The Weighing of the Heart in the court of Osiris

One of the best-known vignettes in the Book of the Dead is that of the weighing of the heart (“psychostasia”) in the tribunal of the Double Truth, in the presence of Osiris and other gods of the netherworld. Chapter 125 of Book of Dead, Papyrus of Taysnakht, daughter of Taymes.

The heart of the deceased is placed on one pan of a pair of scales, a feather on the other pan. The feather symbolizes the goddess Maat, protector of justice and the cosmic order. A light and pure heart will grant the deceased a happy passage into the netherworld and a serene eternal life in the Fields of Aaru; should the heart turn out to be heavy, that is, evil, the monster Ammit (the Devourer) will annihilate the soul for eternity.

The Weighing of the Heart in the court of Osiris
The Weighing of the Heart in the court of Osiris

While Egyptians may appear to be fascinated with death, it was in fact life that preoccupied their minds. They believed that, with proper preparation, a living person could become immortal following death. And the Book of the Dead was developed as a means to cope with their mortality and ultimately their immortality.

Late Period, ca. 664-332 BC. Now in the Egyptian Museum of Turin. Cat. 1833