Book of Dead


Annotated English version by Brian Colless

The Going Forth by Day

The beginning of the Spells (or Chapters) for Going Forth by Day, the laudations and glorifications for ascending and entering into the Blessed Domains of the God (Osiris) in the beautiful Land of the West. To be recited on the day of entombment, the day of entering after going forth.

The Opening of the Mouth

23    Spell for opening N's mouth for him in the Domains of the God (Osiris). He says:

My mouth is opened by Ptah; the bonds that gag my mouth are loosed by my city god.
Thoth has come fully equipped with spells; he looses the bonds of Seth from my mouth.
Atum has given me my hands, and they are put on guard.
My mouth is given to me, my mouth is opened by Ptah with that metal chisel of his, with which he opened the mouth of the gods....

The Declaration of Innocence

125    What to say on arriving at the Hall of the Two Truths, so as to purge N. of any sins he has committed and to see the face of every god.

Hail to you, great God, Lord of the Two Truths.
I have come to you, my Lord,
I was brought to see your beauty.
I know you and I know the names of the forty-two gods
who are with you in the Hall of the Two Truths....
Behold, I come before you,
bringing Maat (truth) to you,
having done away with evil for you.

I have not committed crimes against people.
I have not mistreated cattle (or people).
I have not sinned in the Seat of Truth (temple).
I have not known what is not (meant to be known).
I have not done anything harmful.
I have not blasphemed a god.
I have not robbed the poor.
I have not done what the gods abhor.
I have not slandered a servant to his superior.
I have not caused pain. I have not caused hunger. I have not caused tears.
I have not killed. I have not ordered anyone to kill.
I have not made anyone suffer.
I have not decreased temple offerings.
I have not destroyed the loaves of the gods.
I have not taken the cakes of the dead.
I have not copulated (illicitly).
I have not defiled myself.
I have not increased nor reduced the grain-measure.
I have not diminished the arura (land-measure).
I have not cheated in land transactions.
I have not added to the weight of the balance.
I have not tampered with the plummet of the scales.
I have not taken milk away from a child's mouth.
I have not driven cattle away from their pasture.
I have not snared birds in the reeds of the gods.
I have not caught fish in their ponds.
I have not held back water when it was required.
I have not dammed up a flowing stream.
I have not extinguished a fire when it was needed.
I have not disregarded the days of meat offerings.
I have not taken cattle which are the property of the god.
I have not blocked a god in his procession.
I am pure, I am pure, I am pure, I am pure.

The Declaration to the Forty-Two Gods

Here the forty-two divine magistrates are each addressed in turn by the deceased. Most of them are minor demons; only a few are major gods. Their obscure names and epithets will be omitted in order to bring the protestations of guiltlessness into sharper focus. But examples are:
(1) O Wide-of-Stride who comes from On (Heliopolis), I have not done evil. . . .
(3) O Long-nosed (ibis) who comes from Khemunu (Thoth of Hermopolis), I have not been covetous.

I have not done evil.
I have not stolen.
I have not been covetous.
I have not robbed.
I have not killed people.
I have not debased measures.
I have not defrauded.
I have not stolen the property of a god.
I have not told lies.
I have not seized food.
I have not been bad-tempered.
I have not trespassed.
I have not slain sacred cattle.
I have not extorted.
I have not stolen bread-rations.
I have not eavesdropped.
I have not gossiped.
I have not contended except with regard to my own property.
I have not copulated with anyone's wife.
I have not defiled myself.
I have not caused fear.
I have not trespassed.
I have not been violent.
I have not been deaf to words of truth (Maat).
I have not quarreled.
I have not winked.
I have not copulated with a boy.
I have not been hypocritical (swallowed my hearts).
I have not been abusive.
I have not been aggressive.
I have not been quick-tempered (had a hasty heart).
I have not attacked and reviled a god.
I have not multiplied my spoken words.
I have not sinned,
I have not done wrong.
I have not made trouble.
I have not waded in the water. (an idiom?)
I have not raised my voice.
I have not cursed a god.
I have not been puffed up.
I have not discriminated against anyone.
I have not wanted more than I had.
I have not cursed my city's god.

