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In nCIen
Jan Assrnann
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Original German edition, tbd undJrnsejlJ jm alten Agyplm, copyright
C 200 1 by C. H . Beck, Mu nich . All rig hts resen'ed .

English translatio n copyright © 2005 by Cornell University

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English translation first published :w05 by Cornell University Press

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Libmry of Congress Cat."lloging-in-Publication Data

Assmann, J an.
(Tod und J enseits im Alten Ag),p tell. English ]
Death and salvation in ancient Egypt / by .Ian A~mann ; translated
from the German by David Lonon.
p. em.
Includes bibliographical refe rences and indexes.
ISBN-I 3: 978-0-8014-424 1-4 (cloth: alk. paper)
ISBN- Lo: 0-8014-424 1-9 (d oth: alk. pape r)
l. E.<ichato]ogy, Egyptian. 2. Egypt-Relib>lon. 3. Death-Religious
aspeCts. I. T itle.
BL2450.E8A8813 2005
299'.3 123-<1c22

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C JPYnghted malenal

codified and handed down, experienced an enonnous upswing. To the

clas.~ i c work known as the Amduat, wh ich had been c mployed in the d cc-
oration of the fu nerary chambers of the royal tombs of Dym15ty 18, the re
was now added a series of sim ilar compositions depicti ng the next world
in pictu res and writte n descri ptions: the Book of Gates, the Enigmatic
Book. the Book of Caverns, the Book of the Earth. the Book of Nut, the
Book of the Hea\'en ly Cow, the Book of the Day, and the Book of the
Night.'" All these lxxJk.s are surrounded by an aura of strictesl mystery.
and thus sec recy; in the New Kingdom, they occur almost exclusively in
royal tombs. which v,·ere localed in hidde n places in the Valley of th e
Kings, where no human foot was supposed to tread.
From these dramatic events, wh ich wrought faNeach ingchanges in the
Egyptian world in the course of less than fifty years, we see that there are
con nections bt:t,,·een the ~de mystification of the world and Akhenaten'~

doctrine o f a single realm. connections fam iliar to us from the intellec-

tual history of our O V,11 culture, and we sec that death plays a decisive role
in the genesis and fonnation of concep ts regarding an ~o ther world. ~
With equal dari ty, the Egyptian fi ndings also show us that this "other
wor1d,~ which is connened wi th death, is bathed in the aura of myste ry.
Death genera tes mystery; it is th e thresh old to another world and also a
' ·ei! th;!t hides it. T his ;!spect of death will be treated in chapter 9. Wi th
its radical d en ial of a next world, thc Amarna Period robbed death of its
mystery, and by way of a reaction , the nolion o f m YSlery moved inlo the
center of Egyptian beliefs about death. Knowledge o f this mystery was now
the royal path to immortality. and the !'Oyal tombs became repositories o f
this knowledge that brough t delivcr,m ce.

d ) Images and Counte rimages, Death and Coumenl'orld

',ve rt: the Egyptians obsessed with death , did they have an aversion to
life ? Or d id lhey, on the COntrary, merel y ~ uppre~ death under a mass of
Cultural forms and symbols? In this rcgard, we can perhaps distinguish
i.>erween two ideal cultural types; cultures that acce pt death and cul lure~
that rebel "gainst it." Cu ltu res th at accept death tend to accord no special
status to m;!n among living beings. out rathe r to place h im on the same
level as e,·erylhing alive and to vicw him as a p<lrt of nature. born o f dust
and returning to dust, sinking into nat ure's great cycle o f life and death .
Cultul'es Ih'll deny death , ho\,· view man as a spiritual being and place
him in sh arp contrast 10 the rest of naturc. U n iquc n cs.~, intellectu;llity.
and immortality are related concepts that characterize such cultures' view
of humankind. Like the fWO basic attitudes. the two lypeS of culture-
those that accept death and those that deny it- are ideal types that have
not found p ure ex pre~io n in historical reality. In reality, all is mixed. for

