The Egyptians saw death not as a final ending, but as a beginning to a long, glorious afterlife (especialy for the king!). It was a part of life -- not a life after death, as so many believe, but instead a continuation fo the current life in another place. Their beliefs fostered the creation of the fabulous tombs and temples in Egypt, including the monumental pyramids.
The egyptians mummified their dead, as we all know. They removed the internal organs and dried the body adn wrapped it in linen before laying it to rest. It is possible that mummification was a way of "disassembling" the body so that the dead person was not saddled with it in the afterlife but instead animated in one of the many statues or inscriptions in the tomb.
The egyptians had many concepts of the dead, especially the dead body.
- khet, iru -- the body during life, "form" or "appearance"
- khat -- the dead body or corpse
- sah -- the corpse transformed into a mummy, "to be noble"
They also had a number of views of the spirit, and the spells and mummification rituals were intended to separate these spirits:
- ka -- the spirit or generic life-force of the lineage, for a people,
- ba -- the individual's distinctive manifestation, the impression made on others. Often translated as "soul", but the ba is corporeal and had to rejoin the body to continue. The body had to be pure, hence mummification. Shown as a human-headed bird
- akh -- the spirit state, joining the stars, shown as a crested ibis.
Mummification is a complex ritual. The physical act of mummification took seventy days for a pharaoh (less for others) and included many aspects:
- - includes a woman (professional mourner or widow) called "the kite". Later burials included two of these women to represent Isis and Nephthys
- - includes an embalmer, calls "wet" and a lector priest to perform the ritual
- ibu -- the Tent of Purification, was a light construction of wood poles and reed mats near the waterway where teh body would be transferred from the barge
- wabet -- the mortuary workshop, where the body was taken after purification. None of the valley temples have an obvious place for embalming
There were also many rituals involved with the actual burial fo the body.