Coffin Texts

Coffin Texts

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The Coffin Texts are a collection of ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

ian funerary spells written on coffins beginning in the First Intermediate Period. The texts are derived in part from the earlier pyramid texts
Pyramid Texts
The Pyramid Texts are a collection of ancient Egyptian religious texts from the time of the Old Kingdom. The pyramid texts are possibly the oldest known religious texts in the world. Written in Old Egyptian, the pyramid texts were carved on the walls and sarcophagi of the pyramids at Saqqara during...

, reserved for royal use only, but they contain substantial new material related to everyday desires that reflects the fact that the texts were now used by the common people. Ordinary Egyptians who could afford to have a coffin had access to these funerary spells and the pharaoh
Pharaoh
Pharaoh is a title used in many modern discussions of the ancient Egyptian rulers of all periods. The title originates in the term "pr-aa" which means "great house" and describes the royal palace...

 no longer had exclusive rights to the afterlife.

As the modern name of this collection of some 1,185 spells implies, the texts are mostly found on Middle Kingdom
Middle Kingdom of Egypt
The Middle Kingdom of Egypt is the period in the history of ancient Egypt stretching from the establishment of the Eleventh Dynasty to the end of the Fourteenth Dynasty, between 2055 BC and 1650 BC, although some writers include the Thirteenth and Fourteenth dynasties in the Second Intermediate...

 coffins. However they are sometimes inscribed on tomb walls, stelae, canopic chest
Canopic chest
Canopic chests are cases used by Ancient Egyptians to contain the internal organs removed during the process of mummification. Although the first proven canopic burials date from the 4th Dynasty reign of Sneferu, there is evidence to suggest that there were canopic installations at Saqqara dating...

s, papyri
Papyrus
Papyrus is a thick paper-like material produced from the pith of the papyrus plant, Cyperus papyrus, a wetland sedge that was once abundant in the Nile Delta of Egypt....

 and even mummy masks. Due to the limited writing surfaces of some of these objects, the collection was often abbreviated, and this gave rise to long and short versions of some of the spells, a number of which were later copied in the Book of the Dead
Book of the Dead
The Book of the Dead is the modern name of an ancient Egyptian funerary text, used from the beginning of the New Kingdom to around 50 BC. The original Egyptian name for the text, transliterated rw nw prt m hrw is translated as "Book of Coming Forth by Day". Another translation would be "Book of...

.

Content


In contrast to the Pyramid Texts
Pyramid Texts
The Pyramid Texts are a collection of ancient Egyptian religious texts from the time of the Old Kingdom. The pyramid texts are possibly the oldest known religious texts in the world. Written in Old Egyptian, the pyramid texts were carved on the walls and sarcophagi of the pyramids at Saqqara during...

 which focus on the celestial realm, the coffin texts emphasize the subterranean elements of the afterlife ruled by Osiris
Osiris
Osiris is an Egyptian god, usually identified as the god of the afterlife, the underworld and the dead. He is classically depicted as a green-skinned man with a pharaoh's beard, partially mummy-wrapped at the legs, wearing a distinctive crown with two large ostrich feathers at either side, and...

, in a place called the Duat
Duat
In Egyptian mythology, Duat is the underworld. The Duat is a vast area under the Earth, connected with Nun, the waters of the primordial abyss. The Duat is the realm of the god Osiris and the residence of other gods and supernatural beings...

. An Osirian afterlife is offered to everyone, and the deceased is even referred to as "the Osiris-[name]". This subterranean realm is described as being filled with threatening beings, traps, and snares with which the deceased must contend. The spells in the Coffin Texts allow the deceased to protect themselves against these dangers and "dying a second death
Second Death
The second death is an eschatological concept in Judaism and Christianity related to punishment after a first, natural, death.-Judaism:Although the term is not found in the Hebrew Bible, Sysling in his study of Teḥiyyat ha-metim in the Palestinian Targums identifies a consistent usage of the term...

".

A new theme recorded in the coffin texts is the notion that all people will be judged
Judgement (afterlife)
A judgement in afterlife, weighing the deeds of life, is a common conception in religion.- See also :* Last judgment * Weighing of the Heart...

 by Osiris and his council according to their deeds in life. The texts allude to the use of a balance, which became the pivotal moment of judgment in the later Book of the Dead
Book of the Dead
The Book of the Dead is the modern name of an ancient Egyptian funerary text, used from the beginning of the New Kingdom to around 50 BC. The original Egyptian name for the text, transliterated rw nw prt m hrw is translated as "Book of Coming Forth by Day". Another translation would be "Book of...

