The Night Sky Journey
The Egyptians considered the body of the sky goddess Nut as the abode for the gods. When someone dies, this person gains divine status. Dying is equated with the daily sun set of the god Ra. In the evening, the stars appear on the surface of the water-filled body of the sky goddess Nut. The sun god is now sailing past the stars in the opposite direction to his day trip. Because he is locked in the cabin of his night barque, the sun cannot be seen during his night sky journey. Furthermore the cabin of the barque is completely enclosed by a protective snake, called Mehen. No ray of sunlight can escape through the snake skin. Yet the Egyptian “hour priests” from their temple roofs can closely follow the night journey of the sun. Some constellations around the north celestial pole remain visible at night throughout the year. They are important landmarks when navigating. The sun, and with it the deceased, sails every night through a slightly more southern area, the zodiac. There the night barque navigates and encounters the moon and the five visible planets. The night sky journey is conceived by the Egyptians as a process of pregnancy. At every sunrise the deceased will be the reborn from the body of Nut. In the New Kingdom, the first attempt is made to represent these ideas not only in texts. Wonderful scenes are depicted at the walls of the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings.