Five Egyptian Canticles

Five Cantos from the Book of the Dead

Laurence Roman


Canto 1 (Papyrus of Ani – Chapter CXXXIII)

Say these words over a boat of seven cubits in length, made in the colour of green for the divine chiefs. Make a heaven of stars, washed and purified with natron and incense. Behold, thou must make a figure of Ra with yellow colour upon a new stone plaque, and it shall be placed in front of this boat. Behold; thou must make a figure of the deceased, whom you wish to make perfect in strength, in the divine boat of Ra. Ra himself will look upon him in it. Do not show it to anyone except thine own or thy father or thy son and let them keep guard over their counsel. Thus the deceased will be received in the netherworld as a messenger of Ra.


Canto 2 (Papyrus of Ani – Chapter CLXXV)

I am Fate. I have transformed myself into serpents. I am doing away with all that I created when this earth was coming forth from the watery abyss; returning it to its former state. Mankind may not perceive the gods nor know that double-beauty which I have made for Osiris. Greater is he than all gods. I have given him rule over the underworld. Horus, his son and heir, sits upon a throne within the lake of double-fire. I have made his seat in the boat of millions of years.


Canto 3 (Papyrus of Ani – Chapters LXXVII & LXXVIII)

May I rise, even I? May I gather myself together like a beautiful hawk of gold, with the head of a phoenix? May I sit among the gods?

I am Horus, the dweller in his splendours. I have gained possession of his diadem. I have gained possession of his rays of light. I have travelled over the uttermost parts of heaven. Horus is upon his seat. My face is like that of a hawk. I gather and bind up your powers. I order the powers of the ways of those who guard the horizon of heaven. I have prepared their doors for Osiris. I have ordered the ways for him. I have done the commands. I have seen Osiris. I have spoken to him concerning the things of his soul; I, the prince whom he loveth.


Canto 4 (Papyrus of Ani – Chapter XV)

Homage to thee, Ra in thy rising. Thou art adored when thy beauties are in my two eyes and thy shining rays are upon my body. Thou goest forth in peace in thy boat. Thy heart is gratified by the winds. Thy heart is glad. Thou stridest over heaven in peace. Thy enemies are overthrown and sing hymns of praise to thee. The stars which never rest praise thee; the stars which never rest, as thou settest on the horizon.


Canto 5 (Papyrus of Ani – Chapter CXXXIV)

Say over a hawk standing proud with a white crown upon his head: Tmu, Shu, Tefnut, Seb, Nut, Osiris, Isis, Nephthys. Write with yellow colour upon a plaque of newness and place it in this boat with a figure of the deceased, anointed with unguents. Let them place incense upon the fire and ducks to be roasted as an act of praise to Ra.

Male enemies, female enemies; Osiris destroyeth ye all! He passeth through heaven, he appeareth upon earth. Come ye forth upon the water, pass ye along in front of the starry deities and Thoth slaughtereth ye. Behold ye then this great god of slaughter, mighty of terror, he washeth in your blood, he batheth in your gore. Osiris destroyeth ye from the boat of his lord, Ra-Horus.


Adapted from the translation by E A Wallis Budge 1895