Henet Requ in her portal (Wasserman et al. (2015) Papyrus of Ani, pl. 11-A).

Henet Requ in her portal (Wasserman et al. (2015) Papyrus of Ani, pl. 11-A).

The ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead contains many texts that describe what happens to your spirit after you die. As one of the recently deceased you would have had to pass several tests before your soul was found worthy to become one of the Akh, the glorious dead. One of the final challenges is described in the 146th spell of the Book. Here, your spirit would stand before the gatekeepers of the 21 portals that had to be passed if you wished to enter the Garden of Osiris, where perfection and eternal bliss would await you. To pass each gatekeeper, you would have to recognize their form, and their name. This was not an easy task as they could appear in the shape of any dangerous animal seen in Egypt, or in the desert beyond its borders. All those who wished to pass the trial would have their journey recorded in their own, personal Book of the Dead. At the fifth portal, the portal of fire, the scribe Ani met the gatekeeper Henet Requ, the One Who Obstructs the Disaffected:

This demonic gatekeeper appeared in the shape of a leopard but with the head of a hippo. She was the fiery one, mistress of flames. She was everything the gatekeepers represented. These demons did not pass judgement on those who wished to enter. She would not make a decision on whether the spirit before her was good or evil. Only by speaking her name, and thereby overpowering her, would you be able to pass.  She held two items in front of her; she rested her paws on the hieroglyphic sign for protection, proving her place as a defender of the Garden. Above it, however, she held a massive Khopesh, one of the new weapons to be used in the many wars of the Ramesside period. If you failed her test, she would use her considerable power to obstruct your passing. If your spirit could not rest in the Garden of Osiris, it was damned as one of the Mut, the wandering dead. Because of this, Henet Requ was considered both good and evil. She protected the Garden of Osiris, and the spirits of the ancestors, from any unworthy intruder. However, the fear that she could condemn you to an eternity of suffering and misfortune, certainly made the people of Egypt fear the power she held over their souls.

Geirr Kristian Lunden

Featured image: The fourth, fifth and sixth portals of spell 146 from Taylor (2010) Journey Through the Afterlife, pp. 144-145.

This is one of a series of blog posts written as an assignment by the 2015-16 Year 3 and MA students taking a course on “Supernatural Beings and Demons of Ancient Egypt” offered by Kasia Szpakowska at Swansea University.