The Weighing of the Heart

The Weighing of the Heart in the Hall of Judgement, 1250 Bc


Hand-drawn reproduction of a scene from the Book of the Dead, taken from the Papyrus of Ani dating from c. 1250 BC. It depicts Ani during the Weighing of the Heart before the gods in underworld and contains the spells he’d need to safely pass this judgement.

Centrally placed is a balance, holding in its two pans Ani’s heart (on the left) and a feather (on the right) representing Maat, the divine personification of truth and order. The crossbar of the balance hangs from a feather-shaped peg attached to the upright support, on the top of which squats a small baboon. This creature is a form of the god Thoth, who acts in a different form and with a different duty elsewhere in this trial.

The god Anubis, here shown as a jackal-headed, human-bodied, kneeling deity, described as “he who is in the place of embalming”, holds the cord of the right-hand pan, and steadies the plumb bob of the balance.

To the right of the balance stands Thoth, here in human form with ibis head; he is the scribe of the gods, and he holds a scribe’s palette and a reed brush, ready to note down the results of Ani’s interrogation. On a mat behind Thoth sits a monster ready to spring forward to consume Ani’s heart if he fails to pass the test. This creature has the head of a crocodile, the forepart of a lion, and the hindquarters of a hippopotamus.

At the top of the scene the great gods of Egypt are shown, known as the Ennead, formally seated on thrones, waiting to deliver judgment: Sia And Hu, Hathor, Lady Of Amentet, Horus, The Great God, Isis And Nephthys, Nut, Lady Of Heaven, Geb, Tefnut, Lady Of Heaven, Shu, Atum, Ra-Harakty, The Great God In His Boat.

Other deities observe the proceedings: to the left of the balance, Shay and two birth goddesses, Renenet and Meskhenet. Ani’s soul or ‘ba’ bird, which will allow him freedom of movement in and out of the tomb after death, perches on a shrine-shaped building, ready to be released if judgment is given in Ani’s favour.

Into this formidable gathering comes Ani, accompanied by his wife Tutu. They enter from the left, bending forward in proper humility, and Ani speaks the words of Spell 30B of the ‘Book of the Dead’, which are addressed to his heart in the balance:

“To be spoken by the Osiris Ani. He says: My heart of my mother, my heart of my mother, my heart of my form, Do not stand against me in witness, do not turn me back at the Council, do not make your rebellion against me in the presence of the keeper of the balance. You are my ka in my body, which unites and strengthens my limbs, you have come forth to the beautiful place. Do not make my name to stink to the nobles of the court, do not speak lies against me at the side of the god…”

The small set of hieroglyphics above Anubis read:

“Words spoken by he who is in the embalmment chamber:

Turn your face toward the weighing of truth in the balance to establish it.”

Thoth makes a declaration to the Great Ennead having witnessed the weighing. The hieroglyphics above him read:

“Words spoken by Thoth, judge of truth of the great company of gods in the presence of Osiris:

You have heard these words in very truth. The heart of this Osiris has been weighed, and his soul stands in witness for him. He has been found true on the great balance. No evil has been found within him; he has not stolen the offerings of the temple; he has not sinned in his actions; he has not sent his mouth to speak evil while he was on earth.”

The Great Ennead then make a proclamation to Thoth:

“Words spoken by the great company of gods to Thoth of Khemenu: That which comes from your mouth has been decreed. The Osiris Ani, true of voice, is declared true. He has no evil; he has not sinned before us. Ammit shall not be allowed to prevail over him. May offerings be given to him, and the power to come forth in the presence of Osiris, and an estate established in the Field of Offerings like the followers of Horus.”