The Address to the Gods

Hail to you, gods, in this Hall of the Two Truths. I know you,
I know your names. I shall not fall in fear of you.
You shall not accuse me of wickedness before the god you follow.
No misfortune shall befall me because of you.
You will speak the truth about me before the Lord of all,
since I have done rightly in the Beloved Land (Egypt).
I have not cursed a god.
No evil deed of mine has come before a reigning king.
Hail to you who are in the Hall of the Two Truths,
who have no falsehood in their bodies,
who live on truth (maat) and who feed on truth
in the presence of Horus who is in his sun disk.
Rescue me from Babi, who feeds on the entrails of nobles,
on that day of the great reckoning.
Behold me, coming to you without sin,
without guilt,without evil, without an accuser,
without any one wronged by me.
I live on truth, I feed on truth,
I have done what people ask
and what pleases the gods;
I have gratified a god with what he desires.
I have given bread to the hungry,
water to the thirsty,
clothing to the naked,
a ferryboat to the boatless.
I have given sacred offerings to the gods,
invocation offerings to the blessed dead.
Rescue me, protect me;
do not accuse me before the great god.
I am one pure of mouth, pure of hands,
one to whom welcome is said by those who see him. . . .

The Appeal to Osiris

O you who are high upon your standard,
Lord of the Atef-Crown,
who is given the name Lord of Breath,
rescue me from your messengers,
who inflict wounds and mete out punishment,
who do not cover their faces (who show no pity);
for I have done the truth for the Lord of Truth.
I am pure; my front is pure; my rear is clean;
my middle has been in the well of truth,
no part of me is void of truth....

The Arrival before Thoth and Osirls

I will not announce you, says the doorkeeper of the Hall of the Two Truths,
unless you tell my name.
    Knower-of-hearts Searcher-of-bellies is your name.
To whlch god present shall I announce you, then?
    Tell it to the Interpreter of the Two Lands.
Who is the Interpreter of the Two Lands?
    It is Thoth.

Come, says Thoth, but why have you come?
    I have come here to report.
What is your condition ?
    I am free of all sin;
    I have shunned the strife of those ln their day;
    I am not one of them.
To whom shall I announce you?
    To him whose roof is of fire,
    whose walls are of living cobras,
    the floor of whose house is in the flood.
Who is he?
    He is Osiris.
Proceed, you are announced.
Your bread is the Eye*;     *(of Horus)
your beer is the Eye;
offerings to you on earth are the Eye.
Thus he speaks to N (the deceased).

Instructions for Using the Spell

This is the procedure for the Hall of the Two Truths. A person shall say this spell when he is pure and clean, clothed in fresh garments, shod with white sandals, painted with eye-paint, anointed with the finest oil of myrrh, and after he has offered (or has been offered) beef, fowl, incense, bread, beer, and vegetables.  Then make this image in a drawing (or this text in writing) on a clean surface with pigment mixed with soil on which pigs and goats have not trodden.

He for whom this scroll is recited shall prosper, and his children shall prosper. 
He shall be the friend of the King and his courtiers.
He shall receive cakes, beer, bread, and joints of meat from the altar of the Great God. 
He shall not be held back at any door of the West. 
He shall be ushered in with the Kings of Upper and Lower Egypt.
He shall be a follower of Osiris.

A reliable spell, effective a million times.

     Anubis weighing the heart of the deceased against Maat's feather.  Thoth as a baboon.  Maat  in double.


The large work that today goes by the name The Book of the Dead  is a collection of some two hundred magic spells ensuring a safe journey to the Other World for a deceased person. Its proper title is The Going Forth by Day, which refers to the resurrection of the mummified person and entry to the Afterlife.

