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Editorial Reviews. About the Author. A. J. Brooks has 18 years' experience in law enforcement. The Mummy Murder (Labyrinth City Mystery) by [Brooks, A. J.].
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The Ka of the first triad is the most concrete conception of all. It was probably, too, the oldest. The early people appear to have believed that the human personality combined simply the body and the spirit. In those tomb scenes which depict the birth of kings the royal babe is represented by two figures—the visible body and the invisible "double". The Ka began to be at birth; it continued to live on after death. But a human being was not alone in possessing a Ka.
Everything that existed was believed to have its "double". A fish or other animal had a Ka; so also had a tree; and there were spirits in water, in metals, in stone, and even in weapons and other articles manufactured by man. These spirits were invisible to all save the seers, who were able to exercise on occasion the "faculty" which Scottish Highlanders call "second sight". It was conceived that the Ka could leave the human body during sleep, or while the subject lay in a trance. It then wandered forth and visited people and places, and its experience survived in memory. Dreams were accounted for in this way as actual happenings.
When a man dreamt of a deceased friend, he believed that his Ka had met with the Ka of the dead, held converse with it, and engaged in the performance of some Other-World duty. Sometimes the wandering Ka could be observed at a distance from where the sleeper reposed. It had all the appearance of the individual, because it was attired in the "doubles" of his clothing and might carry the "double" of his staff.
Ghosts, therefore, included "the spirits of the living", which were not recognized to be spirits until they vanished mysteriously. They might also be simply heard and not seen. In the story of Anpu and Bata is contained the belief that the Ka could exist apart from the body. Its habitation was a blossom, and when the petals were scattered the younger brother fell dead. He revived, however, when the seed was placed in a vessel of water. This conception was associated with belief in the transmigration of souls.
Bata entered a new state of existence after he left his brother. During normal life the Ka existed in the human body.
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It was sustained by the "doubles" of everything that was partaken of. After death it required food and drink, and offerings were made to it at the grave. The practice of feeding the dead continues in Egypt even in our own day. In ancient times a cult believed that the Ka could be fed by magic. Mourners or ancestor worshippers who visited the tomb simply named the articles of food required, and these were immediately given existence for the spirit. The "good wishes" were thus considered to be potent and practical. It was essential that the dead should receive the service of the living, and those who performed the necessary ceremonies and made the offerings were called the "servants".
Thus the Egyptian word for "priest" signified a "servant". But the motive which prompted the mourners to serve the departed was not necessarily sorrow or undying affection, but rather genuine fear. If the Ka or ghost were neglected, and allowed to starve, it could leave the grave and haunt the offenders.
Primitive man had a genuine dread of spirits, and his chief concern was ever to propitiate them, no matter how great might be the personal sacrifice involved. Sometimes a small "soul house" was provided by the wayside for the wandering Ka, but oftener an image of wood or stone was placed for its use in the grave. The statues of kings which have been found in their tombs were constructed so that their disembodied spirits might be given material bodies, and those which they caused to be erected in various parts of the kingdom were primarily intended for a similar purpose and not merely to perpetuate their fame, although the note of vanity is rarely absent in the inscriptions.
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The Khu, or "soul", was a vague conception. It was really another form of the Ka, but it was the "double" of the intellect, will, and intentions, rather than the "double" of the physical body. The Khu was depicted as a bird, and was called "the bright one" or "the glorious one". The Ba of the second triad was a conception uniting both the Ka and the Khu. It is represented in bird form with a human head, hovering over the Sahu, or mummy, on which it gazes wistfully, always seeking to re-enter the bandaged form.
Like the Ka, it required nourishment, which was provided, however, by the goddess of the consecrated burial ground. The Khaybet, or shadow, is evidently the survival of an early belief. It is really another manifestation of the Ka. Like all primitive peoples, the archaic Egyptians believed that their shadows were their souls. Higher conceptions evolved in time, but their cultured descendants clung to the old belief, which was perpetuated by folk customs associated with magical practices.
Spells were wrought by casting shadows upon a man, and he might be insulted or injured if an offence were committed against his shadow. The Ran, or name, was also a manifestation of the Ka.
Power could be exercised by uttering the name, because there was magical influence in those words which were believed to have spiritual "doubles". A personal name was the spirit identified; its service was secured when the name was uttered.
The spirit was the name and the name was the spirit. If a magician desired to work evil against an individual, he made use of the name when uttering potent magical formulae. The dead were similarly conjured up when their names were spoken in invocations; evil spirits were cast out by those who knew their names. To guard himself against wizards who uttered "words of power", or verbal spells, the Egyptian therefore considered it necessary to have two names—the big name and the little name, or the true name and the good name. He kept his "big, true name" secret, because it was the Ran; his "good little name" was his nickname, and was not a part of his living being.
The naming ceremony was conducted in secret.
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The child's fate was bound up in the true name and his character was influenced by it. After it was conferred, a nickname was used, but the true name was the grave name and was uttered when the welfare of the spirit was secured by the utterance of magical spells which "opened the way" in the land of the dead.
The gods had Rans also. When Isis obtained the secret name of Ra, she became his equal. The divergent conceptions regarding the soul in Egyptian religion arose from the mingling of beliefs caused by the mingling of peoples, and also the Egyptian tendency to cling to every belief, or form of belief, which evolved in the course of time in Egypt. A people who believed in the existence of "doubles" and in the transmigration of souls had many vague and complex conceptions. Incoherencies were a feature of their religious beliefs. It must be borne in mind, at the same time, that our review covers a vast period of time, during which various religious cults exercised supreme influence in moulding Egyptian thought.
One cult predominated at one period; another cult arose in turn to teach its own peculiar tenets, with the result that all beliefs were ultimately accepted. This process is clearly indicated by the various burial customs and the complex religious ceremonies which prevailed in different ages.
As we have seen, the early people buried their dead crouched up in shallow graves with due provision of nourishment and implements. They appear to have believed that the Ka remained beside the body until the flesh decayed. Then it either ceased to be, or it haunted the cemetery. Among primitive peoples at the present day much concern is evinced regarding the ghosts of the newly dead.
When a negro, for instance, is questioned about his remote ancestors, he is unable to express an opinion as to whether or not their spirits continue to exercise any influence upon the living, but he trembles if asked about his dead father. The Egyptian tree worshippers conceived of a tree goddess which gave food cakes and poured out drink to disembodied Kas. The influence of this ancient cult is traced in the Osiris and Bata folk tales.
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In late Dynastic times tree worship was revived when the persisting beliefs of the common people gained ascendancy, and it has not yet wholly disappeared in the Delta region. The sacred tree and the holy well are still regarded with reverence.
The Horites, or Dynastic Egyptians, who pressed northward on their gradual campaign of conquest, introduced a new burial custom. Instead of digging shallow graves they erected brick-lined tombs, in which the dead were laid upon their backs, fully extended, clad in state, and adorned with articles of jewellery.
In the inscriptions the Ka and Khu are referred to. But no attempt was made, even in the First and Second Dynasties, to preserve the body from decay, and sumptuous offerings were placed in the tombs. Another burial custom involved secondary interment, as was the case in those European districts where early graves have been found to contain disconnected skeletons. In Egypt attempts were sometimes made to arrange the bones in proper position, but they were often heaped in confusion. It appears that temporary interment was a ceremony of riddance, the object being probably to hasten the departure of the Ka.
Dismemberment was also practised, and many graves show that decapitation was effected after death.