Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Book of Abraham and the Facsimile Image-Part VII – Symbolism of the Papyri

Continuing from the last few posts regarding the Book of Abraham and Joseph Smith’s translation along with the facsimiles used, and showing the misunderstanding about the hovering bird in Facsimile 1.
One of the many important ideas about Egyptology seldom understood by the layman, and even overlooked by some Egyptologists is the fact that the symbols, or hieroglyphs, used in hieroglyphic writing is that one “picture” does not always mean the same thing.
As an example, in the funery scenes typically shown in ancient papyri and on tomb paintings is that of the bird “ba,” which represents the human soul. This bird is typically drawn hovering over his newly mummified master on the lion couch bier.
Ba, the human soul, which is depicted as a bird, hovers over his newly mummified master, the body wherein Ba formerly dwelt, now laying on the bier. Note the bird has the head of a human, and typically that of the deceased
To understand the scene depicted above, it needs to be kept in mind that the Egyptian purpose of preserving the body through embalming was clearly shown in the two components of Egyptian thought—the physical body was essential for the existence and eternal life for the deceased. That is, the Egyptians believed that every person (during life and after) was followed by an invisible double called “Ka,” which was created at the moment of birth and stood for "force of life" for the person. He could not be seen or depicted, but all big tombs had a "blind door" for him to use.
After death a transformation of rebirth took place and every night he was released to give his dead master a spiritual travel to the land of the living. The travel itself was made by his soul “Ba,” shown hovering over the mummified body above. This was a link from the tomb to life on earth that was supposed to go on forever.
Right: The bird “Ba” hovering over the mummified body on the bier is also depicted in other ways, as in the (Left) tomb painting where the “Ba” is at rest being held by two priests on the disc representing the Sun
The commoners who couldn't afford an embalming were offered small simple statuettes of mummies to give their “Ka” someone to stand beside in the life beyond and thereby please their life-long companion and get eternal rest themselves.
Further, “Ba,” the human soul was always depicted as a bird with a human head and face, sometimes with the features of the dead person. Like the “Ka,” the “Ba” appeared for the first time at the moment of birth, but the “Ba” was dwelling within the body, and after death in the mummy. During life he was his master's conscience and after death he was himself protected from being misled by evil spirits through rituals and prayers from "The Book of the Dead" performed by priests or relatives. A correct behavior in both worlds was essential to the Egyptians.
The mummy, prepared and laid upon the funery couch by the Jackal-headed priest. Note the human-headed “Ba” bird hovering over the mummy
After death “Ba” was released from the mummy every night and could fly back to the world of the living to check things out. Before sunrise he was back within his master, who thus never lost contact with the world he had left. Thus, in the funery scene, or vignette, “Ba,” the bird image, was always shown hovering over the mummified body on the lion couch, or bier.
In addition, the “Ba” was considered to be an individual’s distinctive manifestation similar to our concept of personality. It comprised all non-physical attributes, which made a human unique. It was the entire deceased person with its own identity and was not separate from the body. In Egyptian thought, the dead body was unable to journey of its own, thus it was the job of the individual’s “Ba” to do this. After death, the “Ba” bird collected the deceased's personality from the mummified remains and took it to be reunited with the deceased’s physical astral “twin.” Only after this union, when a person was “complete,” was it possible for them to be reborn as an “effective one” in the next world.
Although it is not entirely clear, it is likely that this process of transferring one’s manifestation took time, with the “Ba” flitting between the mummified remains and the “Ka” to ensure every aspect of its humanity was transferred to its double above. It was therefore helpful for the perfectly persevered body to lie in state in its tomb. This gave the “Ba” bird plenty of time to relocate every aspect of the deceased person’s personality as it carried out its duty. Obviously, the god Anubis wrapping the mummy in tons of silk was necessary for the prolonged time needed for the “Ba” to carry out its assignment.
The bird form was chosen because of its ability to navigate land, sea, air and space (the Egyptians were unaware that space was devoid of air). They believed that conditions above were similar to those on Earth, particularly in relation to Upper Egypt, which was exactly the same as Earth, only better. The Egyptians believed all astral bodies were living “Ka”s. After death, it made sense to use the “Ba” bird as a manifestation of oneself to provide a direct link to ones Ka,” therefore, dying was referred to as “going to one's Ka.” 
Once the “Ba” and “Ka” were united and the astral twin was complete, a final journey to the Next World was undertaken. This was a journey fraught with dangers as the body traveled from a chaotic intermediate location to the relative tranquility of heaven. Chaos posed an ever-present threat in the transitional location and Egyptians therefore needed assistance, which led to the need for Magical funerary spells and amulets that were used to help guarantee a safe passage. Known as the Book of the Dead spells, they were written on papyri and placed in coffins or were put in magical amulets and wrapped in mummy bandages. Much time and resources were spent assisting the dead to the Next World where they were transformed into the ultimate form—that of an immortal akh.
These texts were a necessary part of the funery equipment and were thought to help through dangers of the Underworld. Over 150 burial spells were written on papyrus and placed with the dead and the content has been traced back to the Old Kingdom Pyramid Texts from 2300 B.C. and had probably a long oral tradition before that. Each nome (province) and even towns had their own version putting text mentioning the local gods in favor of other local gods. For the average Egyptian man and woman, there were versions not so elaborate or expensive, and just containing the essence. After invoking numerous confessions and spells, and being approved by the jury in the Underworld, the person was ready to embark on the boat of Re to sail to the “Land in the West” for their eternal rest.
It should also be noted that a bird hieroglyphic was not a singular matter—there were numerous bird symbols in Egyptian hieroglyphic writing. They used the vulture; the Ibis (divine); a bird for knowledgeable man; a bird for right or west; quail (letter “w”); sparrow (bad times); swallow, etc. In fact, Gardiner’s Egyptian Sign List shows 53  different birds and their meanings. And none resemble either the funery “Ba” bird, or that shown in Facsimile 1, suggesting that birds may well carry their own interpretation according to the scene in which they are depicted.
Now the point of all of this is simple: In a funery vignette, of which Facsimile 1 is not, the bird or falcon has the head of the deceased and flies or hovers over the mummy on the lion couch. It should be noted that in Abraham’s Facsimile 1, the bird shown is neither hovering over the couch, nor has a human head. Thus, Egyptologists claim it is in error. However, it is the Egyptologists who are in error because they are trying to make this vignette a funery scene, which it clearly is not for the many reason stated previously in these posts.
The first nine drawings are those of Egyptian funery birds (the “Ba”). Note how they are all different, but all hovered over the mummy on the lion couch, as seen in numerous funery scenes. The last image, bottom right, is from the Abraham Facsimile 1, which depicts a bird unlike any of the others and, according to Abraham, represented something different from the “Ba” —that of the Spirit of the Lord
The bird shown is representative, as most Egyptian hieroglyphs are, and in this case, representative of the Spirit of God, or an angel, as Abraham states, and clearly fits in with the hieroglyphic nature of the scene being depicted. This vignettes, like all Egyptian vignettes, or scenes, tell a story—not a story the Egyptologist would understand or recognized, but an accurate story none-the-less.
(See the next post, “The Book of Abraham and the Facsimile Image-Part VIII – Elkenah and the Canopic Jars,” for answers to another area of criticism about the Abraham Facsimile 1 vignette)

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