The book belongs in the tradition of the Pyramid Texts and the Coffin Texts. The Pyramid Texts were inscribed on the interior walls of the royal pyramids of Saqqara, belonging to kings of some of the early dynasties, in the third millennium BCE.  They consist of incantations designed to bring about the resurrection of the deceased king as the god Osiris and to promote his well-being in the next life. The oldest group of Pyramid Texts is found in the pyramid of Unas (end of Fifth Dynasty, around 2300 BCE) and consists of 228 separate 'utterances'. To date, the known total of different utterances from the various tombs is 759. In this period it seems that only the Pharaoh achieved resurrection and ascent to the sky for admission to the company of the immortal gods. But his followers believed that there was life after death for them too, as is indicated by inscriptions from personal tombs of royal officials. They include prayers for funerary offerings to be made regularly on their behalf, and also for a safe reception in the West, the abode of the dead. In addition we find lists of the person's moral virtues, which foreshadow the 'negative confession' or declaration of innocence made in the Book of the Dead. Incidentally, these lists of sins not committed give us an idea of the ethical and moral rules of the Egyptians (in lieu of  an equivalent to the Ten Commandments).

By the time of the Middle Kingdom (20th century to 17th century BCE) the nobles were also claiming the right to rise from the dead as Osiris, and so they had spells to this effect inscribed on all the outer and inner surfaces of the rectangular wooden coffins in which their mummies were encased. These spells were adapted from the Pyramid Texts of the Old Kingdom and have come to be known as the Coffin Texts.

During the prosperous period of the New Kingdom (16th-11th century BCE) many commoners found themselves in a position to pay for a funeral similar to those the nobility enjoyed. This included mummification, preservation of one's brain and viscera in four canopic jars (the heart being left inside the body), a scroll containing the spells of The Going Forth by Day (Book of the Dead) and a collection of up to 365 ushabtis or shawabtis (statuettes, which would substitute for the deceased person, and as 'answerers' which is what their name means, they would answer the call for their owner whenever he was summoned to labour in the fields of Osiris).

The opening chapter of The Book of the Dead has the deceased person speaking of his identification with Osiris and requesting that mortuary offerings should be presented to him; he prays for a safe journey and a successful outcome to his appearance before the judges of the dead. Of the endless spells that protect the deceased against the many hazards of his passing into the Next World, we have No.23 'The Opening of the Mouth' and No.125 'The Declaration of Innocence'. The opening of the mouth ceremony was performed on the mummy by a priest with an instrument like a chisel, and this act imparted speech to the resurrected persons, so that they could protest their innocence before Osiris and the magistrates in the Hall of the Two Truths. The same rite was applied to newly-made statues of deities (see spell 23).

The famous scene of the weighing of the person's heart in the scales of Ma‘at, goddess of truth and justice, has no spell connected with it (see the picture above). However, the vignettes in the papyrus manuscripts show the heart in one scale balancing with the Feather of Ma‘at (or a statuette of the goddess) in the other pan. Anubis does the weighing; he is a jackal (an animal that lurks around tombs is ironically given responsibility for the preservation of the deceased person's body). Thoth, as an ibis-headed man or else as a baboon, superintends the weighing; and at the end he records and announces the results. If the heart should fail the test, it would be swallowed up by the waiting Amemet, 'the devourer ('her forepart is a crocodile, the middle of her body is a lion, and her hindquarters are those of a hippopotamus'). The spells, however, would unfailingly guarantee that Amemet was never fed.

The whole business, as thus described, seems to be a male-dominated thing, except for the she-monster Amemet, 'the devourer'. So how did women fare in the quest for immortality? We might suppose that women became Isis, the consort of Osiris; but the correct answer is found in the Papyrus of Inhay. Here we find words spoken by the jackal-headed god Anubis, who supervised the embalming rites, performed the opening of the mouth, and adjusted the scales at the weighing of the heart: he seems to refer to Inhay as 'the Osiris', and yet Inhay was a singing priestess of the god Amon. Thus women too became Osiris in the Afterlife. Like men they perhaps only became an Osiris for the purpose of being resurrected; they were really only servants of Osiris, the King of the Dead.

Edition and Translations
E. Naville, Das ägyptische Totenbuch (3 vols, Berlin 1886).
R.O. Faulkner, The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead (1985).
M. Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, II, 119-132.
T. G. Allen, The Book of the Dead or Going Forth by Day (1974).
J. Kaster, The Literature and Mythology of Ancient Egypt, 127-143.
J. A. Wilson, in Ancient Near Eastern Texts, 34-36.