Manifestations of the dead in ancient Egyptian coffin texts

Landborg, Anne
Manifestations of the dead in ancient Egyptian coffin texts. PhD thesis, University of Liverpool.

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In the Coffin Texts, a person’s identity can be expressed as the sum of several parts listed together. There are also a few examples of this method of listing being used for the most important aspects of the Afterlife. A close reading of these lists, and how the outcomes are connected with individual concepts belonging to the identity of a person, is the foundation for the following chapters which investigate a few of the concepts in depth. The xprw and the bA are the two concepts which occur most often, and in the most complex uses in this context. They are both parts of the identity of a person, while they can also be means by which someone manifests: as an aspect of a person manifesting in a particular form, or a manifestation which is representative for the whole person. In later texts, it is clear that it is the bA which is manifest (xpr) so there is a strong relationship between these concepts. xprw is a category for forms which gods and dead people, at least, are able to assume, as well as a term for the process involved in the so called ‘transformation spells’. The spells with xprw-rubrics are discussed in detail, to examine the relationship between their rubrics and the body of the spells, as well as the outcome expected in the spell. Though groups of spells may have been given the same type of title, it is sometimes difficult to see how they constitute a homogeneous group. There is often an identification sentence in the body of the spell which reflects the transformation object, but this is far from always the case. The relationships between the rubric and the body of the spell vary, as well as the identity of the speaker in the spell, as the speaker might take on several different identities. In the majority of spells the deceased assumes a synchronised identity with a specific being to acquire a certain quality belonging to that being. There are, however, a number of transformation objects with which the dead is not directly identified, but rather acquires something related to that object. The bA is strongly connected to movement and activity in the Afterlife, and in spells where the individual is identified with the bA of a god, the bA is a manifestation of the god which is related to these two qualities. It is contrasted to the inert corpse, and sometimes accompanied with the shadow, which are both also explored here. The bA can be a manifestation of a person, representing the whole being, but his bA and bAw can also be separated from him, and be sent out, towards enemies, or for the purpose of seeing. It seems that in the Coffin Texts, the distinction between bA and bAw-power is not particularly sharp, having many similarities in their range of actions. The terms for specific components are also used as broader concepts, and in this aspect they can also include other parts of a person’s identity. The dead can be in the irw of a bA and can therefore describe the bA, or be a component of the bA. At the same time, the two terms might in particular contexts have closely related meanings, where the bA can be the manifestation of a being, and irw a form of the same being. The wished-for results of the spells are related to passage into the Afterlife, integration, and having authority and power in the Afterlife. This passage into the Afterlife is prominent both in relationship to the main characteristics of the bA, and in many of the xprw spells, where the means of passage is acquired from the transformation object. Through identification with a god, or the bA of a god, there are elements of integration into their sphere, as well as giving the person authority and power in the Afterlife. The person lives on intact, integrated into the Afterlife: in the sky and in the Netherworld, and on earth through the bA and the continuation of the bloodline. The identification with an external identity ‘syncretises’ vital characteristics of their personalities, adding to the overall identity of the final persona.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: Date: 2014-02 (completed)
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 26 Aug 2015 10:22
Last Modified: 17 Dec 2022 01:30
DOI: 10.17638/02002779