The judgment of OsirisIn the National Museum of Korea’s exhibition “Egyptian Treasures from the Brooklyn Museum,” a one-minute video titled “The Judgment of Osiris,” details how the Egyptian god of the afterlife reviews the merits and faults of people who enter the underworld. The video presents images from the Book of the Dead that are often depicted on sarcophagi.
Egyptians dreamed of eternal life and wished to be reborn. It is a motive found in all mythologies and religions. The condition in Egyptian mythology is passing the judgment of Osiris. At the beginning of the video, the god’s jackal-headed helper Anubis brings in a dead person in a white dress. There is a scale, and on it, the heart of the dead is weighed against a feather. The scale begins to move up and down.
The heart contains all the thoughts and actions of the dead, including their wrongdoings in life. When the balance is kept between the heart and feather, one wins eternal life. If the scale tilts toward the heart, the person is eaten by the demon Ammit. Thoth, the god of records, writes the result. The scale has become a global symbol of fair evaluation and justice. It appears on the emblems of Korea’s courts.
To Egyptians, the heart represented the soul. When making a mummy, the heart is left in the body while other organs are removed and kept in canopic jars. The heart, light as a feather at about 250 to 350 grams (0.5 to 0.8 pounds), determined the afterlife of ancient Egyptians. In the 2003 film “21 Grams,” internationally acclaimed director Alejandro González Iñárritu depicts how the weight of the soul’s 21 grams play with the fates of three couples.
I felt my heart becoming heavier as I watched “The Judgment of Osiris.” About 10 days are left in the year 2016, and looking back on my life, I ask myself if I can proudly put myself on a scale. I am not so confident.
I am also in thought about the unprecedented scandal that has put the nation in turmoil. Park Geun-hye, Choi Soon-sil and all the suspects deny the charges against them. A team of special prosecutors has officially begun its investigation. The president’s attorneys will try to defend her from impeachment in the Constitutional Court. How will the scale move in these legal battles and search for truth? I believe Osiris would be on the side of justice.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 22, Page 31
*The author is an editorial writer for the JoongAng Ilbo.