Vathara and Amente/Amenti

Friend of this blog C. Chancy (aka Vathara) spent NaNoWriMo writing a first draft sequel to her fantasy novel, A Net of Dawn and Bones.

I was pretty confused by some of the stuff going on in that book, mostly because I don’t follow the Egyptian/Coptic patristic literature and am not super-knowledgeable about its interrelationship with older Egyptian pagan beliefs.

Basically, the Copts mapped the Hebrew idea of Sheol and the Christian ideas of Hell and Purgatory onto the Egyptian land of the dead, Amenti.

So here’s an example. The Investiture of the Archangel Michael is mostly an orthodox Coptic book, but it has a few of the Gnostic concepts mentioned. (Not all of which were necessarily unorthodox theology, either; there was some mysticism terminology going on.)

In this book, Jesus describes the fate of normal sinners as to be taken to “the firmament” (ie, the waters above and below the world) and through it, into a place in the west where several punishment realms exist (fire, darkness, etc.). But these realms are purgatorial, because after time is served, the sinners are brought to Heaven and join the just. This is somewhat similar to the “stations” that are used as a Purgatorial concept in much of Eastern Christianity, except those are usually pictured as being “up” toward Heaven. It is also similar to the Islamic concept of Gehenna being a temporary prison and punishment for souls. (In some flavors of Islam.)

Anyway, pre-Christian sinners are told at one point (before Jesus’ death) that they will have to stay in Amenti until the Son, the one who has stood surety for them, comes and gets them. (Referring to the Harrowing of Hell between Jesus’ death and Resurrection, of course.)


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3 responses to “Vathara and Amente/Amenti

  1. Neat! I’ll have to read that to add to my Gnostic stuff.

    Part of the basis for Myrrh and the Net-‘verse in general is based on this book: The Lost History of Christianity, by Philip Jenkins.

    I’ll save my rants on how schools don’t teach history well, but this was an eye-opener for bits of history public school doesn’t even touch. Ancient Christians in Asia? You’d think it never happened….

    So part of what I wanted to write was a character who’d seen a lot of this history. Because it’s really cool. 🙂

  2. Anyway, pre-Christian sinners are told at one point (before Jesus’ death) that they will have to stay in Amenti until the Son, the one who has stood surety for them, comes and gets them.

    I can’t remember who did it, but there was a make-you-cry write up of Jesus going down to Hell to bust open the gates and pull Adam, and everyone else who was a friend, out.

    • Yup, that’s the Harrowing of Hell (“He descended into hell”), aka Sheol. Lots of medieval European stuff, lots of Renaissance paintings, lots of Greek and Latin hymns about Jesus trampling things.

      I like Jenkins. Good scholar. Obviously I need to read more of his books.

      Yup, I knew about the China thing. Roger Pearse has some cool history chronicles by them, from the Near/Middle Eastern side. Some of the bishop lists are boggling.

      The thing that’s hilarious is that, after all the people comparing Purgatory travel visions and “The Lyke Wake Song” to Islamic stuff, it seems a lot more like this Coptic stuff. And we know some of those desert monks ended up in Ireland and Ireland, already, so that would be logical.

      Also, Irish monks loved collecting apocryphal tales, albeit being more interested in the orthodox bits and the stories. Seriously, they go all Gospel of Nicodemus and stuff like that, not giving it Scriptural credence, but just copying and adapting. (And writing their own apocrypha, like the bit that explains how Irish was invented from all the best phonemes of all the new languages at Babel, as studied by the bardic linguistic school founded there. The surviving poet textbooks are fun stuff.)

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