In the ancient Egyptian religion of the New Kingdom the ba represents, generally speaking, the individual characteristics of a person, roughly analogous to the personality.
The ba was often understood in terms of the effect it had on others, not entirely unlike the New Age idea of the ‘past life review’ (where the recently departed soul allegedly sees how its good and bad actions in life impacted others).
In the vision of the afterlife described in the Pyramid Texts, the ba is said to return to the mummified body at night, essentially going to Osiris (as the god of the dead). Then it returns to the land of the living during the daytime, free to roam as a spiritual presence.¹
S. G. F. Brandon says that the ba originally connoted spiritual power.²
Depictions of the ba might be present in Old Kingdom funerary statues, although scholars debate this point. More commonly the ba is said to be represented in the New Kingdom as a bird with a human head.³
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¹ Donald B. Redford ed., The Oxford Essential Guide to Egyptian Mythology, 2003.
² S. G. F. Brandon ed., A Dictionary of Comparative Religion, New York: Scribner, 1970.
³ Redford, 2003.
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