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Egyptian soul concept

(Redirected from Ba)

The Egyptians believed that the human soul was made up of five main parts: the ka, ba, akh, name and shadow. They saw each of them as essential to a person's survival in the living world and the afterlife.

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The ka was a person's double, an exact copy of their entire soul that stayed with them while the person lived. It was depicted as a smaller version of the person or as two arms upraised. The word originally meant 'bull', but came to mean 'power' or 'sustenance'. The ka acted as mana, or like an astral body, which was able to travel freely once projected from the body and absorb the life-energy of food left in a tomb for it. It was believed that Khnum created a ka on his potter's wheel to enter a body at birth. It was also thought that kas could enter statues and see through their eyes.


The ba was a person's character, personality, or anything else non-physical about them. It was shown as a bird with a human head which had to travel in place of the body to the afterlife. To do this it needed food, like the ka, and had to return to the body every night. Other than travelling to the afterlife, the ba stays with the body after death to sustain it.


The akh was formed by the joining of the ka and ba in the afterlife after the weighing of the soul against Ma'at's feather. It was shown as a mummified figure, or sometimes as an ibis. The akh was seen as the unchanging, immortal link between humanity and divinity, and was the self that lived on in the afterlife. It could have an effect on the living if it wished.


Everyone was given a name at birth, often based on a popular local deity. The Egyptians very much believed that names were powerful. Ptah in the Memphite creation myth creates by speaking or thinking the names of things he wants to exist. They also believed it could be possible to get rid of a person's akh by erasing all trace of the person's name, as it was the only way that the soul could be preserved.


The shadow stayed with the body after death to protect it, but could not come into any harm itself without great danger. It moved very quickly and had great power, shown as a dark depiction of the person. This belief shows how important shade was to the Egyptians as a refuge from the sun's perishing heat.

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