Am I saying that the afterlife is, as they say, a huge sausagefest? No. I’m just saying that without a discerning eye at the door, the ratio is going to be a disaster. A few souls become restless ghosts, doomed to haunt the world for eternity? That’s just the price of running one of the hottest clubs known to man.
The Ancient Egyptian afterlife is one of those things that you could study for your entire life and still not fully comprehend. There are still gaps and misinformation within what we think we know, and there will likely always be issues with understanding some of the intricacies of Ancient Egyptian culture in general. It’s impressive to note that what we do know is quite extensive and it points to the meticulous record keeping of the Egyptian people. Unfortunately, everything is destroyed eventually and the records of the Egyptians are no exception. There are some pieces, (about smaller cults and whatnot) that are unclear or missing entirely, but what we know is extensive enough to put together a pretty clear picture of the Egyptian belief system.
Here’s the condensed version.
Throughout history, cultures across the world have discussed the possibility (or more often, surety) of a life after death. Many of these feature a duality in the realm of the dead and some system of judgment to determine where a person ends up for eternity. For example, Christianity is particularly attached to dualities in a general sense and the afterlife is no exception. Heaven and Hell exist as states completely opposite one another. There are literal interpretations of these places being a paradise and a nasty lake of fire where souls are tormented forever. In Egyptian religious practices (it’s important to remember that all religion becomes myth at some point) the duality is there, but less explicitly defined. Rather than a well defined regional Hell for human souls, the Egyptians believed that the alternative to paradise was to wander the underworld as a sort of restless spirit. The determining factor between paradise and lost spirit was the judgment of Anubis.
Rather than simply standing before Anubis and being declared pure enough to enter, there was a ceremony that every spirit making it to the gates of the after-world had to go through. As your soul waited, Anubis would take your spiritual heart (the seat of knowledge, wisdom, and the soul in Ancient Egyptian belief systems) and place it on a set of scales next to him. On the opposite side was a a large feather, the feather of Ma’at, the Goddess of truth. If your heart weighed less than the feather of truth, your soul was admitted to the paradise of Aaru. If not, it was tossed to Ammut (or Ammit) the Soul Devourer, a beast that was one part crocodile, one part lion, and one part hippopotamus. Hearts eaten in this way caused the spirit to become restless ghosts that wandered the underworld of Duat forever.
It’s really no different than going to some ritzy club, when you think about it.
You stand there, waiting in line for ages. When you finally get to the door, you’ve got to deal with the bouncer, a rough looking fellow who may or may not have the head of a jackal. You wait in anticipation as he performs the ritual to see if there’s room or if your name is on the list. Inevitably, your geek ass is turned away as the club is at capacity.
“Screw you,” you mutter under your breath. The bouncer glares at you and tosses your heart to the huge monster sitting next to him.
And then you walk the streets forever, doomed to never grind up on some shorties.