The Ka and Ba

Ancient Egypt for kids - The Ancient Egyptian Ka and Ba

The religious beliefs of ancient Egyptians, the Ka and Ba and the Papyrus of Ani

The Ka and Ba
Discover interesting facts and information about the Ancient Egyptian 'Ka and Ba'. Ancient Egyptians were habitually preoccupied by the prospect of life after death, their journey through the hazardous Underworld and the eternal afterlife (paradise). They believed that everyone had a soul that survived after death. The ancient Egyptians called the soul by two names - the Ka and the Ba. The Ka was believed to be the life-force or double of a person. The Ancient Egyptians believed that death occurred when a person's life-force, the ka, left their earthly body. The Ka was believed to be independent of the earthly body of man and could move, eat and drink at will but was restricted to staying in the tomb inhabiting the body (mummy) or even statues of the deceased.

The Ba was the part of the soul that embarked on a journey to follow the gods. After death the Ba made it possible for the deceased to leave his tomb and rejoin his Ka. The Ka and Ba had to be united to fly together into Underworld and reach the perfect afterlife.

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Ka and Ba Fact Sheet
The Ka and Ba are the names given to two parts of the soul. The soul survived after death and it was the hope of all ancient Egyptians that they would live forever in the 'House of Reeds', living a perfect existence in an idealized version of Egypt.

Ka and Ba
Fact Sheet of the Soul

Definition of the Ka: The Ka was the part of the soul believed to be life-force of a person that survived after death. The Ka was a spiritual twin born with every man and lived on after he died. The Ka was confined to an existence in the tomb until it could rejoin the Ba and travel to the afterlife. The tomb was therefore the temporary dwelling-house of the soul.

Definition of the Ba: The Ba was the part of the soul believed to be able to fly and was able to leave the tomb and revisit the dead person's haunts in the mortal world and journey in the Underworld. The Ba kept returning to the tomb until, following the judgement of the earthly life, the Ka and Ba could be reunited in the afterlife.

Symbol of the Ba: The Ba was represented in ancient Egyptian art as a bird, a hawk, with a human head that symbolized the deceased

The Akhu: The Akhu was a divine spark that emerged after the deceased passed judgement after death when the Ka and Ba were united

The Second Death: The Ka and the Ba were both perishable. The process of embalmment and mummification suspended the decomposition of the body allowing time for the Ka and Ba to be united. If the Ka and Ba were not united there would be a second death.

Egyptian Ghost: The Egyptians feared the "second-death" even more than the first death. A second-death was unthinkable, it meant the complete obliteration of all earthly memory and the deceased would wander as a ghost for the rest of time.

The Ka and Ba - Ancient Egyptian Religious Beliefs
The concept of the Ancient Egyptian soul and the Ka and Ba is extremely complex and difficult to explain (trust me!). However, the religious beliefs of the ancient Egyptians and their concept of the soul does explain their bizarre and macabre death rituals. These death include those of embalming and mummification and their use of amulets and magic spells. It also explains their preoccupation with building magnificent tombs, including the pyramids, that were stacked with many of their their early belongings. They were desperate for the Ka to survive and unite with the Ba so the Akhu, the divine spark, could emerge and the soul could enter the world of immortality in the perfect afterlife. Please refer to articles on
Egyptian Religion and the Egyptian Book of the Dead for additional facts and information about the religious beliefs of the Ancient Egyptians and their preparation for death to enable the unification of all elements of the soul including the Ka and Ba and the divine spark, the Akhu.

The Ka and Ba - Depictions of the Ba
Understanding the concept of the Ancient Egyptian soul and the Ka and Ba is also important when looking at pictures, images and
Hieroglyphics of ancient Egypt. The symbol or representation of the Ba is seen in many examples of tomb paintings and papyrus, such as the Papyrus of Ani, a version of the Book of the Dead that contained nearly 200 protective, magic spells.

Interesting Information and Facts about the Ka and Ba
The Fact Sheet details many fascinating pieces of interesting facts, information, history, mythology and legends about ancient Egyptian Ka and Ba and also the famous 'Papyrus of Ani'.

Facts about the Ka and Ba

Ka and Ba Fact 1:
The ancient Egyptian soul consisted of different entities:

  • The Ka was the life-force and spiritual essence of the soul
  • The Ba was the roaming physical essence of the soul
  • The Akhu was a divine spark that emerged when the Ka and Ba were united

Ka and Ba Fact 2: In addition to the Akhu, Ka and Ba the soul consisted of additional entities:

  • The Ib: The spiritual Heart was called the 'Ib', the source of good and evil. (The physical heart was called the haty)
  • The Khaibit: The Khaibit, also termed Sheut or (swt in Egyptian) was the ever present shadow of the deceased, the spiritual essence that that was capable of freeing itself at the moment of death
  • The Ren: The Ren was the word for the name of the deceased.
  • The Saku: The phantom spiritual body of man that was released after the judgement of the dead into the afterlife
  • The Sekhem: The Sekhem was the spiritual force dwelling in the Afterlife with the Akhu

Ka and Ba Fact 3: The Khat: The physical body of a man, and a mummy,  was called the Khat, meaning something that would decay. It was necessary to preserve the Khat to ensure eternal life.

