Saturday, January 01, 2011

The Book of the Dead - British Museum

The British Museum offers a great display of Ancient Egypt, but this exhibition offered so much more. The display in the central dome of the museum was very cool - with the rooms layed out in a spiral.

If you know a little about Ancient Egypt, you'd know that they sought eternal life in the afterlife pretty much like Christianity or Islam which both promise eternal life in Heaven or Jannah respectively. And as true as it is in these 'modern' monotheist beliefs, Egyptian believed that they had to live their lives a certain way to prepare for the afterlife and to be entitled entry to their equivalent of Heaven.

My knowledge of Islam is limited but to gain entry into Heaven, you need to live your life - or rather not live at all that would make it much easier - as a saint and then you might just get your ticket in. Between me and you, it sounds a lot like the lottery, I'd rather keep that tenner in my pocket, than bet it on a ticket that might possibly maybe win me a million pound, in this context, I'd rather live my life and take my chances with a potential maybe eternal happiness or damnation later.

The Egyptians did not just need to live lives of saints but also had a strict and complex rite of passing - now that's much more similar to Buddhism, which dates back from the same time (approximately 5000-3500 BC), whereby once dead, there is a complete physical ceremony, which is not what this exhibition was about, but the spiritual journey into the afterlife.

Above, Isis and Nephthys the wife and child Osiris, God of the dead, played a role of protecting the deceased throughout his journey.
Under the scale in the middle, is Anubis, also protector of the dead, in charge of the weighing of the heart of the deceased.
And to the right, Toth, God of writing and knowledge - behind him The Devourer, the monster crocodile-headed, torso and legs of the lion and bottom of a hippo, punished those who were judged undeserving of the afterlife. You'd have to want it pretty bad to face that one.

The Sun God and creator of the world, Ra, represent the cycle of life, by being resurrected every morning to the East and dying every night in the West. He was also interpreted by the cycle of seasons and plantations and recolts.

The exhibition was great, it had an entire wall scripture of two versions of the book of the dead from two different authors and by judging the characters (hieroglyphs) used, they must have been written at different eras. Then tons of papyrus as well as wall sculptures and a couple of sarcophogus and a mommy.

I'd recommend the exhibition, but watch out of the crowd, in spite of booking in advance and having an allocated time slot, we struggled seeing everything, but Byelle kept nice and quiet throughout - watching Timmy Time on my iphone, the wonders of technology in the middle of History.


Libellule said...

Thanks for sharing your afternoon with this amazing cultural experience! Isn't it amazing how all religions hold such detailed beliefs concerning the after life? Somehow, I just cannot believe that it will be so complicated.

But, like you, I rather live my life and be happy with it and worry about the after life if and when it happens. I figure that if I follow my heart and mind here, I will end up where I'm supposed to!

Happy New Year! And please, more strawberries and cream! (double crème de gruyere svp!) :)

by Kitem said...

Magnifique exposition, ca me fait bien regretter de ne pas avoir la posibilite de la voir, et d'apprendre tant de choses aussi interressantes sur la vie apres la mort.
Comme je crois au karma, et meme au karma immediat, je me dis aussi qu'il vaut mieux prendre ce qu'on a et vivre sa vie le mieux possible, en obeissant aux regles de vie en societe, pour que tout aille pour le mieux dans le meilleur des mondes (Candide). Et surtout ne pas trop se la compliquer, qui est pourtant le propre de l'etre humain! donc equilibre, balance, serenite, amour, ce que je te souhaite pour cette nouvelle annee.

La Cremiere said...

J'appelle ca Moral Happy people et oui, juste au case ou, y'a pas de mal a etre moral happy.

Tee aka The Diva's Thoughts said...

Sounds like a very fascinating exhibit!