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Akh

by Alex Hopson
The Akh is one of the five constituents of the human personality; the others being Ka, Ba, Name and Shadow. It has been referred to as a kind of glorified being of light (spirit). There seem to be two variations of the relationship between the Ba, Ka and Akh:

  1. The Akh is the result of the Ka and Ba being reunited in the after life; once reunited the Akh is unchanged for all eternity. The Akh was the form in which the deceased occupied the afterlife, once he had became an Akh, the deceased would become a part of the Akh-Akh (Starry sky) along with the other deceased, gods and birds. The Akh was an entity that co-existed with the Ka and Ba, it could have a positive or negative affect on the living world, in which it still bore responsibilities.
  2. When someone died their Ka split into two, the Akh and the Ba. The Akh, in the form of a bird flew to the afterlife where it turned back into the Ka. While the Ba remained on earth, inhabiting the physical body of the deceased.

The physical form of the Akh is represented by a mummiform figure, similar to that of a shabti figure. However the hieroglyph representing the Akh is the sign of the crested ibis (Geronticus Eremita) sometimes called the hermit ibis. The crested Ibis is a less well known variety of Ibis, which is now rare in Egypt although once it was more common. It has long legs and a long neck, with a distinctive ruff that led to its name. The word ‘Akh' also means ‘to shine', it is from the term ‘Radiant light'. The transformation into the Akh is symbolized by the adding of a crest to the normal Ba bird to make it an Akh bird. The largest section of the Pyramid text is devoted to ‘Glorifications' (Sakhu) which literally means ‘That which makes one an Akh'.

The following is a chapter from the Book of the Dead, as translated by Wallis Budge, note that the Akh is referred to as Khu in this chapter dedicated to the making of the Akh.

THE BOOK OF MAKING PERFECT THE KHU

In the heart of Ra, of making him to have the mastery before Tem, of magnifying him before Osiris, of making him mighty before Khent-Amentet, and of setting awe of him before the Company of the Gods. It shall be recited on the day of the New Moon, on the sixth day festival, on the fifteenth day festival, on the festival of Uak, on the festival of Thoth, on the Birthday of Osiris, on the festival of Menu, on the night of Heker, [during] the Mysteries of the Tuat, during the celebration of the Mysteries in Akertet, at the smiting of the emissions, at the passage of the Funerary Valley, [and] the Mysteries... [The recital thereof] will make the heart of the Khu to flourish and will make long his strides, and will make him to advance, and will make his face bright, and will make it to penetrate to the god. Let no man witness [the recital] except the king and the Kherheb priest, but the servant who cometh to minister outside shall not see it. Of the Khu for whom this Book shall be recited, his soul shall come forth by day with the living, he shall have power among the gods, and it will make him irresistible forever and ever. These gods shall go round about him, and shall acknowledge him. He shall be one of them. This [Book] shall make him to know how he came into being in the beginning. This Book is indeed a veritable mystery. Let no stranger anywhere have knowledge of it. Do not speak about it to any man. Do not repeat it. Let no [other] eye see it. Let no [other] ear hear it. Let no one see it except [thyself] and him who taught [it to thee]. Let not the multitude [know of it] except thyself and the beloved friend of thy heart. Thou shalt do this book in the she chamber on a cloth painted with the stars in colour all over it. It is indeed a mystery. The dwellers in the swamps of the Delta and everywhere there shall not know it. It shall provided the Khu with celestial food upon in Khert-Neter. It shall supply his Heart-soul with food upon earth. It shall make him to live forever. No [evil] thing shall have the master over him.

This excerpt from the Book of the Dead shows the Akh as one of the four rudders.

THE ADDRESSES OF THE FOUR RUDDERS

Hail, Power of Heaven, Opener of the Disk, thou Beautiful Rudder of the Northern Heaven.

Hail, Ra, Guide of the Two Lands, thou Beautiful Rudder of the Western Heaven.

Hail, Khu, Dweller in the House of the Akhemu gods, thou Beautiful Rudder of the Eastern Heaven.

Hail, Governor, Dweller in the House of the Tesheru Gods, thou Beautiful Rudder of the Southern Heaven.


Article details:

  • Also known as:
    Khu

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