C JPYnghted malenal
Death and Cui/uK

in any given culture, people diffe r acco rding to era, $OCial IC\'ei, geogra-
phy, and eycn the times they assign to religious and to profan e concerns.
With rebrard to this ideal distinction , I wish to propose th ree lheses
tha t can characterize thc wo rld of Egypt by way, as it were, of contrastivc
My first thesis is that Eg)'Pt was o ne of the cultures of denial, o ne o f the
societit.-s that do not accept death and th us, in thei r concept o f man , draw
a sharp bounda!"y between the $pirit, immortality, uniqueness, and the
re mainder of nature. Blil did they in fact do so? An obj ection immediaLCly
arises: What abom the animal cul ts? As wc know, the Eg)'Ptians mummi-
fied many kinds o f animals in large quantities, and they evidendy ascribed
immortality to animals as well. Thus. they cann ot ha\'e drawn so very sharp
a distinction between animal and man . In response, it mtL~t be noted that
it matters not so much wh ether they drew a distinction between man and
animal, but r-.uher that they drc.:w it between the mortal and th e immor-
tal, between the perishable and the imperishable. For th e Egyptians, the
distinction differe nt from ours; for dIem, under certain circumstances,
animals were part of the ci rcle of the imnJo rtal, the spiritual, the imper-
ishable. What is decish'e is the fact that they made the distinction .
Another objection concerns the unique presence of death in Egyptian
cultu re. Death must h,we continually pr(.'OCcupied the Egyptians-with
the construction of pyramids for kin w; and huge burial monumen ts for
high officials, with the decoratio n and outfi tting of these tombs, ceno-
taphs, and commemorative chapels, with the preparation o f StatueS,
stelae, offering tables, sarcophagi , wooden coffins , and Books o f the Dead ,
with the procureme nt of mo rtuary offerings and the conducting of mor·
tuary rituals-and we wonder how a society tha t so constantly and ill so
many ways made death the object of all possible actions supposedly did
not accept death. Moreover, as a mle, a high-ran ki ng Egyptian would
spend many years of his life constructing and outfitting a monumental
tomb. H ow can someone who did not accep t death invest so muc h of his
lifetime, not 1.0 mention his mate rial resources, on deatll?
Here, we must be specific. The Egyptians certainly did not accept death ,
but dley also did not repress it. It wa.~ on their mind' in many ways, unlike
us, who also do no t accept it. In Egyptian culture, as in no other, we may
obscn 'e whal it means n Ol LO accept death and yet to p lace it at the cente r
o f every thought and deed , every plan and act, to make it, in every ]XI$"
sible way, the theme of the culture lhe}' created. TIte Egyptians hated
d eath and loved life. "As yo u hatc deatll and love life .. .M: with this
fonn u la, visitors to a to mb wcre el~oined to recite an otTering formula
o n behalf of its owne r. "Gh'en that death humbles us, given that death
exalts us,~ we read in dlC Instnlction of DjedeOlOr, th e oldest example of
wisdom litera ture preserved to us, which goes o n to say, as is typical, ~ th e


