9. The Dead Had To Make It Through Before Their Bodies Decayed
There was a reason the Egyptians mummified their dead. The souls of the dead, they believed, needed their bodies while they fought their way through Duat. A decaying body was a ticking clock. If their bodies decayed before they reached paradise, they would run out of time.
The soul, the Egyptians believed, split into two parts at death: the personality, which they called the Ba, and the vital essence, which they called the Ka. It was their vital essence that traveled up into Duat, fighting for a chance at paradise. If it made it through, the two parts of the soul would be reunited and live forever—but only if the Ka could make it in time.
The Ba would spend the day flying around the world. At night, though, it needed to return to the body to rejuvenate its energy, and it could only return to the body if it could recognize it. If the body decayed into a skeleton, the Ba would drift about aimlessly, unable to find the other part of its soul, until its energy ran out.
The pharaohs bought time by getting mummified, ensuring that their souls would always be able to recognize their own bodies. For the poor, though, that wasn’t always an option. Their best hope was to be buried in a shallow grave in the desert, where the dry air would slow the decay of their bodies—and to rush through Duat’s 12 lands as fast as they could.
8. The Dead Still Needed To Eat
Even after death, an Egyptian soul still needed to eat. They needed to pack food for their long journeys through Duat, and they needed to make sure they could eat it—and that meant somebody needed to stuff food into them.
After the body of the dead was mummified, the Egyptian priests would start a ritual called the Opening of the Mouth and the Eyes. This was meant to ensure that the spirit could be given food and drink as well as see.
To feed it, they’d build a statue in the dead person’s likeness. Then, they would chip mouth and eye holes into the statue. Until the soul made it through Duat, the priests would have to feed it—and that meant literally stuffing beef into the statue’s mouth.
It was more than just a ritual; it was a matter eternal life and death. If you didn’t have someone who cared enough about you to stuff beef into a statue’s mouth, your shot at eternal life was doomed. Your soul would starve in Duat, your eyes would be sealed shut, and you would have no chance of making it past the 12 gates of hell.