This is one cool book. Each chapter is about a dead person the author knew. The chapters are short and intense and riveting and beautifully written. Winik has many gifts as a writer, but one I appreciate the most is her ability to write about the hardest, darkest subjects with a light, knowing hand.
Situations are bleak, but life is not. Life is hard and hilarious and good and complex and often, entirely inexplicable. Winik shows us that in this book. I think you will too. This is partly because Winik resists the temptation to be overly reverent or poetic, though there are plenty of graceful passages. The slender and elegantly illustrated volume chronicles the stories of some 50 individuals the author once knew, compressing their lives and personal significance into brief, two-page essays. So it makes sense that her newest essay collection comprises tributes to her dead.
Bold and funny, Winik is the queen of pithiness and punch, and the micro-lives she has created here are far more difficult to forge than their brevity and blithe tone might suggest. Death comes, they say, like a thief in the night. We all deserve it, and, as evidenced by this book, no one knows that more keenly than Marion Winik.
Later, however, the scribe wrote the text only, and a skilled artist was employed to add the coloured vignettes, for which spaces were marked out and left blank by the scribe. The finest example of this class of roll is the Papyrus of Ani Brit. In all papyri of this class the text is written in hieroglyphs, but under the XIXth and following dynasties many papyri are written throughout in the hieratic character; these usually lack vignettes, but have coloured frontispieces. The greater number of the rolls of this period are short and contain only a few Chapters, e.
In some the text is very defective and carelessly written, but the coloured vignettes are remarkable for their size and beauty; of this class of roll the finest example is the Papyrus of Anhai Brit.
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The most interesting of all the rolls that were written during the rule of the Priest-Kings over Upper Egypt is the Papyrus of Princess Nesitanebtashru Brit. One of the most remarkable texts written at this period is found in the Papyrus of Nesi-Khensu, which is now in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
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The contract was drawn up in a series of paragraphs in legal phraseology by the priests of Amen, who believed they had the power of making their god do as they pleased when they pleased. Many funerary rolls were written both in hieroglyphs and hieratic, and were decorated with vignettes drawn in black outline; and about this time the scribes began to write funerary texts in the demotic character.
The cult of Osiris was triumphant everywhere, and men preferred the hymns and litanies which dealt with his sufferings, death and resurrection to the compositions in which the absolute supremacy of Ra and his solar cycle of gods and goddesses was assumed or proclaimed. During the four thousand years of its existence many additions were made to it, but nothing of importance seems to have been taken away from it.
In the space here available it is impossible to describe in detail the various Recensions of this work, viz. No one papyrus can be cited as a final authority, for no payprus contains all the Chapters, in number, of the Theban Recension, and in no two papyri are the selection and sequence of the Chapters identical, or is the treatment of the vignettes the same. His words were almighty and once uttered never remained without effect.
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He framed the laws by which heaven, earth and all the heavenly bodies are maintained; he ordered the courses of the sun, moon, and stars; he invented drawing and design and the arts, the letters of the alphabet and the art of writing, and the science of mathematics.
And every follower of Osiris relied upon the advocacy of Thoth to secure his acquittal on the Day of Judgment, and to procure for him an everlasting habitation in the Kingdom of Osiris. The Egyptians were not satisfied with the mere possession of the texts of Thoth, when their souls were being weighed in the Great Scales in the Judgment Hall of Osiris, but they also wished Thoth to act as their Advocate on this dread occasion and to prove their innocence as he had proved that of Osiris before the great gods in prehistoric times.
According to a very ancient Egyptian tradition, the god Osiris, who was originally the god of the principle of the fertility of the Nile, became incarnate on earth as the son of Geb, the Earth-god, and Nut, the Sky-goddess. Geb set Osiris on the throne of Egypt, and his rule was beneficent and the nation was happy and prosperous. Set marked this and became very jealous of his brother, and wished to slay him so that he might seize his throne and take possession of Isis, whose reputation as a devoted and loving wife and able manager filled the country. By some means or other Set did contrive to kill Osiris: according to one story he killed him by the side of a canal at Netat, near Abydos, and according to another he caused him to be drowned.
Isis, accompanied by her sister Nephthys, went to Netat and rescued the body of her lord, and the two sisters, with the help of Anpu, a son of Ra the Sun-god, embalmed it. They then laid the body in a tomb, and a sycamore tree grew round it and flourished over the grave. A tradition which is found in the Pyramid Texts states that before Osiris was laid in his tomb, his wife Isis, by means of her magical powers, succeeded in restoring him to life temporarily, and made him beget of her an heir, who was called Horus.
After the burial of Osiris, Isis retreated to the marshes in the Delta, and there she brought forth Horus. In order to avoid the persecution of Set, who on one occasion succeeded in killing Horus by the sting of a scorpion, she fled from place to place in the Delta, and lived a very unhappy life for some years. But Thoth helped her in all her difficulties and provided her with the words of power which restored Horus to life, and enabled her to pass unharmed among the crocodiles and other evil beasts that infested the waters of the Delta at that time.
At length they met and a fierce fight ensued, and though Set was defeated before he was finally hurled to the ground, he succeeded in tearing out the right eye of Horus and keeping it.