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house of death (i.e., the tomb) is for life. Mn The Egyptians hated death ,
and in a sense, tlu:y built their tombs as a counte nneasure to it. In ancient
Egypt, more so than in any other culture, we encoun ter death in many
forms, in m ummies, statues, rel iefs, buildings, and texts; but these were
no t images of death, they were collnteri mages, articulations o f its nega-
tion, not of its affinnation. T his is my second the~ i s. If we wish to learn
something abou t the experience of death in Egypt, Io'e must tu rn these
images inside out. They d epict the deceased as he appeared in life : well
dressed, bejeweled, in the bloom of youth, always accompanied by his wife
and often also by h is childn:n, can )'ing out the duties of h is officc, wor-
shiping the gods, and engaging in the leisurely purs uits of the well-born ,
such as fi sh ing, fowling, and hu nting, and receiving rich offerings. And
the texts speak of h is successfu l outcome in the J udgme nt o f the Dead,
his acceptance into th e realm ohhe gods, his ability to transfonn h imself
and to return 10 earth in all sorts of fonn s, to visit h is house, to stroll in
h is garden, to panidp.l.te in religious festhoals, and aoove ail, to he close
to the gods in the sky, thc nClhelWorld, and the te mples on earth . These
pictures and texts m ight tempt us to think that fo r the Egyptians, death
"as nothing other than a gentle transition into an C\'en finer, more ful-
fill ing, richer life. Perhaps it ,,~,u, but nOt ill and of itself. Rather, it w.ts
the distan t goal of countless efforts, withom which death would be an
absolute opposi tion: isolation, te nni nation , e nd , disappearance , darkness,
filth. defectivencs.\, distance from the divine, decompositio n , dismem-
ben nent, d issolutio n , in short, all that constitutes the opposite of those
radiant imag(.'S o f a transfi gu red existence. The Egyptian experie nce o f
death was no t, overall , much diffe rent from that elsewhere in the wo rld,
exce pt for the astonis h ing. and in this respect probably unique, attitude
that the Egyptians assumed toward this experien ce. an altimde based on
truSt in the power o f counterimages, or rather in the power of spe ech , o f
representation , and of rima I acts, to be able 10 make these counteJimages
real and to create a coun terworld th rough the medium of symbols.
The world o f Egyptian mortuary religion wa.~ indeed a countelWo rid.
But what was sp«ial, and perhaps u niquc , about this Egyptian counter-
world is that it was not a construct o f fa ntasy and belief. blll o ne that
required plan ning and arch itecture, along with all sorts of othe r arts,
including anatomy, phalmacology, linen weaving, and C\'erything else that
the mummification p rocess entailed , all of it set into motion , visible, tan-
gible, massh'e, even colossal, with all its resultant COSl~ and side efIecl~ .
The re has p.-ohahly n ever been so this-worldl y a next wo rld, this-wo rldly
not in the M!nse that the Egyptians envisioned Paradise. as Muslims do,
afte r the fash ion of all eanhly pleasure hou.\C, but in the sense tha t in this
wo rld, Egyptians were o bliged lO keep their hands fu ll bu ilding it. COIl-
ceptuaU), colonizing it, and ri m ally keeping it in motion.

