Ba and the Ka
The ancient Egyptian people lived their lives with two main concerns: a happy life here and being able to enter the afterlife when they had died. They spent a lot of time worshiping their gods and goddesses and asking them to help them in their lives. They believed that even though a person might die, their soul would survive. They gave the soul two different names: the Ka and the Ba.
The Ka part of the soul was what we might call the life force of the person. The ancient Egyptians thought that when someone died the Ka, or the life force, left the physical body and could then move around. They believed the Ka could drink and eat, but was stuck in the tomb in the body of the mummy or the small statues that were left in the tomb. The symbol of the Ka was often a picture of two raised arms.
The Ba part of the soul had more freedom and could go on journeys to follow their gods. After someone died, the Ba was the main way for the person who had died to stop being stuck in the tomb and they would be joined together. Once they were united, they could fly to the underworld, pass the test and then reach the afterlife. The symbol of the Ba is often shown as a bird with a human head and wings.
Ancient Egyptians believed in magic and their religion was based on many magical spells and miracles. When the Ba and Ka join together, the ancient Egyptians called that a divine spark and it was named ‘Akhu’. The prayers that were said during the funeral rites allowed the physical body to make the change into a spiritual body called the Saku. They believed that the Saku could move around the burial tomb and talk to the parts of its soul. It was the Saku that would eventually for into the afterlife and join with the gods.
Creating a mummy was of the highest importance. If the process wasn’t completed and the human body was allowed to decompose, it would not give the Ka and Ba the amount of time needed to be joined and this would cause a ‘second death’. The ancient Egyptians were afraid of the second death and this is why creating a mummy was so important. There were more afraid of the second death than their death in life because it meant that they would lose their memory completely and they would end up as a ghost wandering the world for eternity.
Understanding the ancient Egyptians beliefs in the spiritual world after death has helped some of the Egyptologists. There funeral rituals were very involved and included the building of burial tombs that contained all of their personal belongings. Priests conducted special rituals that included reading from the Book of the Dead and placing amulets that they thought were filled with magical spells to help the spirit. The physical body of the mummy was called the “Khat” and it could not be allowed to decay.
Burial tombs in ancient Egypt often have paintings on the walls that show images of the Book of the Dead. Pictures of Ba standing over the human that has died are also seen and Ba is also present while the spirit is taking their test to pass to the afterlife.
Religion for the ancient Egyptians meant that they lived their earthly life well so that they could pass the test in the underworld and the Ka and Ba would come together for their next life with the gods. It took many years of study for Egyptologists to try to figure out the details of the ancient Egyptian beliefs.