The importance Egyptians placed on retaining the whole being in death may also be explained according to their belief in the several aspects of human existence, which included a soul, spirit, shadow, heart, and name, all held together by the khat or ‘body.’ It is clear from the following quote that the body itself never rose to heaven or entered the underworld: “Soul to heaven, body to earth” (1vii). However, the body itself could apparently be transformed from physical matter to spiritual, the implication being that the existence of the sahu or ‘spiritual body’ in the underworld was dependent on the preservation of the physical body left on earth. From this belief we might better interpret the emphasis on wholeness as having to do with the bringing back together of the spirit and soul of the dead with his spiritual body in the underworld, without which no spiritual life would be possible. We see the importance of this unity of parts in the following passage concerning the ab or ‘heart,’ the ka or ‘double’ (or ‘spirit’), and the name:
My heart whereby I come into being. May there be nothing to withstand me at [my] judgment; … may there be no parting of thee from me in the presence of him who keepeth the Scales! Thou art my ka within my body, [which] knitteth and strengtheneth my limbs. Mayest thou come forth in the place of happiness [to which] I advance. May the Shenit, who make men to stand fast, not cause my name to stink. (309)
Another reason for the inscription of funerary texts, and specifically of the Book of the Dead, was to implore aid from the gods. By the New Kingdom, these texts reflected less the pleading of the dead for help, than promises from the gods to assist. Again we see the importance attached to unity of form for the sake of existence in the afterlife in this passage which details several parts of the body which require the assistance of the gods:
May my heart be with me, and may it rest in [me] . . . May my mouth be given unto me that I may speak with it, and my two feet to walk withal, and my two hands and arms to overthrow my foe. May the doors of heaven be open unto me; may Seb, the Prince of the gods, open wide his two jaws unto me; may he open my two eyes which are blinded; may he cause me to stretch out my feet which are bound together; and may Anubis make my legs firm that I may stand upon them. (308)
From passages such as this in the Book of the Dead, we see as well the importance of the roles each god played in the revival or resurrection and protection of the dead. Anubis, the son of either Ra or Osiris, generally depicted with a jackal’s head, is said in a legend of Osiris to have been given birth to, not by Isis, but by her sister Nephtys. Nonetheless, Isis took the child to be her own and raised him to guard and protect, and that is the function we find him performing in funerary texts, protecting the dead from harm and helping to guide them to the underworld. If this genealogy is correct, that would make Anubis the grandson of Seb. Here called the “Prince of the gods,” Seb is also referred to as the “erpa or head of the gods” (cxii). He is also known as the “great cackler” who laid the great egg from which the world came, making him the chief creator, and therefore an important figure to include in the Book of the Dead.
But for the dead, the most important figure was clearly Osiris, who was not only ruler of the dead, but their judge as well. In the story of Osiris’ death, he must pass a test of judgment before entering the underworld to claim its throne for himself. This judgment is made based upon one’s existence among the living and the confession one makes to the judges, including Osiris, Thoth, Anubis, and Astennu. To be admitted into the underworld it is necessary, apparently, for one to cleanse oneself of all bad or evil deeds committed during life. Funerary rituals, generally employing waters, were possibly used to help cleanse and purify the dead to ease their entrance into the underworld. Without this cleansing and purifying, the dead could expect to suffer torment, burning fires, and terrible demons in the afterlife. To avoid this terrible fate, the dead appeal to the judges:
Hail, Thoth, who madest Osiris victorious over his enemies, make thou the Osiris Ani, the scribe and teller of the sacred offerings of all the gods, to be victorious over his enemies in the presence of the godlike rulers who judge the dead, on the night of the condemnation of those who are to be blotted out. (303)
He hath destroyed his enemies, and he hath destroyed every evil thing belonging unto him. (305)
We see from these passages that the purpose of the Book of the Dead was to assist the deceased in gaining a place in the underworld, not only as guests of Osiris, but as gods themselves. Such passages were made available, apparently, to a great number of people who could afford them, practically mass produced with spaces left for names to be entered when purchased for the deceased. This tradition continued for many years, an indication of the great apprehension the ancient Egyptians felt towards death, and their desire to master death through resurrection and entering the heavenly society of the gods.