G righted malenal
iJtalh and Cllllw't

As our first thesis stresses, Egyptian culture was one of those societies
that do not accept death but ra ther rebel against d eath as an empirical
fact with all the power at their disposal. Th is rebellion assu med the form
o f religion, that is, the creation of a cou nterworld. That was our second
thesis. I do n ot mean, howe\'er, that these counterimages sketch ed by reli-
gion co\'er up the empirical ....·orld and make it disappea r; 011 the comrary,
rather, they generate an excitement for the always remembered , and in
this excitement all the more brightly illuminated , factual world. This v.~J..";
especially true of Egyptian mortuary religion. The original experience o f
death was in no woly covered up o r suppressed by the counterimages of
religion. T hese counterimages made tha t which they negated , the darker
aspects of the theme ofdealh , all the mo re intensely borne in mind. Along
with the transfiguring texts of the mortuary religion, which sketch mag·
nifice nt, linguistically articulated images, there are other texts that speak
of loneliness and darkness. lack, deprivation, and paralysis. The dark side
of death was not cove red ovc r but remai ned present. The countcrim<lges
generated an excitement tha t sounded <I call to action. Th is impetus was
what was special alxmt Egyptian religion . Where others sat back and let
matters their course, the Egyptians took th ings into their own hands.
For them, death was a caUto action, the beginning and the end ofa major
realm of cultural praxis. My third thesis thus sta tes that lhe Egyptians did
no t locate the counterimages they p laced in opposition LO thei r experi·
ence of death in a distant Mnext wo rld ~ but rather realized them in th is
world wilh the means at their dispos.1.I, and lhat they believed that even
if they could not defeat death , they could thus at least - handle Mit, handle
in th e sense of h ealing, of a bridge to a culturally healthful forTll .
In its centroll and norm:Hh'e, sophisticated aspects a nd motifs, cu lture
is nothi ng other than the symbolic realization of a comprehensive horizon
witho ut which man can not livc . Th is point is also true of societies that
have o n all poinl~ believed the opposite of what was true for the
Egyptians, and it is the culture·theoretical hypothesis that underlies this
book. To substantiate it, the re must be comparati\'e studies, and these in
tum must be built on Mlhick desc riptions of culture-spccifi c ph enomena.
Here, a step in this directio n will Ix: undertaken . This comrib utio n can
be built o n earlier works but not o n earlier models. For a long time now,
there has been no comprehensive book on Egyptian mo rtuary religion .
T he fundam en tal and oft-ciled book by He rmann Kces, 1ott1lgWubar fmd
je7wd/svQrs/eflrmgen tier allen AlrlPter, which has achieved the status of a
dassic, is a rich and especially p h ilological collection o f material, hu t it is
without comou r or perspective, <lnd it is esscmiall)' confined to the Old
and Middle Kingdoms. The first editio n of r 926 must now be viewed as
outdated, for many impomlil l sources were nOI yet published at the time
o f its appearance. As best he cou ld , Kees wo rked the Coffi n Texts, which


C ;.pvrlgnted malarial

beg-dn to be published in 1938, into the second edition of 1956, though

in the process, his account lost much o f its readability. Jan Zandee's book
lkath as an Emmy is a lexical study confined to just o ne ou t of many dif-
ferent images of death._ The useful dissertation by Gretel Win , Too und
Vtrgiillglichlurit im aften Agyptnl, deals onl), with literary sources, omitting
the rituals and reci tations of the mortuary CUll, which stand at the cente r
of this \·olume. A.J. Spencer's lkath in Ancitnt Egypt treats the theme exclu-
sively from the perspective of arch aeology. ~ In its pages, customs are dealt
with in te rms of their arc hac.."Ological and architectonic traces, omitting
tJle wo rld of text'. Quite compre hensive, but also concelllrated on the
material culture of the Egyptian religion of deatJl, is the recelll book by
J ohn H. Ta)'lor. Death and t~ Aftmift in Ancie111 £g)'pt, which unfolds al l the
rich es of the world of objects in which Egyptian mortuary belief is mani-
fested with the help of examples from the British Museum. T he present
book, howeve r, seeks to vcnture illlo tJle realm of the cultural semantics
011 which this rich array of customs o ncc fed. In this rega rd. Erik Hornu ng
has paved the way more than any other scholar in the introductions and
commentaries o f his various text editions and anthologies. ~ T he essays by
Alan Gardiner,» Constantin Sander-Hansen,"; Philippe Dcrchain ," and
many o th ers~ are cOllfined LO individual aspects. There is no lack of lil-
erature 011 the th eme ," but there is no comprehensive treatment of this
phenomenon, which is nOt only imponant in and of itself, but which also
opens the way to insights, insigh ts with ....-ide-ranging consequences, into
lhe relationship between death and culture.


C JPYnghted male-nal

some decades earlier, and the new, Mrealistic Mtype of funeral ritual.' The
old ~enes refer lO rituals performed .....ilh and on various objcxts and to
pieces o f scenery pcnaining to a cultic drama with a number of individ-
ual episodes. The new scenes, however. de picl the actual funeral proces-
sion , which included three m~or segments:

I. crossing the Nile from the city of the living o n the east bank to the
necropolis on the west bank;
I! . the procession from the embalming hall to the tomb; and
3. the rites in front of the tomb.

