The fourth hour was associated with elemental powers, however that power was turned inward. As the beings passing through the night hours onto their way to the next phase of their existence, they had to jump-start their own abilities or the ability of the gods to ensure a successful rebirth.
The fifth hour is an hour of dichotomies: green, or ma’at-affirming, behavior in conjunction with a reminder as to what punishments lie ahead for those who deserve them.
The Book of the Hidden Chamber [Amduat]
This hour is separated into three registers. Although they are three distinct scenes, they are connected with the middle scene formed by Osiris’ burial mound. To either side of the mound, Isis and Nephthys are depicted in the forms of birds. Within this hour, we finally come to the Nun, the primordial water of life. This is an area of opposites, an area of fire and water, desert and watered land.
The top register towards the middle, Khepri is shown coming out of Osiris’s burial mound. “He is obviously needed to help the ram-headed form of the old Sungod to adjust the rope of the otwing over the head of this cavern. It is just a fine adjustment, as there is no tension in the rope. There is a very subtle cooperation of the half renewed Sungod (the scarab) with the ram-headed old Sungod that is pulled by the deities, heading towards his renewal.” [p 69, Abt & Hornung, Knowledge of the Afterlife: The Egyptian Amduat.]
The middle register depicts a passage that is shown as narrow because of the head of Isis at its center. The Sungod must negotiate this narrow portion of the land of Sokar carefully. The barque is pulled forward by seven goddesses. it is here, within the body of Isis, that we are shown that she holds the elements at bay. It is through her that both water and fire, desert and primordial water are both kept apart and merged together in their aspects within the journey of rebirth.
In the lowest register, a cave is shown surrounded by both water and desert, fire and water. Within the circular indication of the cave, Osiris in his form of Sokar is shown having been merged with the Sungod in a form of a winged, multi-headed serpent. Around the cave, the double headed motif of Aker is shown.
Beneath the lowest register, the Lake of Fire is shown as waves. This is the place where sinners are punished, but the blessed dead are able to drink cool waters from this same lake. Though paradoxical in nature, this too highlights the coming together of opposites within this hour as the Sungod continues his journey forward.
The Book of Gates
Within this hour, the deceased are given space and time within this hour. Space is designated in the form of fields, with the gods showing being depicted with surveying cords, and time is depicted in the form of hieroglyphs meaning “lifetime”. In front of the solar barque, A/pep is shown imprisoned to prevent it from stopping the barque. Behind this image, the ba-souls of the deceased are shown, having been placed in the care of Sekhmet and Horus.
The Book of Caverns
This section begins with litanies that discuss the rejuvenation of the sun by Tatenen. Nut is depicted who is lifting the ram-headed sun and the solar disk in her upraised hands. She faces the three registers of this section.
The upper register shows the image of Osiris, whose hands reach out towards Ra, and four-human headed serpents. The next scene, Tatenen is lifted up by the corpses of Atum and Khepri. There are two sarcophagus following: both depict the form of Ra as a child.
The middle register shows four falcon-headed mummies, which are forms of Horus. Behind is Anubis in the form of a guardian and a coffin, which shows the scepter of Atum. This coffin with the scepter of Atum embodies the potential of creation, the potential of the sun god to create. Four more goddesses are shown towards the end of the register, anonymous and unknown.
The final register depicts the punishments meted out by “the female slaughterer carrying two stakes in her hands; two bound prisoners kneel next to her.” [p 88, Hornung, The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife.] The next two scenes show enemies that are being punished in a large cauldron. The first cauldron holds the heads and hearts of these enemies while the second shows the bound and upside-down bodies of these enemies. “The ‘arms of the Place of Annihilation’ lift the cauldrons up out of the depths while uraei fan the flames beneath them.” [p 88, Hornung, The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife.]
Opposite this scene, a large-scale image of Osiris is shown. He is depicted in ithyphallic form, along with his ba. A protective serpent rears up in front of him. “In the continuation of the three registers behind him, the oval containing the four ‘flesh’ hieroglyphs again refer to the corpse of Osiris, which is cared for by the light and the voice of Re, and which is at the same time addressed as his own body and his ‘decay’.” [p 88, Hornung, The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife.] Beneath him, the goddess Tayt calls a greeting to Ra and Osiris.
The Book of Night
The fifth hour begins in the throat and breast region of Nut’s body. This area indicates that we have truly entered the “life-giving” realm on the journey through the hours of the night. This place within the body of the goddess is a transitional realm, filled with both life-affirming and chaotic elements.
At the bottom of the images of this house, we are shown bound enemies. Some of these figures are shown decapitated. They are named as “the followers of Seth,” which seems to indicate that these beings are the representations of those who have opposed the nightly process of renewal.
The living beings within this realm are shown in much better condition than those depicted in previous hours. The people are clearly depicted as living, breathing beings. They lie on their stomachs with raised heads. It is clear that within this hour, they are capable of movement and of basic life functions though they still have some ways to go before they are fully restored to themselves.
The imagery surrounding the beings within this hour also seems to suggest an association with plants. “The travelers’ newly-acquired ‘plant’ or ‘ka‘-nature is also visually suggested by the three groups of three people who are shown seated on plants to the right of them, sprouting and blooming again in this burgeoning, vivifying life realm, feeling the power of green shoots surging through their body.” [p 124, Roberts, My Heart, My Mother.]
It is within this hour that power returns to the hearts of the beings passing through the body of Nut.
- The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife by Erik Hornung
- Knowledge for the Afterlife by Theodor Abt and Erik Hornung
- My Heart, My Mother by Alison Roberts