Ka was to the ancient Egyptians, a vital force, bestowed by an ancestral group in the spirit world. Everything is infused with ka: people, animals and plants.
Upon death, a person “went to his ka,” or became assimilated into the postdeath group consciousness. Royalty, especially the pharaoh, retained their own identities, however. Some kings were believed to have more than one ka.
The tomb literally served as the place, or home, of the ka. It was important to leave offerings and make prayers so that the newly dead would, when they joined the ancestral group, direct benevolent ka energy to the living. A priest was appointed to minister to the needs of the ka and to see that the offerings of food, drink and objects were left to it. The ka would eat the kas of the offerings. If insuffi cient offerings were made, the ka would be forced to leave the tomb and wander about as a ghost eating and drinking whatever it could find.
The ancient Egyptians saw the ka as a being independent of the body and portrayed it in art as a Double. For royalty, the ka functioned like a GUARDIAN SPIRIT or Daimon. See BA.
- Naydler, Jeremy. Temple of the Cosmos. Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions, 1996.
Ka (double) In Egyptian mythology, the vital essence or abstract personality of a person. The ka was free to move from place to place and could separate itself from or unite itself to the body at will. The preserving of a dead man’s ka was necessary if his body was to become everlasting. Funeral offerings, including meats, cakes, wines, and unguents, were made to a person’s ka, and when food was not available, offerings were painted on the walls and were accompanied by specific prayers.
In early Egypt tombs had special chambers where the ka was worshipped and received its offerings. The priesthood included a group called “priests of ka,” who performed services in its honor. The ka is closely associated with the ba, the soul; the ib, the heart; the khaibit, the shadow of a man, and the khat, the whole body of a person.
Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow
Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante