Book of the Dead

On the second day of the new year, we decided to check out a new exhibition in the British Museum, titled ‘Journey through the afterlife: Ancient Egyptian Book of The Dead’. Looking back now, it was probably not a good start to a new year by visiting something about the dead. However we are not superstitious so we don’t care.

Now I do have to say it was quite amazing that I could wake up at 0730 on a bank holiday to get ready and head to British Museum by 10am for our appointment entry time. I have never been so ‘gung ho’. Given the choice I would not have chosen 10am to visit the exhibition but Dav likes to do things early in the morning so that we can do fit in more activities for the rest of the day. I agree with him partially, just that I’m not a very nice morning person (ie I am very grumpy in the morning).

The Book of the Dead is a collection of religious texts (mainly spells and funerary texts) for the dead. Something like a guide for the dead for the afterlife. These texts can be inscribed on coffins, shrouds and mummy bandages, but was usually written on rolls of papyrus. So in this exhibition we saw various versions of the Book of the Dead, mainly for high ranking socialite or priests.

We were also introduced to the various ancient Egyptians gods and goddesses, whom played an important role in the deceased journey to the afterlife. Some gods make more ‘appearances’ than others… for example Anubis (jackal headed god) is ALWAYS in the Book of the Dead because it is the god of embalming and protector of the dead. He also led the deceased to the balance of judgement and supervised the weighing of the heart. Therefore he appears ALOT in the book.

Now after going through the exhibition, it got me thinking. The Chinese beliefs and culture is not very different from the Egyptian. We also prepare the dead for the afterlife by burning paper money, house, cars, mobile phones, etc… the more the better. This ensures that the deceased will have a good afterlife. The Egyptian prepare the Book of the Dead which contains spells and ‘instructions’ on how to achieve a good afterlife.

Through the exhibition we also found out that only the rich and high ranking Egyptians will be able to afford the Book of Dead. This will be true of the Chinese as well where if you have no money, it will mean the deceased will have ‘less’ to make their afterlife comfortable.

Cant believe that after SOOOOOO many years, our quality of life after death is still pre-determined by the amount of wealth one has. Of course this will only be true if you believe in such tradition. I don’t, so I guess it wont have an effect on me.

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