The Coffin Texts

The Coffin Texts

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The Coffin Texts (c. 2134-2040 BCE) are 1,185 spells, incantations, and other forms of religious writing inscribed on coffins to help the deceased navigate the afterlife. They include the text known as the Book of Two Ways which is the first example of cosmography in ancient Egypt, providing maps of the afterlife and the best way to avoid dangers on one's way to paradise. Egyptologist Geraldine Pinch notes how "these maps, which were usually painted on the floor of the coffins, are the earliest known maps from any culture" and that the Book of Two Ways "was nothing less than an illustrated guidebook to the afterlife" (15). The Book of Two Ways was not a separate work, nor even a book, but detailed maps which corresponded to the rest of the text painted inside the coffin.

The texts were derived, in part, from the earlier Pyramid Texts (c. 2400-2300 BCE) and inspired the later work known as The Egyptian Book of the Dead (c. 1550-1070 BCE). They were written primarily during the First Intermediate Period of Egypt (2181-2040 BCE) although there is evidence they began to be composed toward the end of the Old Kingdom (c. 2613-2181 BCE) and would continue through the early Middle Kingdom (2040-1782 BCE). In the time of the New Kingdom (c. 1570-1069 BCE), they would be replaced by the Book of the Dead which would sometimes be included among one's grave goods.

The Coffin Texts are significant on a number of levels but, primarily, because they illustrate the cultural and religious shift between the Old Kingdom and the First Intermediate Period of Egypt and clarify the development of the religious beliefs of the people.

The Old Kingdom & First Intermediate Period

The Old Kingdom of Egypt is well known as the 'Age of the Pyramid Builders.' King Sneferu (c. 2613-2589 BCE) perfected the art of pyramid building and his son, Khufu (2589-2566 BCE), created the grandest of these with his Great Pyramid at Giza. Khufu was followed by Khafre (2558-2532 BCE) and then Menkaure (2532-2503 BCE), both of whom also erected pyramids at the site. All three of these monuments were surrounded by complexes which included temples staffed by clergy and, additionally, there was housing for the state workers who labored at the site. Although the pyramids are universally admired in the present day, few are aware of the enormous cost of these monuments.

Throughout the period of the Old Kingdom, the rulers not only needed to build their own grand tombs but also maintain those of their predecessors. Giza was the royal necropolis of the Old Kingdom monarchs but there was also the pyramid complex at Saqqara, another at Abusir, and others in between. All of these had to be staffed by priests who performed the rituals to honor the dead kings and aid them in their journey in the afterlife.

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The priests were given endowments by the king to recite the spells and perform the rituals but, further, were exempt from paying taxes. As the priests owned a great amount of land, this was a significant loss in revenue to the king. During the 5th Dynasty, the king Djedkare Isesi (2414-2375 BCE) decentralized the government and gave more power to the regional governors (nomarchs), who were now able to enrich themselves at the central government's expense. These factors contributed to the collapse of the Old Kingdom toward the end of the 6th Dynasty and initiated the First Intermediate Period.

The Coffin Texts were developed to meet the need of a new understanding of the afterlife & the common people's place in it.

During this era, the old paradigm of a strong king heading a stable central government was replaced by individual nomarchs ruling over their separate provinces. The king still was respected and taxes sent to the capital at Memphis, but there was greater autonomy for the nomarchs, and the people generally, than before. This change in the model of government allowed for more freedom of expression in art, architecture, and crafts because there was no longer a state-mandated ideal of how the gods or kings or animals should be represented; each region was free to create any kind of art they pleased.

The change also resulted in a democratization of goods and services. Whereas before only the king could afford certain luxuries, now they were available to lesser nobility, court officials, bureaucrats, and ordinary people. Mass production of goods such as statuary and ceramics began and those who could not have afforded the luxury of a fine tomb with inscriptions during the Old Kingdom now found they could. Just as the king once had his tomb adorned with the Pyramid Texts, now anyone could have the same through the Coffin Texts.

The Democratization of the Afterlife

The Coffin Texts were developed to meet the need of a new understanding of the afterlife and the common people's place in it. Egyptologist Helen Strudwick explains their purpose:

The texts, a collection of ritual texts, hymns, prayers, and magic spells, which were meant to help the deceased in his journey to the afterlife, originated from the Pyramid Texts, a sequence of mainly obscure spells carved on the internal walls of the pyramids of the Old Kingdom. The Pyramid Texts were exclusively for the king and his family, but the Coffin Texts were used mainly by the nobility and high-ranking officials, and by ordinary people who could afford to have them copied. The Coffin Texts meant that anyone, regardless of rank and with the help of various spells, could now have access to the afterlife. (502)

During the Old Kingdom, only the king was guaranteed continued existence in the next world. Beginning in the First Intermediate Period, however, ordinary individuals were now thought just as worthy of eternal life as royalty. This era has consistently been misrepresented as a time of chaos and strife, but actually, it was a period of enormous cultural and artistic growth. Scholars who claim it was a 'dark age' following a monumental collapse of the government often cite the lack of impressive building projects and the poorer quality of the arts and crafts as proof.