Ka and Ba Fact 4: The Saku: The power of prayers during the funeral rituals enabled the physical body to change into a spiritual body called the Saku which could move about the confines of the tomb and associating and conversing with the elements of the soul. The body in the form of the Saku was able to join the gods in the Afterlife.

Ka and Ba Fact 5: The ancient Egyptians believed that man, as a whole, consisted of:

  • The natural body (called the Khat or Haw)
  • The Soul the Spiritual Body and double (the Ka) and the Ba in spirit form
  • A name
  • The Akhu, which emerged during entry to the Afterlife

Ka and Ba Fact 6: The Ka was the life-force and spiritual essence that was received at the instant of birth  in the first breath. The Ancient Egyptians believed that the Ka was a double, a ghostly duplicate of the body. The hieroglyphic symbol of the ka was depicted by two raised arms.

The hieroglyph for Heka, the Egyptian god of Magic and Medicine included the two raised arms:

Ka and Ba Fact 7: Death occurred when Ka left the body, reunited with the Ba and the emergence of the Akhu

Ka and Ba Fact 8: The Ka and Ba survived bodily death

Ka and Ba Fact 9: The Ba was the physical essence of the soul and able to travel and then return to the 'Eternal House' of the Ka (the tomb)

Ka and Ba Fact 10: The Ancient Egyptians believed that preserving the body in death, by the process of embalming and mummification, was essential to keep the soul alive and to achieve eternal life

Ka and Ba Fact 11: In the Book of the Dead the deceased is made to pray for the release of the shadow (Khaibit, also termed Sheut)

Ka and Ba Fact 12: The funeral offerings left in the tomb were intended primarily for the Ka and included meat, cakes, ale and wine

Ka and Ba Fact 13: It was necessary for the Ka to be fed to ensure its survival. It was also believed that should the offerings run out that the Ka could feed upon the food depicted in tomb paintings

Ka and Ba Fact 14: Like the Ka, the Ba and the shadow (Khaibit or Sheut) also partook in the funeral offerings in the tomb

Ka and Ba Fact 15: The physical body of a man was called the Khat, meaning something that would decay

Ka and Ba Fact 16: The ancient Egyptians believed that the heart held a far greater significance than the brain. During the process of mummification the embalmers took great care to leave the heart in place whereas the brain was discarded

Ka and Ba Fact 17: The spiritual Heart, the 'Ib', was of immense importance when the deceased faced the Judgement of the Dead and his heart was weighed against the deeds of the lifetime.

  • The ceremony of justification in the Hall of the Two Truths witnessed by Osiris and 42 judge deities. The spiritual heart, in the form of the Ib, was weighed on a set of scales against the feather of truth and the fate of the soul would be decided - either entrance into the perfect afterlife or to be sent to the Devourer of the Dead
  • Actions in the earthly life were judged by Osiris and 42 other deity judges
  • If judged to have led a bad life the soul be given to the 'Devourer of the Dead'
  • If they were judged to have led a good life the Ba could unite with the Ka, the Akhu would emerge and the soul would gain entrance to the afterlife, a perfect existence in an idealized version of Egypt

Ka and Ba Fact 18: The Name (called the Ren) - The Ren was the true name given to ancient Egyptians at birth during the naming ceremonies

Ka and Ba Fact 19: The Ancient Egyptians also believed that the person would live for as long as that name, the Ren, was spoken and they would be completely destroyed if his name, Ren, was obliterated. Great efforts were therefore made to protect the Ren.

Ka and Ba Fact 20: The survival of the name, or Ren, of important members of royalty were protected by the means of the cartouche (a magical rope) which was often used to surround the name and protect it

Ka and Ba Fact 21: The name, or Ren, of Akhenaten the Heretic Pharaoh, was hacked out of monuments and deleted from all papyrus to eternally destroy the king

Ka and Ba Fact 22: The Ancient Egyptians believed that the Ka was a double or ghostly duplicate of the body

Ka and Ba Fact 23: Early depictions of the soul were symbolized by the crested ibis

Ka and Ba Fact 24: Ceremonies and rituals conducted by priests after death, including the "opening of the mouth' ceremony, was aimed not only to restore a man's physical abilities in death, but also to release the entities known as the Ka, Ba and Akhu

Ka and Ba Fact 25: All the elements of the soul were perishable. The process of mummification suspended the decomposition of the body allowing time for soul to enter the afterlife. If the elements of the soul were not united there would be an unthinkable second death

Ka and Ba Fact 24: The ancient Egyptians feared the "second-death" even more than the first death as it would mean the complete obliteration of all earthly memory and the lost soul would wander as a ghost for eternity

Facts about the Ka and Ba

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