Book of the Dead fragment, Spell 125 - ROM2013_13346_6


Book of the Dead fragment, Spell 125

Medium:Papyrus with ink and gilding
Geography: Egypt
Date: c. 320 BC
Period: Ptolemaic Period
36 x 60 x 1.5 cm
Object number: 910.85.236.10
Not on view

This section contains the vignette to Spell 125, the most important spell in the Book of the Dead. Amen-em-hat's heart is being weighed in the balance against a tiny crouching figure of the goddess Maat, who represents truth and justice. If his heart balances, he will be declared "True of Voice." This phrase was used in Ancient Egyptian law courts to declare a defendant "Not Guilty." Amen-em-hat will become a Glorified Spirit able to come and go from one world to the next, part of the company of the gods.

The trial takes place in a Hall of Judgment with a green pillar at each end. The small figures standing in a line above the main characters are the forty-two Judges of the Dead. The roof of the hall is protected by a frieze of cobras and fiery censers. On the left, Osiris, green-faced as a god of vegetation, is enthroned as Judge. Four tiny figures, the Sons of Horus, stand on a water-lily before him. The new-born sun god squats on a scepter just outside of his shrine. At the right, Amen-em-hat is dressed in an old-fashioned long white kilt, his head shaven and gilded, wearing the sash that marks him as a priest. His name and his parents' names, Kha-Hap and Wedja-Shu, are above his head. A tiny priest in a white skirt stands at the top of stairs to purify him with streams of water, shown as black zigzags. The strange creature behind him is Maat, with her symbol, the ostrich feather, instead of a head. She embraces Amen-em-hat and presents him to the gods.

Black-skinned, canine-headed Anubis and red-skinned, hawk-headed Horus oversee the scales. These two gods carefully adjust the balance to ensure justice. In the centre, Ammit, a monster with the head of a hippopotamus and a leonine body, sits ready to eat the heart of anyone who fails to pass the test. It is a tribute to the Ancient Egyptians that she was the scariest creature they could imagine.

An array of offerings stands in front of her: lettuce and bread on top, a goose, a gazelle, another goose, and two oxen. Crowned with a golden moon disk, Thoth, the ibis-headed god of Wisdom and writing, announces the verdict. Thoth speaks: "I have judged the heart of the deceased and his soul stands as a witness for him. His deeds are righteous in the great balance, and no sin has been found in him."

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