Actually, there were no great pyramids and temples raised simply because there was no money to build them and no strong central government to commission and organize them, and the difference in the quality of crafts is due to the practice of mass production of goods. There is ample evidence during this time of elaborate tombs and beautiful works of art which show how those who were once thought 'common people' now could afford the luxuries of royalty and could also journey on to paradise just as the king was able to.

The Osiris Myth

The democratization of the afterlife was due largely to the popularity of the myth of Osiris. Osiris was the first-born of the gods after the act of creation, and with his sister-wife Isis he was the first king of Egypt until his murder by his jealous brother Set. Isis was able to bring Osiris back to life, but he was incomplete and so descended to rule in the underworld as Lord and Judge of the Dead.

The cult of Osiris became increasingly popular during the First Intermediate Period as he was seen as the 'First of the Westerners,' the foremost among the dead, who promised eternal life to those who believed in him. When Isis brought him back from the dead, she enlisted the help of her sister, Nephthys, to chant the magical incantations, and this part of the myth was re-enacted during the festivals of Osiris (and also at funerals) through The Lamentations of Isis and Nephthys, a call-and-response performance of two women playing the parts of the deities to call Osiris to the event. The festival was a ritual re-enactment of the resurrection and anyone attending would spiritually be taking part in this rebirth.

The Spells

The Coffin Text spells and incantations reference many gods (most notably Amun-Ra, Shu, Tefnut, and Thoth) but draw on the Osiris Myth consistently. Spell 74 (A Spell for the Revival of Osiris) re-creates the part of the story in which Isis and Nephthys bring Osiris back to life:

Ah Helpless One!
Ah Helpless One Asleep!
Ah Helpless One in this place
which you know not; yet I know it!
Behold, I have found you lying on your side
the great Listless One.
'Ah, Sister!' says Isis to Nephthys,
'This is our brother,
Come, let us lift up his head,
Come, let us rejoin his bones,
Come, let us reassemble his limbs,
Come, let us put an end to all his woe,
that, as far as we can help, he will weary no more. (Lewis, 46)

Although the words are spoken to Osiris, they were now thought to equally apply to the soul of the deceased. Just as Osiris returned to life through the incantations of the sisters, so would the soul awake after death and continue on to, hopefully, be justified and allowed entrance to paradise.

The soul of the dead participated in Osiris' resurrection because Osiris had been a part of the soul's journey on earth, infused the soul with life, and was also part of the ground, the crops, the river, the home which the person knew in life. Spell 330 states,

Whether I live or die I am Osiris
I enter in and reappear through you
I decay in you
I grow in you...I cover the earth...I am not destroyed" (Lewis, 47).

Empowered by Osiris, the soul could begin its journey through the afterlife. As on any trip to a land one has never visited, however, a map and directions were considered helpful. The Book of Two Ways (so called because it gave two routes, by land and water, to the afterlife) showed maps, rivers, canals, and the best ways to take to avoid the Lake of Fire and other pitfalls in the journey. The path through the underworld was perilous and it would be difficult for a soul, newly arrived, to recognize where to go. The Coffin Texts assured the soul that it could reach its destination safely. Strudwick writes, "Knowledge of the spells and possession of the map meant that the deceased, like the pharaohs in times past, could negotiate the dangers of the underworld and achieve eternal life" (504).

The soul was expected to have lived a life worthy of continuance, without sin, and to be justified by Osiris. Directions throughout the text assume that the soul will be judged worthy and that it will recognize friends as well as threats. Spell 404 reads:

He (the soul) will arrive at another doorway. He will find the sisterly companions standing there and they will say to him, "Come, we wish to kiss you." And they will cut off the nose and lips of whoever does not know their names. (Lewis, 48)

If the soul failed to recognize Isis and Nephthys, then it clearly had not been justified and so would meet one of a number of possible punishments. Spell 404 references the soul arriving at a doorway and there would be many of these along one's path as well as various deities one would want to avoid or appease.

Writing & Replacement

Just as the texts themselves represent the democratization of the afterlife, so do the canvases they were painted on. The large sarcophagi of the Old Kingdom were generally replaced by simpler coffins during the First Intermediate Period. These would be more or less elaborate depending on the wealth and status of the deceased. Egyptologist Rosalie David notes:

The earliest body coffins were made of cartonnage (a kind of papier-mache made from papyrus and gum) or wood but, by the Middle Kingdom, wooden coffins became increasingly commonplace. Later, some body coffins were made of stone or pottery and even (usually for royalty) of gold or silver. (151-152)

Scribes would carefully paint these coffins with the text, including illustrations of the person's life on earth. One of the primary functions of the Pyramid Texts was to remind the king of who he had been while alive and what he had achieved. When his soul woke in the tomb, he would see these images and the accompanying text and be able to recognize himself; this same paradigm was adhered to in the Coffin Texts.

