Category Archives: Book of the Dead

Welcome to HeartScarab

What is this blog about?

I hope that this blog will be a place where amateur Egyptologists can find reliable information about Egyptian history and culture and where both professional Egyptologists and those with a passing interest in Ancient Egypt can find something helpful and entertaining.

I intend to post entries on Ancient Egyptian art, language, and history, on Egypt-themed books and games, on modern archaeological discoveries in Egypt, and on resources in the field of Egyptology.

I use expert information on the topics I cover, but won’t make the blog overly formal; I fully intend to post fun, funny, and even ridiculous things.

Thanks for joining me. I hope you enjoy it!

Feel free to post notes or contact me personally.

 

Why “HeartScarab?”

The heart scarab was one of the ultimate “get out of jail free “cards in the Egyptian afterlife.

In Ancient Egypt, the scarab—or dung beetle—was a symbol of life and regeneration (apparently because the birth of young scarabs from balls of dung seemed to be creation out of nothing).  The scarab was frequently chosen as an amulet worn during life, designed to protect the wearer.

Ancient Egyptian scarab jewelry. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/10.130.910_27.3.206 (accessed January 2011)

One of the most important types of scarab amulet, however, was used after death, and was intended to protect the deceased from destruction in the afterlife (its purpose is described in Spell 30 of the Book of the Dead—the Ancient Egyptian guidebook to death and the afterlife).

In the Egyptian worldview, an individual’s life and deeds are judged in the afterlife by weighing their heart against the feather of ma’at (truth/order/justice).

"Weighing of the Heart" scene from the Book of the Dead of Hunefer.

If the heart is not weighed down by sin, it is lighter than the feather, allowing the deceased to enter the afterlife. If, however, the heart is heavier than the feather, the deceased cannot enter paradise (and his or her heart is devoured by a demon).

In theory, then, the heart could “testify” against its owner.  The purpose of the heart scarab, when it was placed on the chest of the deceased for burial, was to silence the heart’s witness of any bad deeds.

I chose HeartScarab for my blog title (out of the hundred titles I considered) because I love the sentiment it evokes—it’s about Egypt, and it’s close to my heart. So here I am, writing about Ancient Egypt; and if some of what I say is a bit fudged…well, that’s where a the HeartScarab comes in handy.

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