In the tomb of Amelle mope, the sequences of ~enes conti nues from the
entrance into an area we are p robably to recognize as the nexl-worldly
realm. We see the lOmb owner embraced by the goddess of Ihe \Yt.'S1 and
provided with food by the tree goddess. \"le also see him praying to various
deities and tending to his occupations in the Field of Reeds. And, finall y,
we see him addressing the deities of the nomes, that is, the judges at the
Judgm e nt of the Dead (Book of th e Dead chapter I S) , undergoing the
JudgnH!1l1 in the fonn oflhe weigh ing ofthe heart, and, at the end , acquit-
ted and saved fro m deat h , seated before Osiris.'
In the decorative program of this to mb, we can distinguis h three levels
of representation in te nns of their relationship to reality: (I ) the level of
Mold scene5,M whidl refer to an age-old cul t drama from early in the h is-
torical period. one thaI was sto red in the cultural memo ry; (2) the level
of Mnew sce n es~ thal represent the th ree major segmentS of the funeral
ritual as it was ac tually pcrfonned; and (3 ) the le\'el of scenes of the after-
life, which do no t refer to ritual acts but to even ts that OCC\lr in the next
world, after the fun e ral. or mther, arc intended to represent the meaning
o r Msacramental explanatio n ~ of the.'le eventS in the realm of the god5. in
the visib le wo rld , the d eceased " 'as conveyed to the tomb and buried in
Ihe sarcophagus chamber, while in the next world. he pcnelrdtcd into the
spaces of the realm of the dead , finall y arriving at the paradise of the Field
of Reeds and Osiris in the hall where the Judgment of the Dead occurred.
The depiction of the fune ral in the wmb of Am enemope, which is
un ique in its complexily, can serve as a key w u nderslandi n g both the
older and the newer re presentations. In older tombs, we find only scenes
fronl representatio nal IC\'els I and 2 , while in later to mbs, only lC\'els 2
and 3 are combined with one another. lfwe [Urn from Ihe lOmb of Amen-
CIll OPC to the o lder tombs, we encounte r, along 'with scenes of the arc haic
cult d rama, represenL"ltional levc1 I, scenes that corre51xmd to the "new
scenes of level 2 . We sec Ihcjourney across the Nile (the j o urney to Ihe
West) re presented, along with the p rocession to the tomb, which is often
divided into three processions: the .sled bearing lhe sarcophagu5, which


G righted malenal
Rituals of Transititm from H Qlne 10 Tomb

is drawn b y caltl e, is accompanied by two smalle r processions, one bearing

a shrine containing the canopic jal1l, and the o th e r bearin g an unshapely
objcct id entifi ed in the ca ptions a5 tekniu., which probab ly co n taine d rem-
nan ts of the embalming p rocess s(!wn into an animal skin ! In all periods,
the draggin g of the coffin. with the cattle, th e mourne rs. and th e accom-
panying priests remained th e canonical core of the fun eral procession.
Texts a lso lay stress o n this procession as th e cor e of a sple ndid burial,
as in th e description of a state fun eral at Ihe Residence in th e Story of
Sinuhe , by means of which th e kin g cndeavO I1l to pcl1luade the protago-
nist, who had fled 10 Pa lestine, 10 re turn;

111ink of the day of burial, of pa$.'ling ililo a revered Slate!

A n octurn al wake i$ divided for )'o u with o inuncnt and th e four-threaded
clom of Tayt.
A burial processioll i$ made for you on me day of UIC funeral.
The mummy case is of gold. m e ma!'lk of lapis-lazuli.
m e sky (i.e., the baldachin) is above rou a!'l you lie 011 m e 5ledge.
Ca.tt1e draw )'Ou and singers p rt'i:ede )'Q u.
The dan ce of me muu is ~rfomled for rou at the entnln(c to your tomb.
TIle offering list is recited for you.
and a sacrifi ce is made 011 your offcring-stone.