Every available space of the coffin was used for the texts but what was written differed from person to person. There were usually, but not always, the illustrations depicting one's life, horizontal friezes of various offerings, vertical text describing the objects needed in the afterlife, and the instructions on how the soul should travel. The texts were written in black ink, but red was used for emphasis or in describing demonic and dangerous forces. Geraldine Pinch describes a part of this journey:

The deceased had to pass through the mysterious region of Rosetau where the body of Osiris lay surrounded by walls of flame. If the deceased man or woman proved worthy, he or she might be granted a new life in paradise. (15)

In later eras, this new life would be granted if one were justified in the Hall of Truth, but when the Coffin Texts were written, it seems one passed through a redeeming fire around Osiris' body. The cult of Osiris became the cult of Isis by the time of the New Kingdom of Egypt and her role as the power behind his resurrection was emphasized. The Egyptian Book of the Dead then replaced the Coffin Texts as the guide to the afterlife. Although tombs and coffins were still inscribed with spells, The Egyptian Book of the Dead would serve to direct the soul to paradise for the rest of Egypt's history.

The Coffin Texts, Book of the two Ways


Resident of Mt Olympus

Post by Charlotte on Jun 11, 2015 10:41:05 GMT -5

". perhaps originally composed at Hermopolis, has received so much attention is that, for the first time, it describes cosmography. It was perhaps originally titled, the "Guide to the way of Rosetau" and the ancient Egyptians believed the composition was discovered "under the flanks of Thoth. Rosetau is a term regularly translated by Egyptologists as the Underworld or Neatherworld, which would be misleading in this case. Here, the journey is made through the sky. It takes the deceased on a journey to the Kingdom of Osiris on a route with the sun god, first from east to west along a waterway through the inner sky, and then back from west to east by land through the outer sky (the two ways). Between the two ways was a Lake of Flames, where the ambivalent fire could consume (the damned) but also serve the purpose of regeneration (to those blessed followers of the sun god, Re."

To my mind, Rosetau is never the Under- or Neatherworld as per Egyptology, the deceased not a dead person, rather ill at ease on the journey of two ways to the Kingdom of Osiris. Aspiring to the Kingdom of Osiris, the individual encounters a "Lake of Flames" where the fire could consume the insincere or serve the purpose of regeneration. Seems to me the text describes the journey perilous each individual and collective Humanity is traveling for the purpose of regeneration, not only thatt, but the "regeneration of the whole Universe, the noblest cause of all", Mr. Hall taught. The fire is called ambivalent, perhaps doubted by the translator, reminding me of the tunnel leading under the Temple Mount leading to a ritual bath with fire and bathroom, a cleansing, or the Priest consumed by Holy Fire upon finding the entrance to the tunnel, relating to the Ark of the Covenant.

This journey would lead from east to west, even as "the lightening cometh from east to west", so the sun god, and then back from west to east, the beginning if regeneration is attained. The two ways described as the inner sky and land being the outer sky is confusing, to me it simply means we can choose the left or right handed path, described in the following paragraph.

Fred L
Full Member

Post by Fred L on Jun 11, 2015 18:20:15 GMT -5

Resident of Mt Olympus

Post by Charlotte on Jun 12, 2015 10:21:53 GMT -5

Intriguing idea this east-west, west-east symbolized in the airshafts of the GP, indeed the first one I read which my mind didn't x out immediately. A new vista opens up. Thank you. Stated is that the journey was first from east to west "along a waterway", which could be the Milky Way, but it also says "waterway through the inner sky", and since Man is the microcosm, it could be applied to the inner journey we experience. The west back to east journey is "by land through the outer sky", or objective of the two ways. Rebirth occurs in the "Lake of Flames", then we're back on earth again, so to speak. As Don used to say: "Brilliant, those ancient Egyptians. Conventional information, as also with the Ark, the "stories" and "legends" about flames, fires, funeral pyres, firebirds, are briefly mentioned in passing. A commentator of Hamlet's profound passage, "what a piece of work is man", explains that when "a hawk moulted its feathers it was useless and could not be flown". That's dry.

"Though not nearly as elaborate as later Kingdom books of the neatherworld, it was meant to depart (impart?) to the deceased the necessary knowledge needed to navigate their way to the afterlife while avoiding the many dangers of their journey. While this guide was not as systematic as, for example, the later Book of Gates, it nevertheless provided warnings and a schematic plan making it the first real guide to the afterlife."

Here, seeing the afterlife as being "born a second time", there is no systematic guide, one fits all direction home - like a rolling stone.

The following, if the deceased is accepted as an individual aspiring to the "region known as Rosetau - at the boundary of the sky", describes the ordeal, considering interpretation however.

"Unlike the later funerary books, the Book of two ways does not begin with the sunset, but rather with the sunrise in the eastern sky. Hence the journey takes place in the sky rather than the underworld. The deceased is faced with many obstacles, such as the threatening guardians at the very gates of the hereafter that must be dealt with before the entering. Other dangers include the "fiery court", which is the circle of fire about the sun. At other times, total darkness followed by walls of flame seem to continuously block the deceased path. In fact, within the very middle of this composition we find a region known as Rosetau, which is "at the boundary of the sky". According to spell 1,080, it is here that the cor[se of Osiris resides in the region locked in complete darkness, as well surrounded by fire. If the deceased can reach this region and gaze upon Osiris, he cannot die. Consistently there are regions that the deceased wishes to reach, but must overcome dangers to do so. Another of these is the field of Offerings (peace, or Hetep), a paradise of abundance, but again the path is full of obstacles, many leading nowhere.

