The concepts of ka, ba, and akh were formulated for the first time within the Pyramid Texts. These texts are a collection of funeral formulas suitable for the protection and rebirth of Pharaoh in the Lamb. The formulas represent a ritual that allows the passing of the deceased to the world beyond, where it will have its transformation into Osiris, but also allow the sovereign to overcome the dangers during the journey. These formulas were initially the prerogative of the Pharaoh alone, but this exclusivity does not exist until the end of the Old Kingdom, as they are also used in the pyramids of the queens; in the following period they will be used in private tombs.
The spells that make up the texts were originally rituals that were played by priests readers as the son of the deceased, probably during the funeral.
The rituals are inscribed on the walls of the tombs, so as to ensure their effectiveness, even though they lack a “reader” because they are placed in the inaccessible part of the tomb. This is closely related to the performativity that permeated Egyptian culture, as there was the belief that a written text acted on the real and was always an agent. In the case of the Pyramid texts, these also take on a sacred character, as they relate to the overseas conceptions.
The texts contain three main groups of rituals: Offer Rituals (and Celebration), Resurrection Ritual and Morning Ritual. The first are present, within all the pyramids, on the north wall of the burial chamber; generally appear as a single spell, though originally they had to be divided into two different rituals. The Ritual of the Offer accompanied rituals to nurture the deceased, such as libation. Regarding the Ritual of the Celebration, however, there was the offering of royal gifts and insignia to the statue of the deceased, which was then presented to the gods during a procession.
The Ritual of the Resurrection was inscribed on the south wall of the burial chamber and consists of long spells to ensure that the spirit of the deceased liberates its attachment to the body and the earth so that it can join the divinities. This ritual seems to be done after the offer rituals. The last group, the Morning Ritual, seems to be tied to the ceremony in which the sovereign, alive, was awakened, dressed and nourished. It was found only within four pyramids and, in all, associated with the East. In the tombs of Teti and Pepi I, we come to him in the Serdab, in that of Merenra in the east wall of the anteroom, and in that of Pepi II in the burial chamber.
There is “the life force of man”. The spiritual concept of nutrition, ka in the plural, kau, meant in fact nourishment, food. The tomb was a place of transfiguration, sakhu, in which, according to the rites, the deceased became the “transfigured spirit” in akh.
The preservation of the body was an essential part of the ascension to the sky, where in the northern hemisphere lived the akh shining with the stars “who ignore the fatigue”, that is, the circumpolar stars. The other spiritual concept was the “ba”, the animated and personal manifestation of the dead, the ability to move and take any form desired by the deceased. The ba was often depicted as a human head bird. The Ka was always represented as a bird with the human head Other elements of human personality that allowed human survival were shadow, energy (hekau), heart and name.
The Mouth Opening Ritual
Egyptian theologians have been using different solutions to try to solve the complex life-death problem. Theologies that, even at times different, were valid in a certain aspect. Theologians have not elaborated a single theory, fleeing from every systematicity, and proposing only “limited truths”. In the ritual of the mouth opening, in scene 71, God Thot announces to Ra that shaped the king’s statue … he gave him the breath of life, opened his mouth so that he could become an excellent akh and his name could last in eternity:
“He will protect the limbs of him who pours water on him. He will have power over bread, power over beer. He will come out as a living ba, he will make his transformations according to his will, in each of the places where his ka is. “
The Egyptians were disturbed by the idea of what could happen in the afterlife, and we find testimonies both in the “Dialogue of a Desperate with His Ba” and in the different versions of “The Strike’s Song”. In this latter text, for the first time appeared in the tomb of King Antef, it reads:
“I have heard the good speeches of Imhotep and Herdedef, spoken in their own words and in full, but where are they (their tombs)?
Their walls are destroyed, their homes are gone, as if they had never existed. No one has ever come back to tell us about their condition and situation, to calm our hearts until we go to the place where they are (already) gone.
When you rejoice in your heart, to forget my mood, it is best for you.
Follow your heart as long as you live, put my head on your head …
Make your happiness grow, your heart is not tired yet.
Follow your desire and your enjoyment, act on earth as your heart commands.
(When) comes to you that day of lament, Osiri does not listen to their lament, for their lament has never released a man’s heart in the pit.
Take a happy day and do not stay away, look, there is no one who has been allowed to take his things with him (in the afterlife), he notes, there is no one who has come back here or who will come back again “.
For the ancient Egyptians, the risks associated with the “second death” were the consequence of the destruction of the body and of the annulment of personality if the rituals had not been properly performed. In this they saw a destiny not only of torments but of total oblivion. Only religious faith could help man overcome the many obstacles they encountered on the difficult path through the Duat, that is, the underground world.
From the New Kingdom there is a clear distinction between earth and sky and the Duat where darkness reigns sovereign and the world sometimes appears to be overturned, so that sometimes it is forced to walk upside down and where the deceased can be private of his ba. According to the Book of the Otherworld, for the ruler this world was hostile, populated with hostile entities and terrible monsters. Identified with god Ra, Pharaoh by means of magic formulas could overcome the many dangers during the night and resurrect with the god-sun rejecting the attack of the serpent Apophis, every day at dawn assured the victory of life on death and of the order on chaos.