The Egyptians believed that the soul continued on after death. The concept of the “Field of Reeds”, was depicted as a paradise for the soul. Any who lived virtuous lives and adhered to Ma’at, the principle of balance and harmony could journey there.
The Concept of Aaru
The Field of Reeds, also known as Aaru, was depicted as a lush meadow where the soul could exist in a peaceful afterlife. There, the deceased could enjoy their lives in the company of their loved ones, surrounded by the bounties of nature. This celestial paradise was considered the ultimate reward for leading a just and moral life.
Journey to Aaru
A person’s journey to the afterlife was marked by trials and challenges. The heart of the deceased was weighed against the feather of Ma’at in the Hall of Two Truths during the judgment by Osiris, the god of the afterlife. If the heart was found to be lighter than the feather, it symbolized that the individual had led a righteous life and could continue their journey to Aaru.
No one is quite sure where the “Field of Reeds” lies. It might be in the sky or it might dwell under the earth, in the domain of Osiris. Spell 149 of the Book of the Dead states “I know the gate in the middle of the Field of Reeds from which Re goes out into the middle of the sky”.
Many Egyptians were buried with shabtis, small figurines intricately crafted to serve the deceased in the afterlife. The word “shabti” originates from the ancient Egyptian work for “stick”. In the New Kingdom, it took on the meaning of “substitute.”
Shabtis were created with the purpose of acting as substitutes for the deceased. One of the tasks in the Field of Reeds was to plough the fields. If one had a shabti, it would magically come to life and plough the field for you.
Each shabti only worked for one day of the year. Thus if you wanted a relaxing afterlife, you needed to be buried with a whole year’s worth of shabti figures.