"An important concept found within the Book of Two Ways (spells 1,100 through 1,110) is that of seven gates, each with three guardians. Though primitive, this is obviously an early text that would later evolve into the New Kingdom Books of the Neatherworld such as the Amduat. At these boundaries, the deceased must display his knowledge to the guardians in order to establish their legitimacy to proceed in the afterlife.

"By the center of the last section of this text, we find three boats, all of which may be intended as the solar barque, from which the serpent Apophis must be repelled."

My understanding goes like this: Apophis is chaos, I read, and the three boats are our three-fold nature. Glad there are seven gates as I experienced once that all things come in sevens, and in his Homily, Father Ceko noted the number 7 and then 49. The primitive text evolving into the New Kingdom Books is because the "Overseers" guided the plan, and knowledge of all things is required for the Pearly Gates to open. Here again is the "fiery court", the circle of fire about the "inner sun", and safe to say everyone encounters tremendous obstacles on the way. "Walls of flame" blocking our path, many times we find ourselves in total darkness, but "there is no darkness but ignorance", concluded Shakespeare.

Fred L
Full Member

The Coffin Texts - History

T he earliest funerary texts inscribed on a pharaoh's pyramid are found at Saqqara. These sacred texts, known as the Pyramid Texts, were written on the inner passages and the walls of the burial chamber. They were intended to help the pharaohs travel through the afterworld, to secure the regeneration and eternal life of the king. The Pyramid Texts are considered the oldest body of religious writings in the world.

T owards the end of the third millennium B.C., new funerary texts appeared, with greater emphasis on the afterlife and helping the deceased find their way in the afterworld. Known as the Coffin Texts because they were inscribed inside the coffins of Middle Kingdom high officials, they consist of over 1,000 spells (prayers for protection and empowerment) highlighting life beneath the earth in the kingdom of Osiris, in which the deceased worked in the Fields of Offerings and of Rushes. A new feature included the judgement of the dead as a way of attaining new life. The deceased were taken before Osiris and their hearts were weighed on a scale, against a feather representing Maat, the goddess of truth and justice. Those who were good passed through to the new life as transfigured spirits. Those who were judged as wicked, were tossed to the goddess Amemet, "the swallower", who was portrayed as having the rear of a hippopotamus, the fore of a lion and the head of a crocodile.

D uring the New Kingdom, the entire corpus of funerary texts became known as the "spell coming forth by day" (known today as the Book of the Dead). It contains approximately 190 chapters of magical and ritual spells, illustrated with drawings to assist the deceased on their voyage to eternity. Texts were written on papyrus and placed near the dead. One spell was inscribed on a heart scarab, an amulet that was placed over the heart, either within the mummy's bandages or inside the body. In the Late Period, they were written on strips of linen that were wrapped around mummies.

H ere is an example of a spell from the Book of the Dead. Spell 50 is a prayer for not perishing and for being alive in the realm of the dead.

"O you young men of Shu of the morning, who have power over those who flash among the sun-folk, whose arms move about and whose heads sway to and fro, may I move about every day."

Mysterious Ancient Egyptian Coffin Texts

Coffin Texts are written containing spells painted or engraved on the sarcophagus and coffins of Ancient Egypt.
They are partially derived from the earlier Pyramid Texts, reserved for royal use only, but contain substantial new material related to everyday desires, indicating a new target audience of common people. Ordinary Egyptians who could afford a coffin had access to these funerary spells and the pharaoh no longer had exclusive rights to an afterlife.

The above is a Shabti-Box of the lady Mutemmertes who is facing her own shabti, carrying hoes and a basket.
Shabti spell is written in between.
The wooden coffin is 34.5 cm height, 56 cm length, 32 cm width.

They are developed during the Middle Kingdom, when it is believed that the nobility got the right to use the magical-religious texts, which were previously only reserved for pharaohs .
Its origin comes, in part, of the Pyramid Texts (c. 2350 BC.) of the Old Kingdom, when immortality and resurrection was limited only to royalty, but include many new contents and beliefs of the Empire means.
The people could only access sacred formulas from the New Kingdom (c. 1500 BC.) and this resulted in texts called Book of the Dead .

One ancient leather manuscript has rituals spells and colorful depictions of divine and supernatural beings, predating those found in the Book of the Dead manuscripts.
This leather roll is around 2.5 meters long, with text and drawings on both sides. It is both the longest surviving leather ancient Egyptian manuscript and the oldest.

A certain holy place that is protected by multiple gates and their powerful guardians. These latter are characterised as supernatural beings with immense magical powers.
The texts in the scroll contain this specific and magical knowledge that is required to pass safely by these dangerous beings and get access to the divine restricted area behind the gates.

Coffin text 1130 is a speech by the sun god Re, who says:

Hail in peace! I repeat to you the good deeds which my own heart did for me from within the serpent-coil, in order to silence strife…
I made the four winds, that every man might breathe in his time…
I made the great inundation, that the humble might benefit by it like the great…
I made every man like his fellow and I did not command that they do wrong. It is their hearts which disobey what I have said…
I have created the gods from my sweat, and the people from the tears of my eye.

