The Egyptian book of the dead is one of the most influential books in all of history. Embodying a ritual to be performed for the dead, with detailed instructions for the behavior of the disembodied spirit in the land of the God’s.
It served as the most important repository of religious authority for some three thousand years. Chapters were carved on the pyramids of the ancient 5th dynasty, texts were written in papyrus, and selections were painted on mummy cases well into the Christian era.
In the year 1888 the author of the Book of the Dead, Dr. E. Wallis Budge, then purchasing agent for the British Museum followed rumors he heard of a spectacular archeological find in Upper Egypt, and found in an 18th Dynasty tomb new Luxor the largest roll of papyrus he had ever seen.
It was a copy of the Egyptian book of the Dead, written around 1500B.C. for Ani Royal Scribe of Thebes, Overseer of the Granaries of the Lords of Abydos, and Scribe of he Offerings of the Lords of Thebes.
The Book of the Dead is a repository of information on how Africans viewed their relationship with an eternal God. To some degree it has also influenced the modern bible, specifically to the Ten Commandments, which were taken verbatim from the book of the dead.
The book of the Dead details rights of passage for the deceased and spells for them to carry on to the next life in order to pass the tests they would have to endure in order to attain everlasting life. There are also the 42 laws of Maat, known today as the Ten Commandments of the modern bible, which the deceased would have to say in the negative. So instead of “though shall not kill” the deceased would have to utter, “I have not killed”.
The question for most Africans is, why is the Book of the Dead important in modern Africa? In simple it details the spiritual contribution of Africans to modern day religious belief systems and outlines in detail what can be done to attain everlasting life in the next life.
It is also indirectly a rule-based book on how we can live our lives in the corporeal world through the laws of Maat to prepare for everlasting life. The Book of the Dead is a must read for all Africans seeking to find the African contribution to modern religious beliefs and myths.
Although it is a bit long, one needs to get a version that is not only a translation but also a transliteration in order to understand some of the spiritual subtleties which are presented by the Book of the Dead. The Book of the Dead by E. Wallis Budge is our book of the month and comes highly recommended from the Real African Writers Desk.