Death and the Afterlife

The Underworld

Book of the Two Ways

Decoration on the inside of the coffin of Gua - 12th Dynasty

The painting is a map provided for the deceased and depicts two different routes to reach the Underworld.



The Three Spirits - BA, KA and AKH

BA - represented the personality, character of individuality of the dead person - it is shown as a human headed bird. The BA lived in the tomb but could come and go as it wished, passing undisturbed through space and time. The BA often visited the land of the living, here it could assume any form.

KA - the 'Spirit of Life'. This does not have such a free existance as the BA - the KA exited the body at death and had to remain close to the body at all times (the reason for mummification), and therefore the KA could never leave the confine of the tomb/grave. However, the KA did still need to have food and drink - offerings were left (or depicted on walls of the tomb) to sustain the KA.

AKH - the immortality of the deceased. This spirit was free to leave the tomb - to become one with the stars - sail in the Solar Boat of Re - or live with Osiris in the Field of Reeds. But first:


After death the AKH would begin a long dangerous journey passing over the Western horizon (entering the land of the dead) to reach a labyrinth of gates and doors. Once here the AKH would face many questions - not only from door keepers, but from the doors themselves, only if it could pass all these tests could it enter the beyond and be granted enternal life.




Labyrinth of gates and doors

Hall of Judgement

42 gods sit on divine tribunal

Weighing of the Heart

Granted plot of land in the Field of Reeds