<<<                           The Book of Caverns


The last great composition that will be considered here and which can be seen in the royal tombs is entitled the ‘Book of Caverns’ or Qererts in ancient Egyptian.  The idea presented here is that the underworld is composed of a series of caves or caverns over which the sun god passes.  It stresses the idea of rewards and punishment with the ultimate destruction of the enemies of Re.  Again here, as with the Gates, we do not have an original title for this composition.  Once again, the theme here is the nightly journey of the sun god through the underworld.  Here, the distinction between Osiris and Re is a very fuzzy one and may be seen as differing aspects of a single deity.  The ‘mission’ of Re seems to be to bring Osiris back to life as will be seen starting in section three and moving into section four.  There is no division into hours as we saw in the preceding two compositions nor is there the fight with the demon Apopis. 

Three serpents are seen at the entrance to the first cavern.  Osiris is seen in a shrine that is surrounded by a protective serpent and his following are seen in their coffins protected in a like manner.  The bottom register is identified as the ‘Place of Annihilation’ and it is here that the enemies of Osiris receive their punishment, some beheaded and some sentenced to non-existence; the worst possible fate for an Egyptian.  An interesting aspect of this composition in opposition of the previous ones is that the sun god now walks through these scenes.  Also, there is considerably more text to be seen here that was seen previously. 

In the second section or cavern, the sun god must pass several guardians who attempt to restrict his access.  After successful negotiation of this obstacle, the sun god reaches gods and goddesses in their coffins.  Moving down to the second register we see him encountering forms of Osiris and others who seem to be pulling on their hair in front of a deity.  Moving to the middle register we are presented with posts that have jackal and ram heads on them, similar to a scene from the Book of Gates.  The forms of Osiris continue in the next register and in the bottom we again see enemies undergoing various forms of punishment with a certain group shown upside-down with their hearts torn out!  These enemies are again condemned by Re to non-existence and sent to the ‘Place of Annihilation.’  Re then proceeds to enter the cavern of Aker (the earth god).

The third cavern has Osiris lying beneath the god Aker in the center of this scene.  Osiris is seen in ithyphallic form as a corpse.  Catfish headed gods are seen here in the top register and are the helpers of Aker and represent the dark regions of the earth and waters.  The end of this register shows a number of coffins that are said to be ‘in the cavern of Osiris-Khentamentiu (Osiris-First of the Westerners).’  In the middle line we see Re shown as the Eldest One, leaning on a staff.  The four forms of Osiris are identified as the ‘lords of the Duat,’ and the next illustrat
ion is that of the earth god Aker as a double headed sphinx surrounded by deities.   Again we see  the body of  Osiris  along with


3rd Division of Caverns, Re as “Eldest One.” Tomb of Ramesses VI


the ram’s head and the eye of Re.  This is surrounded by an ouroboros (a serpent who swallows its tail) with the idea of a unity of Osiris and Re.  Again the lowest line shows the enemies all inverted, both male and female, some decapitated.  The end of the line shows even the souls in an upside-down position as punishment.  We must understand that this idea of being upside-down in the underworld was seen as one of the greatest punishments to be handed out by the gods.  Chapter 189 of the Book of the Dead specifically guards against this.  In this position the soul would be forced to be reversed in all things including the necessity of eating feces and drinking urine.

The introduction to the fourth cavern consists of three litanies directed to the rejoicing at the presence of Re.  In the upper register Isis and  Nephthys are  seen lifting  the body of Osiris  and  begin his resurrection.  He is then seen being carried by Anubis and Horus and then as the ‘Bull of the West.’  In the center line the ram headed sun god encounters three forms of Osiris.  Horus and Anubis appear again in front of Osiris and his ba.  Again the lower line shows the enemies and between them are the ‘annihilators of the Place of Annihilation.’  The text tells us that there is no escape from their clutches.  These souls neither see nor hear Re and their ba souls have been robbed from them.

