Danielle Capalbo’s Blog

Life after death

Posted in Religion by Quiet Giant on May 20, 2009

It’s fascinating, the way Ancient Egyptians confronted their fears of the afterlife.

We took a whirlwind tour of the museum’s macabre installments yesterday, and, to borrow our guide’s wayward phrasing, Egyptians anesthetized themselves with some serious spiritual opiates. I’d say every religion hinges on that principle; making injustices and uncertainties bearable by embracing some great-and-good reason beyond our control. The Egyptians just ruled at taking the most creative approach possible.

For instance, they knew death would be lonely and frightening, so they subscribed to the notion of Ka. Ka was like your invisible, identical twin. You stowed your Ka away during life, then he or she took your place above ground like a ghost when you died. Ultimately, your Ka was devoted to you. He or she existed to coddle you. Like, your Ka would visit your tomb every night to keep you company. If you woke up and freaked out, he or she would calm you down. Your Ka would debrief you on daily gossip. He or she would even special deliver your favorite foods: Every Egyptian drafted a fantasy menu for the afterlife. Seriously. That menu was carved into your tomb and your Ka took your order on a regular basis.

(It’s nice to know that Ancient Egyptians would have supported my campaign to eat this every day for the rest of my eternal afterlife.)

Egyptian burial routines were predicated on the existence of a Ka, too: They furnished tombs with self-portraits, so your Ka wouldn’t blow it and bring your neighbor your collards instead. And if you really wanted to ruin someone’s day in the afterworld, you could vengefully disfigure their portrait, leaving one eye in tact. That way, they could watch their Ka pass by their unidentifiable tomb, night after night.

Sounds rough.

I’ll just take the forever soul food, thanks.

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3 Responses

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  1. Momma Bear said, on May 20, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    Okay, this might just be my favorite post yet (only kidding)!

  2. Aubrey said, on May 20, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    gosh, this was good. although the image of this poor Egyptian stuck for eternity watching his Ka pass by him every night bums me out.

    also: agreed that all religions are focused on an afterlife, but maybe the key is in how you put the two together. either, as you say, each religion’s purpose is to make a reality that would otherwise be very painful and scary into something comforting and as a framework to explain injustices, or, because there really is a great-and-good reason beyond our control, religions try to define that tangibly, which results in their individual concepts of an afterlife.

  3. Sandy Raymond said, on May 21, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    Yet another interesting read………..great job.


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