Absolutist thinking is a vicious falsehood, creates only confusion.
The Books of the Dead are many and varied and they have their roots in prehistoric culture taking newer incarnations as time went by. The Books of the Dead are not actually about death.
Are we talking magical Books or photographs of people that have died? Magickal traditions. Magickal. Spiritual. In the oldest traditions the two were not separated. One of the points of confusion about lore like the Books of the Dead is modern thinkers tend to expect there to be standardized books, for there to be, say, one official Egyptian Book of the Dead. This is not at all true. As I said earlier, the Books of the Dead are actually about life. From the Norse rune-stones to the Mayan codices, to ancient songs and stories still being preserved if shakily in South American and Australian aboriginal culture. All stories of the land of the dead reflect one thing, and they are structured somewhat differently between cultures based on what could be called that cultures social paradigm.
Perhaps a point of clarification. In the oldest cultures there was no word for religion. Each culture had a word that roughly translated as law or how things are. Animism is the worlds oldest belief structure and even scientific discovery seems to confirm that some measure of animistic thinking is innate to anyone and everyone, instinctive. The oldest Books of the Dead describe an afterlife that has no time deference to it. The afterlife and this life are both occurring right now. Only later, with the rise of organized religion and the vested interested in prophetic reckoning, do you see models that defer the afterlife until after some critical point, some day of judgement.
In animistic cultures, the events that transpire in the afterlife, and those that take place in this world, are inextricably linked to each other, and it wasn’t just about departed ancestors. The good or ill will of departed animals, hunting hounds or animals taken in the hunt, could just as easily affect the well being of the living as how the ancestors were feeling. In fact, the ancestors actively upheld the alliances with nature that the living might at times ignore. This is why it was important to seek contact with the ancestors. They could speak for the deer, say, when the deer refused to speak for themselves. So the earliest “Books” of the Dead were petroglyphs or cave paintings in burial grounds.
Are “the ancestors” necessarily MY ancestors? Or could they be anyone’s? Anyone’s. This is why taking new territory was seen as kind of a dicey affair.
Ancestors of the deer, too? Indeed, the ancestors of the deer as well. Figures like the horned man were not human. The green man and the leshy were aggressive toward humans because they were not kin to humans. Even the eldest fay figures were more embodiment of characters know as Grandmother Spider, or Brother Fox, than they were some ancestral spirit. There was a bit of old lore that cautioned villagers to look for animals in human guise. The oldest werewolf was not a man, but a wolf that could go among people disguised as a human.
There seems to be a divide in the world, those that think humans are above the other species and those that link the two species together. Those that link species have more evidence to back their views, but that insight was present even before the science. That caution to look for the animals that look like humans was not to start a werewolf hunt or any such nonsense, it was to avoid a diplomatic incident. Animals that could go about in human form were known as hengeyokai in Japan, but these animal people were often the heralds of important changes in the land.
So they were respected and not meant to be seen as evil. Exactly. It was only in the age of empire that these old figures were rewritten as being evil characters. So the oldest Books of the Dead were about preserving the balance of the cycle, because having gone to the land of the dead didn’t necessarily mean you would stay there. What the consequence of imbalance was is that spirits could become lost. Premature short cuts in the cycle could result in many things, and if the harmony of the summer land was disrupted…
Do they take plastic? They do not take plastic. There was and is a basis of trade in these traditions, relics, ones possessions and what they meant to the world you left behind, family heirlooms.
Your thoughts are welcome. Be well friends.