Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday the 13th and ancient Egypt

Not all superstitions about Friday the 13th are bad. The ancient Egyptians believed that life was a spiritual journey that unfolds in stages. They believed that 12 of those stages occurred in this life, and the last, the 13th, was the ascension to an eternal afterlife. So the number 13 represented death to the Egyptians, but not death as in decay and fear, but as acknowledgement of a glorious eternal life.

There are two main Egyptian gods of the afterlife: Anubis and Osiris.

Osiris is usually identified as the god of the afterlife, the underworld and the dead. He was considered a merciful judge of the dead and  the underworld agency that granted all life, including sprouting vegetation and the fertile flooding of the Nile. He was described as the Lord of love, He Who is Permanently Benign and Youthful, and the Lord of Silence. The Kings of Egypt were associated with Osiris in death since Osiris rose from the dead. They would, in union with him, inherit eternal life through a process of imitative magic. By the New Kingdom all people, not just pharaohs, were believed to be associated with Osiris at death, if they incurred the costs of the funeral rituals. Oh, and Osiris is the love interest in my novel, Queen of Heka.

Anubis, the older god of the dead, was originally the most important one. He was replaced during the Middle Kingdom by Osiris. After his demotion, he was associated with the mummification and protection of the dead for their journey into the afterlife. During embalming, the head embalmer wore an Anubis costume. The critical weighing of the heart scene in the Book of the Dead also shows Anubis performing the measurement that determined the worthiness of the deceased to enter the realm of the dead (the underworld, known as Duat). He's also a character in the novel.