Ancient Egyptian Study Group-Judgement


A man, woman and child stand before the great god Osiris. They are naked, so as they came into existence, so they go out. They are the eternal triad. Father, mother and child. They do not seem to be afraid. Their arms are uplifted in worship. Their coffins are decorated with the symbols of Ba-bird, Ka and Khu. Ba being the wandering soul, Ka being the life spirit, and Khu being the spirit soul. The red under their coffins could be the Lake of Fire.

Osiris is golden winged. He seems to be vanishing. If they don't hurry, he will be gone. He holds his crook and flail. The colors of his garments are black for the Underworld, green for resurrection and joy, red for vitality, and white for purity and sanctity.

In the clouds are the misty forms of Thoth and Anubis. Anubis holds the scales of Maat. There seems to be mountains in the distance.

Egyptians saw death as being the start of a dangerous journey rather than the end of life. The goal of this journey was to reach the land of the gods. In order to reach the land where gods dwelt, and to live amonst them, they must first travel through the land of the dead.

To the Egyptian, the heart notes all good and bad deeds of a person's life. It was the data that is analyzed in a ceremony, upon death, in a judgement for afterlife. The ceremony of the weighing of the heart occured in the Hall of Judgement. The deceased is led into the hall by Anubis. The deceased's heart is placed on one scale pan and weighed against the Maats feather of truth. Thoth records the verdict. The deceased is taken by Horus before Osiris after a proper verdict if rendered in favor. The demon Ammit, Eater of Hearts, destroys whom the verdict is against or they could be thrown into the burning Lake of Fire. Once Ammit swallowed the heart, the soul was believed to become restless forever, this was called "to die a second time".


Thanks for your beautiful description of this card, aaqwaa :). One day I plan to read the Egyptian Book of the Dead which describes the journey the souls of the dead must undertake when they die.

I have a lot to think about with this image. The soul when it appeared before Osiris had to swear that it had never committed a sin. At some stage the heart of the deceased person was weighed along side the feather of Maat and a judgement made about the soul's worthiness for eternal life.

My understanding is that if the soul was not free from sin or if it lied about their state of grace it was then committed to a second death .... and the story goes on. There does not seem to be much room for forgiveness in the Egyptian lifetime but I could be wrong there :).

Maat's feather of justice appears in the right hand of the Fool so perhaps people were aware of the Gods' expectations of them from a very early age. It appears that the Egyptians prepared for death for years, which tends to support this view.

The Egyptian view of the make-up of human beings is quite interesting and not explained very much in Barrett's conpanion volume. The ka is a person's life force and energy and remains with them throughout their life on earth and beyond. The ba is their essential personality. It is the ba which undertakes the perilous journey through the underworld. At this time it is represented as a bird with the head of the deceased. If all goes well after the death rituals, journey and judgement, the ba is reunited with the ka and becomes an akh or tranfigured spirit. The ba and ka required a physical body during the death period, and this led to the practice of mummification.

It is a fascinating tale but I wonder about "forgiveness" and how people were able to come back from wrongs committed whilst alive. Obviously the Book of Death awaits :).


This card, to me, shows not only has a decision been made, but it MUST be acted upon. It will cause the one who makes the decision to rise, true, but it also affects everyone within the circle of the decision-maker. The choice brings them forward too. This is why they look to Osiris in the sky and show joy. His rising brings theirs too.


Osiris has taken his place as god of the dead and now calls his followers to him. His wings show his transcendence and divinity. Wings represent the power to transcend the mundane world, those who are never weary, the ubiquitous and freedom. They may represent a spiritual journey and can be associated with the soul. They can also suggest the need to rise above one's current situation. Outspread wings are symbols of divine protection.

Although Osiris has revealed himself, his body is normally invisible on the material plain and will soon be gone. Those who wish to follow him must act quickly.

The deaths of the father, mother and child (trinity) depicted on the card were but slumbers, and Osiris has now awakened them. Reborn, they have no further need for their mummy bindings, which fall away from them.

The sarcophagus on the left has an image of the Ba-bird on it. The middle sarcophagus has an image of a pair of raised hands, which represents the Ka, the life force of the deceased. The right sarcophagus bears the image of the crested ibis, which represents the Akh. As mentioned in the wheel, the Ka was created by Khnum when the individual was created on the potter's wheel. The Ka was a double that lived in the body throughout a person's life. The Ka could leave the body to travel alone in dreams or through astral projection. When the body died, the Ka split into the Ba (soul) and the Akh (spirit). The Ba stayed in the tomb with the body (although it could move around and even leave the tomb if it wanted) while the Akh flew off to the otherworld, where it lived for eternity as long as the Ba still existed on earth. If the body were destroyed, then both the Ba and Akh would die a "second death." To prevent this, a statue of the deceased was placed in the tomb so that the Ba would have an alternate place to live.

The red ground on which the sarcophagi rest suggests the Lake of Fire, which is a Christian concept that those who don't make it to heaven are doomed to burn for eternity in a lake of fire.

As the spirit rises, worldly thoughts and desires become dim and fade away as evidenced by the distant hills fading from sight.

Thoth on the left and Anubis on the right are dimly outlined in the clouds above. Each of them holds an ankh. Thoth also holds a peseshkef (used in the Opening of the Mouth ceremony - see Death), while Anubis holds the scales of justice (see Justice). The heart of the dead (in a canopic jar) was weighed against the Feather of Truth. The deceased then had to make the 42 Negative Declarations to the 42 assembled gods and goddesses about sins they hadn't committed. If the scales didn't balance, then the deceased was shown to be a sinner and would then be thrown into the jaws of the monster Amit, who was a demonic goddess with the head of a crocodile, the body of a lion and the rear end of a hippopotamus.