. The texts address common fears of the living, such as having to do manual labor, with spells to allow the deceased to avoid these unpleasant tasks.

They combine ritual actions intended as protection, expressions of aspiration for a blessed existence after death and of the transformations and transmigrations
Reincarnation
Reincarnation best describes the concept where the soul or spirit, after the death of the body, is believed to return to live in a new human body, or, in some traditions, either as a human being, animal or plant...

 of the ba and akh and so on. In addition there are descriptions of the land of the dead
Duat
In Egyptian mythology, Duat is the underworld. The Duat is a vast area under the Earth, connected with Nun, the waters of the primordial abyss. The Duat is the realm of the god Osiris and the residence of other gods and supernatural beings...

, its landscape and inhabitants. These include the Sekhet Hotep (Field of offerings or peace), the paths of Rostau and the abode of Osiris.

Examples


Coffin text 1130 is a speech by the sun god Re
Ra
Ra is the ancient Egyptian sun god. By the Fifth Dynasty he had become a major deity in ancient Egyptian religion, identified primarily with the mid-day sun...

, who says:
Hail in peace! I repeat to you the good deeds which my own heart did for me from within the serpent-coil, in order to silence strife...
I made the four winds, that every man might breathe in his time...
I made the great inundation, that the humble might benefit by it like the great...
I made every man like his fellow; and I did not command that they do wrong. It is their hearts which disobey what I have said...
I have created the gods from my sweat, and the people from the tears of my eye.


Coffin text 1031 is spoken by the deceased, who says:
I shall sail rightly in my bark, I am lord of eternity in the crossing of the sky.
I am not afraid in my limbs, for Hu and Hike overthrow for me that evil being.
I shall see light-land, I shall dwell in it...

Make way for me, that I may see Nun and Amun! For I am that Akh who passes by the guards...

I am equipped and effective in opening his portal!
As for any person who knows this spell, he will be like Re in the eastern sky, like Osiris in the netherworld. He will go down to the circle of fire, without the flame touching him ever!

The Book of Two Ways


A few coffins from the Middle Egyptian necropolis of el-Bersheh (Deir el-Bersha
Deir el-Bersha
Deir el-Bersha is a Coptic village in Middle Egypt. It is located on the east bank of the Nile in the al-Minya governorate, to the south of Antinopolis and almost opposite the city of Mallawi.-Overview:...

) contain unique graphical representations of the realm of the afterlife, along with spells related to the journey of the deceased through the Duat. This collection, called the Book of Two Ways, was the first example of an Ancient Egyptian map of the underworld. The Book of Two Ways is a precursor to the New Kingdom
New Kingdom
The New Kingdom of Egypt, also referred to as the Egyptian Empire is the period in ancient Egyptian history between the 16th century BC and the 11th century BC, covering the Eighteenth, Nineteenth, and Twentieth Dynasties of Egypt....

 books of the underworld as well as the Book of the Dead, in which descriptions of the routes through the afterlife are a persistent theme. The two ways depicted are the land and water routes, separated by a lake of fire, that lead to Rostau and the abode of Osiris.

See also

  • Pyramid Texts
    Pyramid Texts
    The Pyramid Texts are a collection of ancient Egyptian religious texts from the time of the Old Kingdom. The pyramid texts are possibly the oldest known religious texts in the world. Written in Old Egyptian, the pyramid texts were carved on the walls and sarcophagi of the pyramids at Saqqara during...

  • The Book of the Dead
    Book of the Dead
    The Book of the Dead is the modern name of an ancient Egyptian funerary text, used from the beginning of the New Kingdom to around 50 BC. The original Egyptian name for the text, transliterated rw nw prt m hrw is translated as "Book of Coming Forth by Day". Another translation would be "Book of...

  • Opening of the mouth ceremony
    Opening of the mouth ceremony
    The opening of the mouth ceremony was an ancient Egyptian ritual described in funerary texts such as the Pyramid Texts.-Funerary magic:...


External links