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The Spells & The Books

  • The Spells in the Books allowed the deceased to travel as smoothly as possible from the Hall of Two Truths to the Aaru, the Field of Reeds
  • The Pharaonic exclusive Pyramid Texts led to the general populace available Coffin Texts
  • The widely available Coffin Texts moved into the Books of the Dead which could be commissioned by any individual


The Pyramid Texts

Written in old Egyptian, it is the oldest religious work in Egypt and dates to the Old Kingdom period, 2,400-2,300BCE.

Reserved for use only by the Pharaoh and his Queen. They were devoid of illustrations but contain one of the oldest mentions of God Osiris.


The Pyramid Texts were carved into Subterranean Walls and Sarcophagi of the Pyramid at Saqqara from the end of the 5th Dynasty, throughout the 6th Dynasty and into the 7th and 8th Dynasties.

By the Middle Kingdom, the Spells continued to be practised but ceased to be used in the Pyramids themselves, but by the New Kingdom period the Texts could be found on the Tombs of Nobles and Officials.

The Spells were a guide for the deceased to enable the reunion of their Ba and Ka; and when successful, allowing them to transform to the Akh which led to a secure Afterlife, and for the Pharaoh to ascend to become a Deity with the other Gods and Goddesses in the Sky.




The Pharaoh Unas

The last Pharaoh of the 5th Dynasty, Pharaoh Unas had 283 Spells on the Walls of his Pyramid at the north of the Saqqara Plateau.

“Ho Unas! You have not yet gone away dead: you have gone away alive. Sit on Osiris’ Chair, with your baton in your arm, and govern the living; with your Water Lily Sceptre in your arm and govern those of the inaccessible places. Your Lower Arms are of Atum, your Upper Arms of Atum, you Belly of Atum, your Back of Atum, your Rear of Atum, your Legs of Atum, your Face of Anubis. Horus’ mounds shall serve you; Set’s mounds shall serve you.”

Spell 1130: Speech by Sun God, Ra


“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 4 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”

The Coffin Texts


Developed from the Pyramid Texts, they began in the First Intermediate Period in 2,134-2,040BCE. They had approximately 1,185 Spells which were written on Coffins directly.


The Texts contained substantial new material which was related to everyday wishes which shows that these Texts were for a new audience: the general populace. 

The Egyptians who had the wherewithal and afforded a coffin would have received access to the Spells in the Coffin Texts and the Pharaoh no longer had exclusive rights.

The Book of the Dead


The Book of those who dwelt in the Akhet, or the Horizon. Also known as the Book on Coming Forth by Day and the Book of Emerging Forth into the Light. 

Written on Papyrus and placed in to Coffins directly, it included the Pyramid and Coffin Texts, and dates to the New Kingdom period, 1,550-1,070BCE. They were in use from 1,550BCE all the way to 50BCE. 

There was no single version of the Book of the Dead and the general populace were free to commission their own Books with specific spells included or omitted at their own request. The Spells were also added to Tomb Walls and Coffins as with the previous Coffin Texts.

Spells from the Book of the Dead



1 – 19               Various

21 – 30             Preservation of Parts of Being

Spell 22: “My mouth has been given to me that I may speak with it in the presence of the Great God”

31 – 53             Protection from Peril

54 – 63             Empowering to Breathe and Drink

64 – 89             Coming Forth by Day

98 – 112           Navigating the Underworld

125 – 126         Judgement

127 – 137         Journeys in the Duat and on the Barque of Ra

144 – 150         Gates, Caverns, Mounds and Guardians

Spell 144: “O you Gates, you who keep the Gates because of Osiris, O you who Guard them and who report the affairs of the Two Lands to Osiris every day; I know you and I know your names”

151 – 189         Amuletic and Protective Spells


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