Egyptian Symbols: Ka Spirit

The Ka Spirit is another important symbol in ancient Egyptian cosmology. It is bestowed upon the person at the time of his birth – encompassing an aspect of the human being that makes him whole. Because of its wide portrayal, several representation of the ka spirit has been seen throughout history. It may be a person identical to the human it was associated with. It may be a shadowy figure. It may also be a person with two upraised arms resting on his head. In hieroglyphics, the symbol for the ka was the shoulders whose arms are bent upwards towards the sky at the elbows. Kas differ from person to person adding to the uniqueness of the person. Kas of royalty represented individuality while that of the common people are usually related.

The earliest mention of Ka is probably from ancient name of the city of Memphis, Hut-Ka-Ptah that means “House of the Ka of Ptah” from the Old Kingdom. Since it is representative of the deities, people often offer to the Ka to receive favors. Divine kas were believed to be guardians and protectors. In fact, the Ka of Osiris was believed to the sentinel of the pyramids. The Ka is often seen with the Horus-name of the king on the pole.

The Ka spirit came from the belief that the god Khnum created children from clay on the potter’s wheel and inserted them unto the mother’s womb. The goddesses Heket or Meskhenet (depending on which area of Egypt) created the Ka, which would then be breathed into the children’s soul at the time of their birth making them alive.

The ka spirit is thought of, as the life force received by man from the gods yet exists independently from the person. The ka is a spiritual double that lives on even after the death of the physical self so long as it has a place to live. This is the reason why the Egyptians mummified their dead because if the body is allowed to decompose, the ka may die with it negating the person’s chance for eternal life. In fact, the euphemism of Egyptians regarding death was “going to one’s ka”. Tombs were made with houses of kas for the spirit to reside. Offerings of food and drinks are also common to provide nourishment to the ka. It also believed that the person might have multiple kas that reigned supreme at death. In fact, Rameses II once claimed that he had as many as 20 kas or even more.

The Ka transcends what others think of as the idea of the soul. When the Ka acted, the person is well both physically and spiritually. It is believed that sin is an abomination to the ka. In this aspect, the ka spirits represented the conscience that leads the person to compassion, honor and most especially righteousness. In some, it is depicted as vigor, youth and anything that the person was believed to be desirable and right most especially eternal life.