H e re, too, th e fun er,t1 is divided into three major secti ons: the e mbalm-
ing, th e procession to th e tomb. and welcome to th e tomb by m ean s o f
th e dance of the murr and a large o ffering. Dances played an important
role in Egyptian festival ritua ls, exp ressi n g th e e m otion aroused by the
appearance o f a sacr ed being. Ritual dancing a t th e en trance to the to mb
is also m e ntio n ed in fun erary spells o f th e New Kin gd o m: "The dan ce o f
th e dWdrfs is perfo nned fo r you at the e ntrance to yo ur tolllb~ and ~ May
the d ance o f th e dwarfs be perfonned for me at ul e e n trance to Illy
lo mb."7
The funera l riles are described in far grea te r d e tai l in a stela text fro m
early Dynasty 18 (ca. t 500 H.C.t:.):

The beautiful burial. may it comc in ~ace

afte r ) 'OUI" seventy days are completed in your embalming hal l.
May )"011 be laid OUI o n a bier in th e house or rcst
and be drawlI by ..... hite oxen.
May m e ways be opened with milkS
until )"ollr arri\~t1 at the em....m ce 10 your tomb.
May the i:h ild ren of your childre n 0111 be assem bled
and wail with lOvi ng heart.
May your mouth be opened by the chier lector pricst,
may )'Ou be purified by the sem-pricst,

C JPYnghted malenal

may Horus "'..:igh yo ur monUI for you,

after he has opened you r eyC$ and ea~.
May)'Qur limb$ and ~'O lIr bones all be present on )'O u.
May the uansfl guration ~pclls be read for yo u
and the mortuary offering (trtp-dj-lIswt) be perfornloo for )'011.

May you r jb-heart be with )'QU in the rig ht way,

and your tr~.lj'-h ean of }'Our exi$tence on earlh,
you being ~lOred to your previous fonn.
as o n the day "'hen you were born.
May the .d-mr-priest be brought 10 )'O u,
may the friends sing the litany ~ Bcw,tT(: , 0 earth!,"
w e eutry in to the eanh wat the king granl$,~
in the coffin of the western $idc.
~layyou be gi\'en an escort like the ancestors,
may we muu corne to )'Q u in jubilation.
The god's favor for Ule o ne he 10\'C$ i.>!
to be imperishable fOTe\...:r and e\..:r.lo

Here, we lind lhe ~Ille segmen u o f the ritual: ( I) the seve n ty day
e mbalmi n g process, ( 2) the procession with cattle, he re specifie d as
"whi te oxen," which arc preced ed by a priest who libates with milk to
~o pen the way," and (3) the recep tio n at Ule tomb, which is d escri bed
witll spedal d etail: the m ourning of the family, lh e Opening o f the Mo uth,
purification by the .sem-priest and the ch ief lector priest, the Opening
of the Mouth by H orns (which again refers to rites carried out by the
_ p riest ) , the recitatio n o f rransfiguration spells (whic h agai n refers to
the chief lecto r priest), t he carrying o ut o f the o ffering rimal, a nd place-
ment in the to mb with the hel p o f the sa-IMF-priest (literally translated,
~ l ovi n g son~) , lhe ~ frien ds,~ and the muu, whose dance was a lread y me n-
tioned in the Story of Sinuhe.
He re, we must add a few words regarding the various priests who
concem e d t he mselves wi th the deceased. As we can see, lhe Open ing o f
Lhe Mouth and fu neral rituals were com plex affairs in wh ich a number
o f persons par ticipated in various roles. A mortuary spell fro m the tom b
o f ute royal e pisto lary scribe Tjay (The b."ln Tomb 23, G1. 12 20 !J.c.E. )
contai ns a list of the "dramatis personae~ of these r imal.s:

Chi e.f lector priest, snr~prie5t,

im,.u.priest, il7lJ'"khmf.pries t,
nine friends, ~fpriest,
fo llowe r of Horns.