Coffin text 1031 is spoken by the deceased, who says:

I shall sail rightly in my bark, I am lord of eternity in the crossing of the sky.
I am not afraid in my limbs, for Hu and Hike overthrow for me that evil being.
I shall see light-land, I shall dwell in it…

Make way for me, that I may see Nun and Amun! For I am that Akh who passes by the guards…

I am equipped and effective in opening his portal!
As for any person who knows this spell, he will be like Re in the eastern sky, like Osiris in the netherworld. He will go down to the circle of fire, without the flame touching him ever!

4000-Year-Old Soul Map

An IFL Science article about the discovery of the text says that we should avoid making cultural assumptions about an ancient idea with our “21st-century mindset” and just because it looks a bit like a modern-day road map this does not mean the ancient Egyptians necessarily used it as a map. At the time of its creation, about 4000 years ago, nobody had yet attempted to map the netherworld and scholars maintain the later texts all divide the afterlife into hours or caves and include landmarks and events, whereas the ‘Book of Two Ways’ is a psychological road map for the soul.

During the deceased’s journey they must navigate through two regions separated by a wall of darkness and the first has four gates while the second has three, and each gate has its own guardian. The Ancient Egypt Online article details some of these guardians and perhaps the two most interesting are associated with the third gate of the first section, who is described as “He who eats the droppings of his hinder parts,” and the middle gate of the second section is protected by “He who lives on Maggots”.

Monsters from Middle Kingdom funerary contexts: (a) Magic wands (after Petrie 1927, Plate XXXVI),(b) detail of the coffin floor of Sepi, showing creatures from the Book of Two Ways. ( after de Buck, Plan 1 )

Gods, goddesses, and myths of creation : a thematic source book of the history of religions

Australian supernatural beings -- Nzambi, the high god of the Bakongo -- The Supreme being of the Isoko (Southern Nigeria) -- Ngai, the high god of the Kikuyu -- Leza, the high god of the Ba-ila of Northern Rhodesia -- The Supreme being of the Herero -- Raluvhimba, the high god of the Venda -- Wakan Tanka, the supreme deity of the Dakota -- The "Great Spirit" of the Lenape -- Tirawa, the supreme god of the Venda -- The Maori supreme being (Polynesia) -- The Universal mother and supreme deity (Kagaba people, Colombia) -- A South American epiphany of the Sun God (Apinayie tribe, Brazil) -- The Master of the Caribou (Naskapi Indians, Labrador Peninsula) -- Hainuwele and the "creative murder" (Ceram, New Guinea)

Enki, a Sumerian high god -- The Egyptian high god in the age of the Coffin Texts, (Coffin Texts, 714) -- Atum, a bisexual high god (Coffin Texts, I, 161, ff.) -- Debate between Osiris and the high god (Book of the Dead, chapter 175) -- Amenhotep IV and the Hymn to Aten -- Varuna, the all-knowing god (Rig Veda, I, 25, 1-3, 7-14) -- "King Varuna is there . " (Atharva Veda, IV, 16, 1-6) -- Varuna and Indra (Rig Vda, IV, 42, 1-7, 10) -- "What god shall we adore with our oblation?" (Rig Veda, X, 121,1-10) -- "Indra : who as soon as born supassed the gods in power" (Rig Veda, II,12,1-5, 13)

A Vedic hymn to the Goddess Earth (Atharva Veda, XII,1, selections) -- Vishnu, the Cosmic God (Vishnu Puriana, 3,17,14-34) -- Krishna's epiphany (Bhagavad Giitia, XI, selections) -- To each generation the Tathiagata announces his name and declares that he has entered Nirviana (Saddharmapundarika, XV, 268-72) -- The Bodhisattva's infinite compassion (Shikshiasamuccaya, 280-2, Vajradhvaha-siutra) -- The Sun goddess Amaterasu and the Storm God (Susa-no-o (Nihongi, I, 40-5)

To Pythian Apollo (The Homeric Hymns, III, 179 ff.) -- The Earth, Mother of all (The Homeric Hymns, XXX) -- Hercules : his labours, his death, his apotheosis (Apollodorus : The Library, II IV, 8-VII,7) -- Demeter and the founding of the Eleusian mysteries (The Homeric Hymns : to Demeter, II, 185-299) -- Zalmoxis, the god of the Getae (Herodotus : History, IV, 93-6) -- Zarathustra presents a "summary of the doctrine" (Giathia : Yasna 45) -- Giathia of the choice : Zarathustra reveals the exemplary choice which took place at the beginning of the world (Giathia : Yasna 30 -- The Second Giathia of the choice (Giathia : Yasna 31)

Continued : Muhammad speaks of Allah : "there is no god but he .. (Koran, II, 256-9 VI, 102-3) -- Allah is all-knowing, all powerful : the creator! (Koran, XXVII, 61-5 XXX, 47-54 XXXv, 36-9) -- Allah "is the first and the last," the creator, maker, and shaper . He has knowledge of everything (Koran, LVII, 1-5 LVIII, 7-8 LIX, 23-5) -- Allah is light (Koran, XXIV, 34-44)

Creation by thought (Winnebago Indians of Wisconsin) -- Omaha cosmogony : at the beginning the world was in God's mind -- Creation from mere apperance (Uitoto of Colombia, South America) -- Io and the Maori cosmogony -- Polynesian theogony and cosmogony (Society Islands) -- An Earth-diver creation myth (Maidu Indians of California) -- The Beginning of the world (Yauelmani Yokuts of California) -- An African cosmogony (Boshongo, a central Bantu tribe of the Lunda Cluster) -- The Maya-Quichie genesis (Popol Vuh, chapter 1) -- Japanese cosmogony (Nihongi and Ko-ji- ki) -- Egyptian cosmogony and theogony (The Book of overthrowing Apophis) -- Mesopotamian cosmgony (Enuma elish) -- "Who can say whence it all came, and how creation happened? (Rig Veda, X, 129) -- Indian cosmogony (The Laws of Manu, I, 5-16) -- The Creation of the world according to the Upanishads -- Hesiod's throgony and cosmogony (Theogony, 116-210) -- Zorastrian dualist cosmogony : Ohrmazd and Ahri-man (Greater Bundahishn, I, 18-26)

The Cast skin : a Melanasian myth -- The Stone and the banana : an Indonesian myth -- The Moon and the resurrection : an Australian muyth -- The Cruel bird : an Australian myth -- Maui and Hine-nui-te-po : a Polynesian myth -- The Flood narrative from the Gilgameshe Epic -- A Myth of the deluge from ancient India (Shatapatha-Briahmana, 1, 8, 1-6)

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Tristram Coffin was born to Peter and Joanna (Kember) Coffin and baptized in the parish of Brixton near Plymouth, England, on 11 March 1609/10. [1] He belonged to the landed gentry. [5] He married Dionis Stevens in 1630 and they were to have nine children, the first five born in England. Coffin was a Brixton church warden from 1639 to 1640, and was a constable in 1641. [6]

Charles I inherited the throne of England in 1625 and initiated a long struggle with his parliament, which wanted to abolish bishops from the House of Lords and limit the king's powers. Things came to a head when Charles raised his royal standard at Nottingham in August 1642, and England soon descended into Civil War (1642–1651). [5] Tristram Coffin's brother John received a mortal wound at Plymouth fort, although it is not known exactly when or even which side he was fighting on. [7] Perhaps for reasons associated with these political upheavals, Tristram Coffin decided to leave his estates in England and emigrate to the new world. [8]

Tristram Coffin sailed to Boston in 1642 with his wife and children, his two sisters and his mother. For a short time he ran an inn in Salisbury, Massachusetts. [1] He then moved to the new settlement of Pentucket, now Haverhill, Massachusetts. His name appears on a deed dated 15 November 1642 recording the sale of the land for the settlement by the local American Indian people. He is said to have used a plow that he had made himself to cultivate the land. [9] It was here that his last four children were born. [6]

In 1648 he left the farm and moved to Newbury, Massachusetts. Here he operated a ferry across the Merrimack River and he and his wife ran a tavern. In 1653 his wife was "presented" for selling beer above the legal price of two pennies per quart. However, she was acquitted when it was found that her beer was much stronger than the ordinary. [10] Coffin sold the inn and ferry in 1654 or 1655 and moved to Salisbury, Massachusetts, where he signed himself "Tristram Coffyn, Commissioner of Salisbury". [11]

Tristram Coffin and other Salisbury investors bought Nantucket island from Thomas Mayhew on 2 July 1659. [12] The purchase price was 30 pounds plus two beaver hats made by his son, also called Tristram. Coffin was the prime mover of the enterprise and was given first choice of land. In 1659 he settled near the western end of the island near Capaum pond. [6] His sons Peter Coffin, Tristram Coffin Junior and James Coffin also received land on the island. [13] Soon after settling, Tristram Coffin purchased the thousand-acre Tuckernuck Island at the western end of Nantucket. On 10 May 1660 the sachems conveyed title to a large part of the island to Coffin and his associates for eighty pounds. [14] He built a corn mill in which he employed many of the local Native Americans, and he employed others on his farm. [15]

In 1671 Coffin and Thomas Macy were selected as spokesmen for the settlers, going to New York in 1671 to meet with Governor Francis Lovelace and secure their claim to Nantucket. [6] As the most wealthy and respected of the settlers, Coffin was appointed chief magistrate of Nantucket on 29 June 1671. [16] After a period where Macy served as Chief magistrate, in 1677 Coffin was again appointed chief magistrate for a term of four years. [17]

Tristram Coffin died on 2 October 1681 at the age of 76. [1] During the years before his death, he had bestowed much of his property on his children and grandchildren. [18] He was buried on his property on Nantucket Island. [6] At his death he left seven children, 60 grandchildren and several great-grandchildren. One of his grandchildren calculated that by the year 1728, the number of his descendants was 1582, of whom 1128 were still alive. [19]

Several of his descendants achieved prominence. His daughter Mary Coffin Starbuck became a leader in introducing Quaker practices into Nantucket. [20] A grandson, James Coffin, was the first of the Coffins to enter into the whaling business. [21] A poem by Thomas Worth written in 1763 says six Captains named Coffin were sailing out of Nantucket. [3] Sir Isaac Coffin (1759–1839) served during the American Revolutionary War and the Napoleonic Wars and became an admiral in the British Royal Navy. [22] He founded a school on the island in 1827 to educate descendants of Tristram Coffin – which included almost all the children on the island – with emphasis on nautical skills. [23] Lucretia Coffin Mott (1793–1880) was a Quaker born on Nantucket, who became a prominent abolitionist and women's rights activist. She helped write the Declaration of Sentiments during the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, and will be included on the back of the U.S. $10 bill to be newly designed by 2020.