Moving to the fifth cavern we see a large figure of Nut the sky goddess, as she lifts the sun god and the solar disk on her arms.  Two serpents with human heads stand on either side of her and she is called ‘Mysterious One’ and ‘she with the mysterious form.’ The middle section shows four falcon headed mummies that are the forms of Horus.  Anubis stands by as a guardian and nearby
is a coffin containing the staff of Atum which symbolizes the creative power of the sun god.  The  punishment in the  lower register is  carried  out


5th Division of Caverns, Nut the Sky Goddess


by a female.  The next two scenes show enemies being placed in large cauldrons, the first of which holds their heads and hearts, and the following one the bound enemies themselves.  Lifting the cauldrons are the arms of the ‘Place of Annihilation’ and uraei spit fire to heat the cauldrons to a boil. 

The large figure that presents itself between the fifth and sixth division is Osiris in ithyphallic form.  His ba is seen atop his head and before him is a protective serpent, perhaps symbolic of the Egyptian god of magic Heka.  The scenes behind him from top to bottom represent the flesh of Osiris, indicated by the four ‘flesh’ hieroglyphs in the oval.  The light of the sun disk and the voice of Re look after this scene.  In the middle a goddess greets Re and Osiris with the ram head of Re seen next to this.  Once again, the lower line shows a cauldron containing the flesh, ba souls, and the shadows of the enemies of Osiris and Re.  Two goddesses heat the pot.

Thirteen litanies comprise the rather long text between the fifth and the sixth cavern.  There reference is to the fifth cavern as Re addresses the beings appearing in this section.  Osiris is identified in this text as Imenrenef ‘Hidden is his name.’  The sixth cavern starts on top with Anubis looking after bodies in their coffins, and following this he attends to the sun god shown as a ram and falcon’s head in the sarcophagus.  The third scene shows various forms of the sun god, and lastly Osiris-Orion is seen over a mound that contains an enemy and a god apparently praying before a falcon.  The god Osiris is identified with the constellation Orion from as early on as the Pyramid Texts.  The middle line starts with a scarab beetle pushing the sun disk out from between the ‘two mysterious caverns of the West.’  Four standing gods greet the sun at this point.  A dangerous serpent is next encountered and the two gods seen in the ovals destroy it.  It must be supposed that the next serpent seen inside of a mound is one of good intention since a ram’s head of Re is seen emerging from the mound.  This is a sign of regeneration just as the snake sheds its skin and is renewed.  Further along Re encounters sarcophagi containing falcon headed gods and three with bodies sans their heads.  He will restore their heads as we are assured by the text through
means of his creative word. 

    Punishment is once again the theme in the lower line as goddesses with knives attend four headless figures  whose heads and hearts   are  set by  their feet. 


5th Division, Cobras—The Snarer and The Flame— burn the enemies of Re in a Cauldron


Next we see four female figures bound and guarded by two goddesses.  A caption reads that Re has condemned these enemies ‘to the Place of Annihilation, from which there is no escape.’  More enemies with heads cut off follow and finally figures are seen going head first into the black abyss as Osiris rises up in triumph guarded by the great serpent.  The final scene shows a triumphant Re being towed on a barque out of the underworld by twelve gods between the two mounds from which he emerges while a bent god protects each of the mounds.  Out to the front of the barque, a ram headed scarab beetle and the sun in the form of a child appear.  The two triangles that are seen here symbolize the route through the netherworld and are made up of black darkness and blue water.  Re once again enters the world through the eastern mountain with his life giving light.

Finally, it should be noted that not all compositions will be reflective of the design as put forth here and some variance should be expected.  Additionally, many if not most, of the tombs will contain only a representative sample of the divisions of these books.  This is the usual condition and should not be seen as their being incomplete in any way.  To the Egyptian mind, a bit of one of these compositions was as good as having the whole thing in a ‘pars pro toto’ (part for the whole) sort of mind set.                                                                                                       []