concepts of Akh, Ba and Ka

The concepts of ka, ba and akh was formulated for the first time in the Pyramid Texts.

Ka: “the vital strength of man”.

Spiritual concept of nourishment, ka, kau in the plural, meant in fact nourishment, food.

Tomb was a place of transfiguration, sakhu, where, according to the rituals, the dead person would have turned into akh, the “transfigured spirit”.

The preservation of the body was essential for the ascension to heaven, in whose northern hemisphere akh lived and shone together with those stars “which ignore fatigue”, that is, circumpolar stars.

The other spiritual concept was “ba”, the living and personal manifestation of the dead person, that is, the capability of moving and taking any desired form. Ba was often pictured as a bird with a human head.

Other elements of the human personality which allowed the survival of the man were his shadow, his energy (hekau), his heart and his name.

Egyptian theologians used different methods to try to solve the complex problem of life and death. Despite being sometimes different, these theologies were equally worthy from a particular point of view.


but avoided every systematic method and just presented “partial truths”.

During the Opening of Mouth Ritual, in the scene 71, Thot announces to Ra that he sculpted the statue of the King… he gave it the breath of life, he opened its mouth so that he could become an excellent akh and his name might last forever:

“He will protect the limbs of him who will pour him water. He will have the power on bread, the power on beer. He will come out as living ba, he will transform himself according to his will, in each of the places where his ka is”.

The Egyptians were worried about what might happen in the hereafter: we find evidence of this both in the “Discourse of a man with his ba” and in the different versions of the “Song of the Harpist”.

In this last text, appeared for the first time in the tomb of king Antef, you can read:

“I listened to the beautiful discourses of Imhotep and Herdelef, reported by their own words and completely, but wherever are (their tombs)?
Their walls are destroyed, their seats are no more there, as if they had never existed.

No one has ever returned from there, to tell us his own condition and situation, to appease our heart till we go to the place where they have (already) gone.

When your heart rejoices, to forget my feelings, it is better for you. Follow your heart till you live, pour myrrh onto your head…

Behave so that your happiness increase, your heart is not tired yet.
Follow your desire and your delight, behave on earth as your heart commands.

(When) for you comes that mournful day, Osiris won’t certainly listen to their moans, as their moan have never saved the heart of a man in his grave.

Have a merry day and do not part from it, observe, there is no one who has ever been allowed to bring his things with him (in the hereafter), observe, there is no one who has ever come back or will come back again”.

According to the ancient Egyptians the risks connected with the “second death” would have been the consequence of body destruction and personality disappearance, if rituals had not been performed correctly.

In this they saw not only a sorrowful destiny, but also a total oblivion.

Only religious faith could help man overcoming the many obstacles he would have met during his hard way through the Duat, the underworld.

Since the New Kingdom the distinction between earth, heaven and the Duat ,where darkness is sovereign, gets clearer, and sometimes the world appears so upset that it may be necessary to walk upside down, and the dead person may be deprived of his ba.

According to the Books of Underworld, this world was hostile to the sovereign and inhabited by hostile entities and terrible monsters.

God Apophis
God Apophis

The pharaoh, identified with Ra, could overcome the many dangers during the night through magic and resurrect together with the sun-god, who, repelling the attack of the snake Apophis, assured every day at dawn the victory of life over death and of order over chaos.

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