Some branches of the Coffin family were prominent in New England, grouped among the so-called Boston Brahmins. [24] For example, Elizabeth Coffin, daughter of a wealthy merchant from Nantucket, was mother of the prominent Massachusetts industrialists Henry Coffin Nevins and David Nevins Jr.. [25] Charles A. Coffin (1844–1926) born in Somerset, Massachusetts, became co-founder and first President of General Electric corporation. [26] Some retained the family links to Nantucket after the whaling industry had collapsed and many people had left the island. In the eighth generation, Elizabeth Coffin (1850–1930), an artist, educator and Quaker philanthropist, was known for her paintings of Nantucket and for helping revive Sir Isaac Coffin's school with a new emphasis on crafts. [27] Among the ninth generation, Robert P. T. Coffin (1892–1955) was an American poet who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1936 for his book of collected poems called Strange Holiness.

Osiris the God of Egyptian Resurrection

For the ancient Egyptians, the story of Osiris is one of tragedy and hope it is nothing less than the promise of everlasting life. Osiris, god of the dead, was also the “Triumphant” One and the “Lord of Eternity.” John Ray, a reader in Egyptology at the University of Cambridge, writes that Osiris was “Onnofri,” meaning “the perfect or complete being.” According to Plutarch, writing around AD 120, Osiris will eventually rise again to govern Egypt. The Osiris legend is perhaps the oldest resurrection story of the ancient world.

The Birth and Death of Osiris

According to scholars of Ancient Egyptian religion, Osiris might have been an early king of a small state on the Nile delta. He was credited with introducing early Egyptians to the cultivation of grain, wheat, and barley and ending the practice of cannibalism. Osiris was the law-giver and taught Egyptians how to worship the gods. He also introduced the growing of vines, resulting in wine production.

Within religious texts and myths about the ancient Egyptian gods, Osiris was the son of the god Geb and the goddess Nut, born with four other siblings: Horus, Set, Nephthys, and Isis, the latter becoming his wife. Osiris was hated by his brother Set who contrived to murder him upon his return to Egypt after teaching the Egyptians, Osiris traveled to western Asia, teaching other cultures.

Along with 72 other conspirators, Set invited Osiris to a party during which he tricked his brother into climbing into a specially made coffin. Once inside, the lid was flung over the coffin and it was sealed, suffocating Osiris. The coffin was then floated down the Nile.

Leaving her son, Horus the Younger, under the protection of the cobra goddess, Isis searched for her husband’s body, finding it in Byblos where the coffin had become part of an immense tree that had been cut down and used to build the palace of the king. Securing the coffin, Isis returned to Egypt.

The Resurrection of Osiris

While Isis retrieved her son, Set found the coffin and tore the body of Osiris to pieces. Some scholars suggest 14, other cite 16 pieces. Isis again traveled the land of Egypt, collecting the body parts yet burying copies of each part in different cities to confuse her enemies. Traditionally, however, the “tomb” of Osiris was considered to be at Abydos, the site of mass pilgrimages by Egyptians desiring to become Osiris in death.

Through her magical abilities and the help of Thoth, Isis revived Osiris but as king of the underworld where he ruled and judged the dead in the Hall of Two Truths. Although the story of Osiris may predate the Old Kingdom, John Ray states that the earliest fragmentary accounts come out of the fifth and sixth dynasties Pyramid Texts yet by the First Intermediate Period all Egyptians followed the funerary practices of the story to make them “Osiris,” identifying with the god.

According to social anthropologist Sir James Frazer, “In the resurrection of Osiris the Egyptians saw the pledge of a life everlasting for themselves beyond the grave.” (246) Osiris represented a positive afterlife concept that included fields of wheat so tall that they dwarfed Egyptians. In Egypt, sanctuaries containing his holy relics flourished. Both Memphis and Abydos claimed his head.

The story of Osiris is certainly far more complicated that this overview and readers are encouraged to consult the sources. This includes the lamentation of the god’s death by Isis as well as the yearly celebratory feast – all, in a sense, reenactments of his death and incarnation, often compared to similar rites associated with Dionysus.

2,400-Year-Old Coffin's 'Odd' Art Hints at Ancient Egypt's Brain Drain

TORONTO — An ancient Egyptian coffin with strange and amateurish decorations has been revealed, shedding light on a tumultuous period in Egyptian history when the Persian Empire was in control of the region.

In 525 B.C., Persian King Cambyses marched into Memphis, the Egyptian capital, inaugurating a period of Persian rule that would last for more than a century. The Persian Empire was a vast entity that stretched from modern-day Afghanistan to the west coast of Turkey. Ancient texts say that the Persian kings deported Egyptian artists and used them for building projects in Persia.

