The Egyptians believed that in the underworld, the Duat, there were at least twelve caves and caverns inhabited by terrible deities and supernatural creatures that would feed on the souls of the wicked. Several funerary papyri — in addition to the wall decorations of some tombs in the Valley of the Kings and the southern hall of the Osireion at Abydos – list these deities involved in the extermination (usually by beheading) of the enemies of the sun-god Ra and of his daughter Maat, goddess of truth and justice. In particular, these creatures are systematically listed in the "Spell of the Twelve Caves" known from a papyrus (Cairo 24742) dating back to the reign of Pharaoh Amenhotep II (c. 1427–1401 BC) of the 18th dynasty.
The first seven caverns contained groups of three mummiform and three anthropomorphic deities, two male and one female in each triad. From the 8th to the 20th cavern, one would find divinities in variable numbers: in the 8th, for example, there were seven groups along with individual divinities, and at least twenty of them in the 9th. It is normal to find, next to the lists of names and positions of these other gods – beneath their representations – columns of offers prescribed for them too, along with the beneficent deeds that the dead would achieve. Once pacified, in fact, these deities could facilitate the free movement in the hereafter, providing nourishment and light in the darkness.
|1||a) nine jackal-headed deities feeding on rotten flesh
b) snake deities guarding the "Silent Region"
|2||a) spitfire-snake called Sesy
b) primeval catfish-headed gods called Nariu
|8||"Those Who Raise Their Superiors To The Sky"|
b) nine catfish-headed gods led by Osiris
|9||Gods of the Primeval Abyss|
|4||"Great One Who Is On His Belly"||10||Groaning goddesses with blood-dripping axes|
b) itiphallic Osiris
In particular, the Egyptologist Richard H. Wilkinson thus grouped the deities and the supernatural creatures residing in the 10th cave, along with their beneficent deeds once the deceased successfully tamed them:
|Deities||Beneficent deeds||Deities||Beneficent deeds|
|"Those Who Belong To The
|Give the deceased light||The "Hidden Goddess"||Grants the soul be strong and the
body be intact
|"Those Who Take Hold"||Grant the deceased be acclaimed||"The Souls Of The Gods Who
Became Members of Osiris"
|Grant the deceased be in peace|
|"Nine Gods Who Guard Those In
|Give the deceased the breath of life||"Those Who Worship Ra"||Grant the deceased not be rejected from|
|"Nine Gods Whose Arms Are
|Grant the deceased be worth and
|"Those Whose Faces Are Warlike"||Grant the deceased be cool in the
hottest places of the netherworld