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People always say you should follow your heart when they talk about relationships. President Bush taught me that I should follow my gut. I guess following your liver is another option.

The heart as the seat of the soul or an organ of power has long persisted throughout humanity. While other organs (the liver for instance) were considered important in Ancient Egypt, the heart took a place of prominence. The Ancient Egyptians discovered, pretty early on in their culture, that the heart was responsible for the pulse. No pulse meant someone was dead and it was a short leap to deciding that when the heart failed, the soul failed and all knowledge fled the corpse. The liver, intestines, and other giblets were placed reverently inside of canopic jars for the deceased, but the heart stayed with the corpse, to be weighed by Anubis (later replaced by Osiris) against the feather of Ma’at. Having a sin free heart in Ancient Egypt meant passage to the afterlife, but a heart weighing more than the feather was fed to a ravenous beast, destroying the deceased’s soul entirely. Needless to say, the importance of the afterlife in Egyptian culture weighed heavy on the living and pushed them to lead a proper life lest they be consumed.

The thought of being spiritually devoured is terrifying. The thought of devouring spirits, on the other hand…is making me kind of hungry.

The Egyptian concept of the afterlife was a strange one, for sure. Living on the Nile was about the sweetest thing you could ask for in North Africa and it’s clear from the mythology that many Egyptians didn’t want to part with it. Their afterlife reflects the lives they held dear. With precious treasures, and sometimes even living animals and humans (though this was done away with later in favor of clay representations) being buried with important members of society, the reflection of the living world in the afterlife is clearly a key concept. While it wasn’t an amazing life for everyone (there were slaves and lower class citizens) the afterlife seems to have been important to everyone.

Complicated mythology surrounds the afterlife of the Ancient Egyptians. Gods came and went as protectors of the dead and techniques for embalming and mummifying the dead improved and changed. The importance of the afterlife, however, never really changed throughout the long reign of the Ancient Egyptian people. Consider that because of their meticulous cultural methods and emphasis on the afterlife, they’ve become one of the best understood cultures of the Ancient world. One could argue that they’ve attained a kind of cultural afterlife, living for, I’m sure, ages to come in human memory.

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