us, of how these ancient texts can still be of use to us today. My copy of the book is marked up, pages flagged, and I had to put plastic on the cover to protect it from all the use it gets (see photo above, that’s my copy of the book).
One of my favorite spells excerpts that can also be used as an affirmation, is one that some of my friends already know me by. It is the following:
“Let my spirit be stronger today than it was yesterday, my heart more peaceful, my mind more fertile, my hands more gentle.” This is only part of Chapter 5: Coming Forth By Day. These words have given me strength on many days when I’ve felt I am lacking it. I have shared these words with others many times and I’ve always heard that they find them very comforting and empowering, regardless of religion.
Chapter 8: Triumph Over Darkness is such a powerful spell, with many words that can be used for protection. One example: ” May my fingernails turn into thorns to drive back the snake. May my arms become spears to thwart crocodiles. May the light of my soul detect shadows of evil. May I listen to the voice of the messenger. May I walk the road envisioned by Ra’s eyes.” When I read these words I can feel their power and confidence.
I imagine that in ancient Egypt, having an instructional text such as this would bring a feeling of security to a person who is going through preparations for the afterlife (construction of their tomb and such).
There is so much relevant, powerful and insightful wisdom in this translation that I think this will be a book I will keep going back to for many more years. And I thank Normandi Ellis for this wonderful work.
Love and Blessings
Sources: Awakening Osiris: The Egyptian Book of the Dead by Normandi Ellis , Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, translated by Raymond O. Faulkner, http://en.wikipedia.org/