The coffin bears a series of unusual features that are likely related to the Persian Empire's deportation of artists. [See photos of the ancient Egyptian coffin]

"Many of the best artists in Egypt were taken by the Persians back to Persepolis and Susa as POWs and war booty — you can see their work in those places. There seems to have been a dearth of masters for some time, so that fewer and fewer artists got proper training," Gayle Gibson, an Egyptologist and educator at Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum, told Live Science in an email.

Gibson presented the coffin at the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities Scholars' Colloquium, which was held Nov. 13 to 16 in Toronto.

Odd features

There are several odd features on the coffin that reflect the lack of knowledge the ancient artist had, Gibson said.

For instance, the deceased is depicted lying on a funerary bed, and the bed has a human-headed bird called a Ba. Flying over the deceased is a winged snake wearing a crown associated with the goddess Hathor. Below them are four jars bearing the heads of the four Sons of Horus, but the jars have a "goofy" appearance, Gibson said.

To an Egyptologist, this is a bizarre scene, Gibson said. "This is the only funerary bed I know of with a Ba's head," she told the Toronto audience, also noting that "we have a winged snake with Hathor's crown — very odd."

There are other oddities. The collar wrapped around the top of the coffin contains two creatures that look almost fishlike. The artist was likely trying to draw falcons, a symbol of the god Horus, but drew them very poorly, Gibson said.

A Mehen snake, a protective deity in Egypt, is also poorly drawn and actually stops at one point and starts in another, something strange for a protective deity. "The artist doesn't really understand the purpose of the Mehen snake," Gibson said. [Image Gallery: Egypt's Great Terrace of God]

Mike Sigler, a collector and Egyptian antiquities enthusiast who lives in Kentucky and now owns the coffin, sent a picture to Live Science showing that the ancient artist clumsily attempted to correct an error in an alternating pattern by scratching out an image of a scepter.

Ancient brain drain

Although there is no longer a mummy in the coffin, its inscriptions say that it belonged to someone named Denit-ast, or Dent-ast, likely a woman. Radiocarbon dating of her coffin indicates that she lived at a time when her country was under Persian control.

Ancient texts tell tales of the deportation of Egyptian artists to Persia during this time. Diodorus Siculus, who died around 30 B.C., said that Cambyses, the conqueror of Egypt, transferred both precious metals and artists from Egypt to Persia.

Additionally, Persian King Darius I bragged about the Egyptian artists he acquired in a text describing the construction of his palace at Susa. "The goldsmiths who wrought the gold, those were Mede and Egyptians. The men who wrought the wood, those were Sardians and Egyptians … the men who adorned the wall, those were Medes and Egyptians" Darius said (translation by Roland Kent).


Gibson told the Toronto audience that when she first showed the coffin to other Egyptologists, some expressed skepticism and wondered if it was a fake created before Sigler owned it.

However, radiocarbon dating places the coffin in the Persian period and analysis of its wood indicates that it's sycamore, a wood that was commonly used in ancient Egypt. Additionally, an analysis of the coffin's blue pigments found that the pigment was Egyptian blue, which indicates that the coffin is authentic, Gibson said.

Sigler purchased the coffin in August 2013 from the Edgar L. Owen gallery, which sold it on behalf of a private collector. Paperwork that Sigler received indicates that the collector acquired it from the European art market in 1980. Its history before that is unknown.

Gibson is well-known for her Egyptological work. In the 1990s she helped identify a mummy in Niagara Falls, Canada, as likely being that of pharaoh Ramesses I. The mummy was later returned to Egypt with full military honors.

Given Gibson's reputation, Sigler sought her out and asked her for help in understanding the coffin's strange features.

Despite its odd features, Gibson believes the coffin is not a fake. "I think there is really no doubt that this one is genuine," she said.

Sigler told Live Science that he hopes to find other examples of the coffin's unusual imagery. He said that he is interested in donating the coffin to a museum in the future.

The pigment and wood analysis was carried out by Microscopist William Randle while radiocarbon dating was conducted at the University of Georgia&rsquos Center for Applied Isotope Studies.

More information

Reconstructed head of Asru

Reconstruction of Asru’s head and discussion of the pathology of her mummy.

Useful article on the examination of Asru’s mummy available on the Catalyst website.

Useful information from the blog of the curator of Egypt and the Sudan at Manchester Museum.

Manchester Museum catalogue entry for Asru with detailed reading list.

An overview of the historical period from which Asru’s mummy comes.

Hour-long TV documentary with a thorough exploration of the examination of Asru’s mummy containing reconstructions and much useful footage. Some parts of the video are not suitable for classroom use.

Source: Educational Broadcasting Corporation

The concept of the afterlife

Summary of Egyptian beliefs about the elements of a human being.

Detailed account of the virtual unwrapping of a mummy using CT scanning.

Ancient lives new discoveries

How the latest technology has been used to find out about the lives of eight ancient Egyptians from their mummies. Includes useful video clips.

Health hazards and cures in Ancient Egypt

Comprehensive information on ancient Egyptian medicine, with links to medical texts and other relevant sites.

Watch the video: Coffin Text in Ancient Egypt, North Africa