What Happens When You Die?

The Final Judgement event is one of the most popular stories that originated out of ancient Egyptian mythology. It was one of the earliest explanations for what happens after one dies. It also reminded early Egyptians that the wicked in life will be punished in the afterlife. To this day, Egypt reproduces scenes of this event on items marketed to tourists on everything from clothing to bath towels, jewelry to hand-woven silken rugs. (We couldn't help but buy papyrus calendar with the judgement scene on it when in Cairo!) Following is a short summary of the event:

The Final Judgment

Once the journey through the underworld is complete, the deceased reach the Hall of Final Judgment. Judgment involved a two-part process:

Part 1: Standing before the 42 divine judges

Here they stood before 42 divine judges and pleaded their innocence of any wrongdoing during their lifetime. The Book of the Dead provided them with the correct words to use for each of the judges, ensuring that they would pass this part of the judgement process even if they had not been completely innocent. (We saw replica pages of the Final Judgement instructions from the Book of the Dead at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.)

Part 2: Weighing the heart

The second part of the judgement process was the ‘Weighing of the Heart’ ceremony. The heart, which contained a record of all the deceased’s actions in life, was weighed against the feather of the goddess Ma’at. This feather was the symbol for truth and justice and helped determine whether the deceased person had indeed been virtuous. If the heart was found to be heavier than the feather, it was fed to Ammut, the ‘Devourer’, and the soul was cast into darkness. If the scales were balanced, the deceased had passed the test and was taken before Osiris who welcomed them into the afterlife. For those who were concerned about this test, they could recite the spell (usually Spell 30B from the Book of the Dead) inscribed on their heart scarab amulet to prevent their heart from ‘betraying’ them.