Sarcophagus of Wahibreemakhet

Step 7 of 17

Spell 151

Spell 151 on a papyrus - British Museum – [EA10010,5](

Spell 151 on a papyrus - British Museum – EA10010,5

On the lid of Wahibreemakhet’s sarcophagus, we see many columns of hieroglyphic text. In some of the columns, a standing figure is depicted.

This text contains magical spells meant to protect the deceased on the dangerous journey to the afterlife. The spells come from the so-called Book of the Dead. This refers to a collection of spells that were often written on a lengthy papyrus scroll. There were many different types of spells: hymns to different gods, spells to protect the deceased from harm and ward off enemies, spells that provided the deceased with specific knowledge that he needed in the afterlife, spells that enabled the deceased to transform into different forms, and many more. J. Taylor, ‘Preparing for the Afterlife’, in J. Taylor (ed.)Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead : journey through the afterlife (London, 2010), 29. Approximately 192 spells are known, even though they have never been found together on one single papyrus scroll. A very well-known example of a spell from the Book of the Dead is spell 125: the weighing of the heart. See: British Museum

The spell inscribed upon this sarcophagus is spell 151. In the additional image you can see it written on a sheet of papyrus. This spell, also often found on sarcophagi and coffins, aims to protect the deceased in his tomb. J. Taylor, ‘The Mummy in the Tomb’, in J. Taylor (ed.)Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead: journey through the afterlife (London, 2010), 106-107. Most Book of the Dead spells, including number 151, were accompanied by illustrations, also known as vignettes. The vignettes were meant to magically strengthen the text.

The spell consists of words of protection, as spoken by a number of deities. Four of these deities belong together, the four sons of Horus: Imsety, Duamutef, Hapy, and Qebehsenuef. Their images are carved underneath the columns of text that they ‘speak’. We will meet them, and their words, in the next steps.