Papyrus Paintings from the Book of the Dead


The Book of the Dead is a long series of magic spells which were written on a scroll of papyrus,

or on the walls of tombs, coffins, and so on. The spells were supposed to help the dead person

get to the afterlife.


After death the Egyptians believed a person's soul went on a long journey facing many dangers, such as giant snakes and crocodiles. The soul had to pass many gods, become transformed into various animals, pass through various gates, and eventually face the judgment of the gods. The spells of the Book of the Dead were needed to pass all these things.


On this page are paintings from papyrus copies of the Book of the Dead. Some of these papyri are in the British Museum - the Papyrus of Ani and the Papyrus of Hunefer. You can see which spell the picture is from and part of the spell itself.



The Egyptian name for the Book of the Dead is the Book of Coming Forth by Day. There were 189 spells in all, but no one copy of the book has every spell.


Spell 103 - Spell for being in the presence of Hathor


'I am one who passes by, pure and bald; O Sistrum-player, I will be in the rooms of Hathor.'


Spell 183 - Worshipping Osiris, giving praise to him and homage to Wennefer, obeying the Lord of the Sacred Land, exalting him who is on the sand, by the dead soul.'

'I am Thoth, the skilled scribe whose hands are pure, the Lord of purity who drives away all evil, who writes what is true, who detests lies, whose pen defends the Lord of All, protector of the poor man who has lost his property.'


In the picture, Thoth, god of writing, gives the hieroglyphs for 'all life and dominion' to Osiris


Spell 185 - Giving praise to Osiris, doing homage to the Lord of Eternity, giving the god what he desires, speaking truth to him who knows its lord.'

'My heart comes to you bearing truth, my heart has no falseness. May you grant that I be among the living and that I fare downstream and upstream in your land.'


The lady is shown worshipping Osiris, holding papyrus flowers and a sistrum, and wearing a lotus flower on her head.



Spell 15 - 'Worship of Re when he rises in the eastern horizon of the sky, when those who are in his following are joyful. O sun disc, Lord of the sunbeams, who shines forth from the horizon every day: may you shine in the face of (the deceased person), for he worships you in the morning, he offers to you in the evening.'

This picture shows Re as a falcon, with baboons worshipping him.




Spell 125 - Osiris receiving the scribe Hunefer into the afterlife, after he has been judged true of heart by the gods. Spell 125 is mostly the deceased proclaiming his innocence, saying that he has committed no sins. For example:

'I have not done falsehood against men, I have done no evil, I have not deprived the orphan of his property, I have not caused pain, I have not made anyone weep, I have not killed.'



Spell 31- Spell for driving off a crocodile which comes to take away the soul's magic from him in the realm of the dead.


'Get back! Retreat! Get back, you dangerous one! Do not come against me, do not live by my magic. May I not have to tell this name of yours to the Great God who sent you; 'Messenger' is the name of one and Bedty is the name of the other.'




Spell 78 - Spell for being transformed into a divine falcon


'I have been made strong, I have been made young and vigorous. I am distinguished above the other beings who dwell in the sunshine, the spirits who came into being with me. I have made my appearance as a divine falcon, Horus has given me his shape so that I may take his affairs to Osiris, to the Underworld.'


Djed-pillar, Isis knot, heart, and headrest

Spells 155, 156, 29B and 166


Spell 155 - 'Raise yourself O Osiris, place yourself on your side that I may put water beneath you and that I may bring you a djed-pillar of gold so that you may rejoice at it.'

Spell 156 - 'You have your blood, O Isis; you have your power, O Isis; you have your magic, O Isis. The amulet is a protection for this Great One which will drive away whoever would commit a crime against him.'



Spell 80 - Making transformation into a god and giving light and darkness


'I am he who wore the white and bright fringed cloak of Nun which is on his breast, which gives light in darkness, which unites the two companion-goddesses who are in my body by means of the great magic which is on my mouth.'

Spell 99 - Spell for bringing a ferry boat in the realm of the dead


'O you who bring the ferry-boat of the Abyss to this difficult bank, bring me the ferry-boat, make fast the ropes for me in peace.'

'As for him who knows this spell, he will go out into the Field of Reeds (the afterlife), and there will be given to him a cake, a jug of beer and a loaf from the altar of the Great Gods, an acre of land with barley and wheat by the followers of Horus, who will reap for him.'

Spell 81A - Spell for being transformed into a lotus


'I am this pure lotus which went forth from the sunshine, which is at the nose of Re; I have descended that I may seek it for Horus, for I am the pure one who issued from the marsh.'