Even after this fight Set was able to persecute Isis, and Horus was powerless to prevent it until Thoth made Set give him the right eye of Horus which he had carried off. Thoth then brought the eye to Horus, and replaced it in his face, and restored sight to it by spitting upon it. Horus then sought out the body of Osiris in order to raise it up to life, and when he found it he untied the bandages so that Osiris might move his limbs, and rise up.
Under the direction of Thoth Horus recited a series of formulas as he presented offerings to Osiris, and he and his sons and Anubis performed the ceremonies which opened the mouth, and nostrils, and the eyes and the ears of Osiris.
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He embraced Osiris and so transferred to him his ka, i. As soon as Osiris had eaten the eye of Horus he became endowed with a soul and vital power, and recovered thereby the complete use of all his mental faculties, which death had suspended. Osiris became the type and symbol of resurrection among the Egyptians of all periods, because he was a god who had been originally a mortal and had risen from the dead. The Greater and the Lesser Companies of the Gods assembled in the celestial Anu, or Heliopolis, and ordered Osiris to stand up and defend himself against the charges brought against him by Set.
Set seems to have pleaded his own cause, and to have repeated the charges which he had made against Osiris. The defence of Osiris was undertaken by Thoth, who proved to the gods that the charges brought against Osiris by Set were unfounded, that the statements of Set were lies, and that therefore Set was a liar. After this Set was bound with cords like a beast for sacrifice, and in the presence of Thoth was hacked in pieces.
When Set was destroyed Osiris departed from this world to the kingdom which the gods had given him and began to reign over the dead. He was absolute king of this realm, just as Ra the Sun-god was absolute king of the sky. The original home of the cult of Osiris was in the Delta, in a city which in historic times was called Tetu by the Egyptians and Busiris by the Greeks, and it is reasonable to assume that the Tuat, over which Osiris ruled, was situated near this place.
Wherever it was it was not underground, and it was not originally in the sky or even on its confines; but it was located on the borders of the visible world, in the Outer Darkness. There is neither water nor air here, its depth is unfathomable, it is as dark as the darkest night, and men wander about here helplessly.
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But in very early times, certainly in the Neolithic Period, the Egyptians believed in some kind of a future life, and they dimly conceived that the attainment of that life might possibly depend upon the manner of life which those who hoped to enjoy it led here. As time went on, and moral and religious ideas developed among the Egyptians, it became certain to them that only those who had satisfied Osiris as to their truth-speaking and honest dealing upon earth could hope for admission into his kingdom.
When the power of Osiris became predominant in the Under World, and his fame as a just and righteous judge became well established among the natives of Lower and Upper Egypt, it was universally believed that after death all men would appear before him in his dread Hall of Judgment to receive their reward or their sentence of doom.
The writers of the Pyramid Texts, more than fifty-five centuries ago, dreamed of a time when heaven and earth and men did not exist, when the gods had not yet been born, when death had not been created, and when anger, speech? Meanwhile death had come into the world, and since the religion of Osiris gave man a hope of escape from death, and the promise of everlasting life of the peculiar kind that appealed to the great mass of the Egyptian people, the spread of the cult of Osiris and its ultimate triumph over all forms of religion in Egypt were assured.
Under the early dynasties the priesthood of Anu the On of the Bible strove to make their Sun-god Ra pre-eminent in Egypt, but the cult of this god never appealed to the people as a whole. It was embraced by the Pharaohs, and their high officials, and some of the nobles, and the official priesthood, but the reward which its doctrine offered was not popular with the materialistic Egyptians. A life passed in the Boat of Ra with the gods, being arrayed in light and fed upon light, made no appeal to the ordinary folk since Osiris offered them as a reward a life in the Field of Reeds, and the Field of Offerings of Food, and the Field of the Grasshoppers, and everlasting existence in a transmuted and beautified body among the resurrected bodies of father and mother, wife and children, kinsfolk and friends.
But, as according to the cult of Ra, the wicked, the rebels, and the blasphemers of the Sun-god suffered swift and final punishment, so also all those who had sinned against the stern moral Law of Osiris, and who had failed to satisfy its demands, paid the penalty without delay.
The Judgment of Ra was held at sunrise, and the wicked were thrown into deep pits filled with fire, and their bodies, souls, shadows and hearts were consumed forthwith. The Judgment of Osiris took place near Abydos, probably at midnight, and a decree of swift annihilation was passed by him on the damned.
Their heads were cut off by the headsman of Osiris, who was called Shesmu, and their bodies dismembered and destroyed in pits of fire. There was no eternal punishment for men, for the wicked were annihilated quickly and completely; but inasmuch as Osiris sat in judgment and doomed the wicked to destruction daily, the infliction of punishment never ceased. The oldest religious texts suggest that the Egyptians always associated the Last Judgment with the weighing of the heart in a pair of scales, and in the illustrated papyri of the Book of the Dead great prominence is always given to the vignettes in which this weighing is being carried out.
The heart, ab, was taken as the symbol of all the emotions, desires, and passions, both good and evil, and out of it proceeded the issues of life. It was intimately connected with the ka, i.