The ancient Egyptians believed that it was important to have a happy life and to enter the afterlife when they died.
They thought that while the physical body remains on Earth after death, the soul enters the afterlife. A person’s soul is split into two pieces: the Ba and the Ka.
The Ka was the life force of a person and was breathed into a body at birth by the gods. It was pictured in hieroglyphics as a very little person standing next to a much larger version of the same person. Sometimes it was drawn as two outstretched arms to ward off evil from the tomb.
The Ka was thought to be stuck in the body or small statues that people in the tomb after death, so it was important to preserve the body so it didn’t decay! Some tombs had mini houses in them for the Ka to live in.
Ancient Egyptians also placed food and drink in tombs as offerings so that the Ka could eat to sustain itself – they believed the Ka absorbed the spirit of the food rather than eating the physical thing.
The second half of the soul, the Ba, was thought to be the part of the soul that made everyone unique. The Ba was your personality – your humour, charm, happiness and empathy were all found here.
It was pictured as a bird with a human head, as ancient Egyptians thought that birds could fly between the living world and the afterlife.
Unlike the Ka, the Ba could move around outside of the tomb. It would follow the gods around on journeys and then return to the tomb to reunite with the Ka until the next day.
Eventually both the Ba and the Ka would join together and a divine spark would occur, creating the Akhu (the reunited soul). The Akhu would then fly to the underworld where it would undergo a test; if it passed, the person’s soul would be allowed to reach the afterlife.
Ancient Egyptians said prayers during the funeral rites. These prayers turned the physical body into a spiritual one called the Saku. The Saku then moved around the tomb, talking to the Ba and the Ka.
When the soul had joined together and was ready, the Saku would take the journey to the afterlife to join the gods.
If your name wasn’t written down or something happened to your body, the ancient Egyptians believed that the Ba and the Ka would not be able to find their way home to your tomb.
To help the Ba and Ka get back home, people attached a name plate to the coffin called a cartouche. This meant that your soul was not stuck wandering the living world and could make it to the afterlife.