by Eleanor Harris
Egyptians believed that humans and other living creatures consisted of nine “bodies.” These nine bodies define why the Egyptians believed that it was possible to invoke a creature’s life force into a statue, and thereby gain the creature’s power. They believed in ghosts and apparitions, which were made possible by the existence of the “ka” body; and the “khu” body, discussed below.
Through different bodies, the Egyptians communicated with the dead, projected out-of-body, assumed other creatures’ power, and enjoyed other abilities that you can share today.
The nine bodies are defined and discussed below.
By learning the principles of each, you will understand their uses in magic that are described in later chapters.
Khat, the natural body: which is translated as something which is able to decay. It is the physical body. The word also applies to the mummified body in a tomb. Funeral ceremonies on the day of burial have the power to transform the khat into the spiritual body, the “sāḥu.”The physical body was given to the Earth upon death but the soul resided in heaven. This proves Egyptians believed in an afterlife, eternal life, and resurrection.
Sāḥu, the spiritual body: describes a physical body that has obtained a degree of knowledge, power, and glory. It evolves thereby into the sāḥu, which is everlasting and incorruptible. The sāḥu has the ability to become related to the soul and to communicate with it. When the physical body changes into the sāḥu body, it ascends into the heavens to dwell with the gods and the righteous.
Ȧb, the heart body: the heart. Considered the core power of life, it houses the abstract personality, or the characteristic attributes of the person. It is the instrument of good and evil thoughts. This body can move freely by separating itself from, or uniting with, the physical body at will. It also enjoys life with the gods in heaven.5
Ka, the double body: literally describes a “double” of image and genius. Considered a copy of the physical body, (compare to contemporary “astral body”), the ka was offered meat, wine, and other delicacies at funeral ceremonies to sustain it after physical death. The ka dwelt within the deceased’s statue, just as the ka of a deity dwells within its statue. Someone who wished to communicate with the deceased read a message, left a written message on papyrus in the tomb, or tied a statue of the deceased in the tomb. Since the ka lived therein, it could, of course, observe and understand.6 There was a priesthood in Egypt, termed Priests of Ka, who performed services, worshiped, and left offerings for the ka in a special chamber within the tomb, called the “ka chapel.” After physical death, the ka required offerings of food and drink. If food and drink were scarce, the ka was given offerings painted upon the walls of the tomb. Magical intent transformed the pictures into suitable nourishment.
Ba, the soul body: means something roughly equivalent to “sublime,” or “noble.” The ba dwells in the ka. It continues to possess both substance and form after death. It is depicted in hieroglyphs as a human-headed hawk and its nature is ethereal. The ba can revisit the body in the tomb, re-animate it, and converse with it. It can take any shape desired and passes into heaven to dwell eternally with other perfect souls. Like the ka, the ba needs food and drink to sustain itself. It also partook of funeral offerings.
Khaibit, the shadow body: is the shadow of the human that connects with the ka and ba as they ingest funeral offerings and visit the tomb at will. The khaibit is associated to the soul, because it is believed to always be near it. The Egyptians considered it part of the human economy. It has an independent existence and is able to separate from the body to move as it pleases.
Khu, the spirit body: means translucent or shining and indicates the intangible casing of the body. It can be compared to the aura. The khu represents the intelligence, but in many hieroglyphic texts, it is spoken of as what we understand to be the spirit, which is why experts term it “the spirit body.” The khus of the gods reside in heaven. Human khus, during funeral ceremonies, are surrounded by the khus of the gods and assisted to heaven. The khu is imperishable. A special magical formula prepared by the ancient priests enabled the khu of the deceased to pass from the tomb and into the realm of the gods.
The collected bodies of a man or woman, once in heaven, were attributed to Ausar. Like Ausar, the deceased had walked among the living ones and then, at death, resurrected to become a son/daughter of the Creator. The Egyptians believed in deification of the spiritual body.
Sekhem, the form body: represents the form of power of a man or woman. The word has been associated with the soul and the khu. At death, the sekhem is called to come among the khus in heaven. The Egyptian Sun god, Ra, was often referred to
as “sekhem ur,” which means Great Sekhem or Great Power. In many contemporary Egyptian practices, the sekhem is considered very much a part of human life. It represents the power of the individual that can be built up and directed in magic.
Ren, the name body: though rarely mentioned in books, describes the name by which the deceased was called in heaven. Egyptians believed that great power resided in words and names. They believed the gods knew the name of the deceased. The name of a person, deity, or creature was considered sacred and never-changing. Humans and other creatures thus consisted of a physical body, a spiritual body, a heart, a double, a soul, a shadow, an intelligence/intangible ethereal casing, a form, and a name. All of these bodies were bound together, and the welfare of one concerned the welfare of all. In contemporary circles, it is debated whether the ab, ka, or khaibit equates to the astral body. The Egyptians practiced shape-shifting, which is similar to astral projection. In certain texts, the ka is mentioned. In others, a particular body is not named. In chapter 4, you will learn how to shape-shift using the ka/double body.
Excerpted by Ancient Egyptian Magic by Eleanor Harris
Eleanor Harris has studied and practiced Egyptian divination and magic for more than 20 years. She inherited interest in Egyptian religion and magic from her father. Eleanor has been active in a contemporary Egyptian “House of Life,” which is dedicated to teaching and practicing traditional Egyptian magic. She earned her title Qematet en Tehuti, “Priestess of Thoth,” by authoring literary works, lecturing, and providing workshops for interested students. Her other books are The Crafting and Use of Ritual Tools and Pet Loss: A Spiritual Guide, both published by Llewellyn
5 E. A. Wallis Budge, Egyptian Book of the Dead, p. lxi, lxii.
6 Leemans, Monuments Egyptiens, Partie II, pp. 11, 183, 184 referred to in Egyptian Magic, p. 219.