Book of the Dead Project: Part 2

It’s been quite a while, but the scroll is finally finished!

Now that it’s been received by Her Grace, I can finally reveal all the details of how I put it together…

Phase One – Prep
Picking up where we left off last time, I obtained the papyrus from a local art specialty shop. The sheet itself was quite large, and I debated a few different ideas of how to handle it, including cutting it in half and making an honest-to-goodness scroll… But considering that the thing would have to be stored and framed, I decided to just leave the sheet as it was and design from there.

To start off, I squared the edges of the sheet, since the papyrus came with rough, ragged edges – certainly not fit for a royal scroll! Next, I prepped the surface of the sheet; because papyrus paper is made of fibrous materials loosely glued together, it tends to get odd little flakes, strings, and other inconsistencies that can be quite annoying when you are trying to draw/paint. With a little fiddling, and the clever application of nail clippers, I was able to remove most of the irritating bits from the sheet.  Interestingly, I had been advised to very lightly sand the surface of the papyrus, to help smooth it out and make it easier to work with. I ultimately decided against doing so however, since I conducted a few basic paint tests on scrap strips and found the material to be no more difficult than modern papers. I suspect the sheet was sanded or otherwise treated before even being put up for sale. At any rate, once the prep work was finished, I moved on to the the next part of the project…

Phase Two – Design
Actually sketching the layout of the scroll was fairly simple; I had already done a rough draft of how I wanted everything to look, so all I needed to do was make a few small tweaks here and there based on the space I now had available.

I started by measuring in a few inches for a margin, then a few more inches from that for a basic striped border. I then began sketching out the vignettes with the assistance of my figure stencils. The vignettes were inspired by a varied selection from extant papyri, based on personal preference. I knew I wanted to include a few specific elements, namely:

The scroll’s owner being received into the Underworld by a divine figure, from the Papyrus of Hunefer
A scene of the priests performing the Opening of the Mouth before the tomb, also from the Papyrus of Hunefer

And so I did just that:

Pharaoh Eridani being received by the funerary goddess Nephthys

Myself and Mistress Navah performing the Opening of the Mouth on Eridani’s Mummy

Once I had sketched these elements in place, I had space for two more registers, which I filled with vignettes of a funerary procession, and Eridani’s mummified body upon its special animal-headed couch.


With most of the sheet full, I felt fairly confident in the amount of space I had left and thus I moved on to sketching the hieroglyphic verses. This actually proved to be more difficult than the vignettes, since I had a much smaller space to work with, and had to fit them around the existing sketches, and had to try and achieve at least some degree of uniformity among all the symbols, AND had to work in the top center of the sheet which meant I had to stand most of the time while doing so… Whew!


In an ironic twist of fate, I had actually left off a few verses when I started writing, for fear of not having enough space. Then, predictably, once I had finished, I had space left to fill, and so had to put those verses back in… fortunately for me, all the verses could be effectively mixed and matched with each other to still make some sense. If I’m brilliant in no other way, I’m at least able to plan to cover my screw-ups…

As I mentioned in the previous post, the verses are all actual verses from the Book of the Dead as translated by E.A. Wallis Budge. For this reason, the text of the scroll does have an actual meaning, and can be read in English or Egyptian. Translated into English, the scroll reads, roughly:

Live life, thou shalt not die. Thou shalt exist for millions of millions of years, a period of millions of years.

Behold Eridani cometh forth on this day in the form of a living soul.

Thou art pure, thy ka is pure, thy soul is pure, thy form is pure.

Hail Eridani, thou hast not gone as one dead, behold, thou hast gone as one living to sit upon the throne of Osiris.

Their soul is in Eridani. Standeth thy soul among the gods. Hail, Eridani! Cometh to thee the eye of Horus, it speaketh with thee. Cometh to thee thy soul which is among the gods. Pure is thy soul among the gods. As liveth Osiris, and as liveth the soul in Netat, so liveth Eridani. It placeth thy soul Eridani among the greater and lesser cycles of the gods in the form of the uraei which are on thy brow.

Behold Eridani, thy soul is the soul of Annu; behold thy soul is the soul of Nekhen; behold thy soul is the soul of Pe; behold thy soul is a living star among its brethren.

Or, if you prefer the transliteration into Egyptian:

Ankh ankh an mitak auk er heh en heh aha en heh.

Sek Eridani per em hru pen em arum maa en ba ankh.

Aha wab-k wab-k ka-k wab ba-k wab sekhem-k.

Ha Eridani an sem-nek as met sem-nek ankhet hems her khent Ausar.

Ba-sen met Eridani. Aha ba-k emma neteru. Ha Eridani pu. I-nek maat Heru metu-s u. I-nek ba-k am neteru. Wab ba-k am neteru. Ankh Ausar ankh ba am Netat ankh Eridani pen. Ta-s baiu-k Eridani pen khent paut neteru em tut arat am-a hat-k.

Ha Eridani pen ba-k baiu Annu as ba-k baiu Nekhen as ba-k baiu Pe as ba-k seb ankh as khent senu-f.

With the hieroglyphics completed, the design phase of the project was finished; Everything was laid out, all that was left to do was block and detail painting. Simple, right?


Since this portion of the project took about a month to complete, I finished it up right around the holiday season, and as we all know, that special time of year has a magical way of killing motivation and pant-sizes with delicious food, family, and fun new toys…



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