G righted malenal
Ritu.als oJ Transition from H()/IIe 10 Tomh
Ku lpto r, (aryer.
crafl$man (?). carpen ter,
th e t....,o mourning hirtll. mourning women. the berea\'ed,
who are present in the hall .. ,II

Of all these, we see only the stm-p riest and the ch ief lector priest engag-
ing in other activities, in particular. the mortuary o fferings. Both wo re
special cloth ing: the SfflI-priest a panthe r skin , and the chief lector priest
a special wig and a sash that crossed the breast. Only these two were mor-
tuary priests in the strict sensc o f the term; the o then bore their ti tles ;u
roles in the cult drama but not in their professional life. In the offering
ritual , there was a third participant, the &e mbalme r~; he is ofte n repre-
sented in O ld Ki ngdom tombs, and he is perhaps to be recogn ized in the
figure of ·Anubis ,~ who supports th e upright mUlllmy at the entrance to
the tomb in New Kingdo m re presentations, and who is the on ly one of
the three who wean; a mask as his characteristic garb. The o ther IWO
priests also played divine roles. The sem-priest was Horus, the mythic son ,
the successor to the priest o f the Archaic Period who bore the title
Mseeker/ embracer o f the ancestral spiril.M The chief lector priest was
TIlOth, the mytllic 5a\'ant, ritualist, and magus, tlle master of the s..1crcd
With their many participants, these rituals differed from the normal
mortuary cult in the tomb. The latter was always carried out by a single
participant whom we o hen sec rep resented wearing the panther skin
o f the sem-pril.."st.. He was the actual mortuary priest who was responsible,
after the fun eral, for carrying out the mortuary cult. In life, he bore
the title "'fta.scrvant- Olin-H) , in imalogy wi th the tille Mservant of the
god" in the tem ple cult, and in the representations in the to mbs, he
played the rolc o f sem-priest. His duties consisted of making libations and
censings o\'er such food offerings as vegetables, meat. ~pes, figs, bread,
beer, and similar foods, but which might never or only seldom ha\'e
actually been brought, as opJX>scd to simply representing them on o ffer-
ing tables, ready to be activatcd on behalf of the deceased by lhe pouring
of water.
The figure o f the .mI.-priest was systematically hacked out of tombs
dating to before the Amarna Period. Amarna arl did away with all his-
tOrical costumes: o nl y reality was 10 be re presented. Re presenl.'ltio nallevei
I of the ~vi rtual ritual ,~ which recalled the O ld Kingdom and was more
a m edium of cultural memory than a representation of reality, was ban ned
from lhe canon of Amama art. The .YI~priest with his linen panther ski n
was an especially stri king manifestation of this principle of sh unn ing his-
torical costumes.


G righted malenal

2. Fwm Hom~ (0 T&mh

a ) C rossi ng O':er to the West

We have information regarding the first stage o f the fun eral. the cross-
ing of the Nile from the place o f dealh to the embalming hall, exclusively
from representations in tombs at Thebes. In the captions that commen t
on the ac tion (e.g., in tomb 133) , the boat cartying the coffin is
sometimes equated with the ~grea t fe rry~ t hat the deceased will use in the
afte rlife to make the transition from the realm of death to Elysium. The
crossing to the necropolis ....'aS th us inte rpreted as a passage Ihat bro ught
Sidvation from death and led to immortality. But, as the lext indicates, this
salvation was only for the righteous:

Fare across, great ferry of the West.

