Mummification actually has nothing to do with this post, but I just had to get that out there, having read over the research notes I left myself today.
Okay. So I admit it; going to ancient Egyptian mythology and history isn’t the best place for me to go when looking for an idea. I mean come on, how many people really want to have to be worried about me ripping their brains out through their nostrils with a hot poker? However, unlike a zombie, I would not drool on you… wouldn’t that sorta kinda make up for it?
I highly doubt it. But regardless, I went looking in everything both ancient and Egyptian for an idea about four months ago. Or whenever the end of February was… (please don’t try to make me think right now – you’ll be lucky if I can remember how to count to six here in a minute).
Something I came across that I was intrigued by but knew I’d never use in my writing, is the Egyptians’ concept of the human soul. There is a bit of an idea that branches off of this that I might use in the future. But I won’t give you that. You’ll just have to wait and read what I write. 🙂
For now, what I will give you is the six parts that the Egyptians believed made up the human soul. The following is as I understand it and I don’t pretend to be an expert or someone holding the uncanny ability to read minds of those from the past who first thought it. I think being able to read dead people’s minds would be strange. Especially if you couldn’t see dead people. Just think, thoughts floating around in the air from seemingly nowhere. Not fun. Funny farm would have a lot of fun with you though! 😯
- FIRST: The Ib or the heart.
During conception, one drop of the mother’s blood was believed to be given to her child, forming the ib. Egyptians believed the heart to be where all emotion, human will, and thought came from; not the mind. The heart played a significant role in their lives, as it was the key to the afterlife.
Knowing that the Egyptians used mummification, it is an obvious fact that they knew the heart was a physical organ. However, when the Egyptians described the heart as part of the human soul, they spoke of it as being purely metaphysical.
- SECOND: The Sheut or the shadow.
It was believed that a person could not exist without their shadow, nor a shadow without a person. It was reasoned that this was so due to the shadow holding a piece of that person, consequently, being a piece of their soul.
- THIRD: The Ren or the name.
A human’s name was given to them at birth and would live as long as it was spoken. The name was also of vast importance, as Egyptians believed that if a person’s name was forgotten, they would die forever and not correctly exist in the afterlife. This is why such elaborate carvings and tombs were created, the names were kept alive and easily seen to be honored, remembered, and most importantly – spoken. Great lengths were gone to in order to ensure names would survive, in turn keeping the person they were attached to also alive.
Dead enemies didn’t fare well, as their names were removed from monuments.
- FOURTH: The Ba or the soul.
This is similar to our concept of personality and is the closest in entirety to most western beliefs of what the ‘soul’ is. The ba is what made a person unique, what gave them individual qualities. The ba can become corporeal after death as it is the person’s specific and distinct manifestation. It was the believed contributor to many a ghost story in ancient times.
- FIFTH: The Ka or the vital essence.
One’s ka is the vital essence breathed into them upon birth, causing them to be alive. When a person dies it leaves their body. The ka is sustained by food and drink. After death, food and drink should be left at the tomb for its continual survival. Many things can go awry if this is not so.
- SIXTH: The Akh
This is the result of the ka and the ba being reunited in the afterlife once a person has died. Once this is achieved, the akh is then unchanging for all eternity. For this to properly transpire, the ba has to be guided to the ka with the correct offerings, spells, and burial rites. If it’s not, the ba remains and terrorizes the living. (Happy days 😕 )
- There were other metaphysical and physical parts of a human which made up the soul, but I’m not going to mention them here. Everyone has a different opinion on the subject and there is no factual proof of what the one, correct interpretation is. No one can even agree on what each is called. Its confusing. But these are the main six that are agreed upon.
So… the ancient Egyptians believed you had six parts to your soul and once you kicked the bucket, you had better hope your ba would make it to your ka. Either that or you would end up terrorizing humans who didn’t get you into the afterlife correctly. That, and you better pray no one forgot your name.
I think that could turn into an interesting horror story, given enough imagination. I also love the fact that there is no 100% assurance that this is exactly what the Egyptians believed, due to translation issues. There simply aren’t words or descriptions in one language that can be used to mean the same thing in another. It gives your imagination a broad spectrum of shadows to run with. 😉