Fare in peace across to the West!
I gave bread to the hungry,
water w the thirst)',
dothing to the naked .. :1
In Theban Tomb 347. the re is a caption that designates the boat cafTY-
ing the coffin as ntshm<!l. This was the name o f the sacred barque of Osiris
that was use d in the m ysteries at AbrdlY.!. In fact, the depictions on the
walls of tombs always represent the boat carrying the coffin in the fonn
of a neshm~t barque. a papyrus boat with a high prow and stern, whose
ends take the fonn of large papyrus blossoms. In the barque, the coffin
lies on a lion bed under a baldachin, with statues of Isis and Nc phthys a t
its head and fOOL In most cases, the mummy is accompanied by mo urn-
ers. This purely ceremon ial \'es.~el was to wed by a nonnal, rh-er-worthy
boat equipped with sail a nd oars.

What the pilot at the prow of the lUSl\I1Irl·barque of the West laYs:
Ply to the West, the harbor of Ul(: righ teous,
Khefculemebes, the city of Amun:
he (Amun) has given it over to N.,
lhe landing place of )'Our silent o ne.
How the place (i.e., ule tomb) rcjoict..'!i at ill
Hathor, mistress of the West,
protectress 0) of Ule wC$tem $ide,
she who preparC$ a place for e\'ery rig hteoll.'i one,
may she take N. in her embmcc! 13

III th is tex t as well, UtC c rossing to the west bank is interpreted as a tran-
sition into a sphe re of sccurity and divine presence that is gran ted only


C ;.pvrlgnted matenal
Rituals of Transition from Home 10 TMllh
to the righll_'Ous. This ~sacrame ntal explanation, Malong with the usc of a
ceremonial boat, shows lhatthe crossing to the West was n o t a mere phys-
ical transfer o f the corpse from one place to another but ra ther a ritual
riverine p rocess io n .

b) Embalming, C ult Drama in the Sacred Te menos, and RiLUais in

the Carden
Except for a sing le scene in the abovc-mentioned tomb of Amenemopc,
which was later copied by the owner of the neighboring Theban Tomb
23, the e mbalming process itself ....-as neve r represented in lhe tombs. For
tha t reason , the depic tions of what occurred before and after the embal m-
ing play an e'o'en more important role in the decoration o f the o lde r
to mbs. Before the e mbalming, there was the -procession to the divine tent
o f Anubis,M that is, to the emlMlming hall, and after the e mbalming, but
before the a ctual procession to the lOmb. a cui tic drama was performed
in the ~sacred temenos." The latter was above all a symbolic journ ey by
boat to various places in Lower Egypt:

Givi ng a goodly burial lO N., vindicated, ancr the landi ng.

Going to the necropolis, accompanying N. to the beautiful We5t,
to the divine tent of Anubis (i.e., the place of embalming) in the westem
d esert.
Accompan}ing N. to the cult barque.
Going upstream to the un iting hall of Rckhmire.
Tuming around and sailing downstream, accompanying N. to Sais,
traveling downstream to the gates of Uuto.
Arriving at the House of the Noble (in He1iopolis).
Conducting N. upstream and Slopping in the middle or the water.
Going on land by N. in dIe presence of the inhabitants of Buto.'·

Pe rhaps, in remOle prehistory, t he re reall y ,",'c re such j o unleys lO t he

sacred places of the land during the funerals of Lo.....e r Egyptian ch ieftains
o r kings. In the older tombs of Dyna.~ty 18, they .....e re re presente d as an
archaic cult drama in the sacred te menos (in the sense of re presentational
level I ), while in the later tombs (in the sense of representational level
2), they became the ~mo nu ary celeb nuion in the garden with its pool.MU
Thc rites in the garden might ha\'e included the Mjourm.-y to Abydos ,~ a
scene that was depicted in many tombs from the Middle Kingd o m down
LO the later stages o f Egyptian history, always in connection with th e
fun eral. In any event, it was represented as an aClual jounley by boat and
not as a m erely symbolicjoumey in a ceremonial barque, as it undoubt-
e dly y,'3S in fuet carried OUL In the Mjo u m ey to the West," we see a larger,
rivc r-worthy boat to wing a barque. De pending o n the geographical loca-

30 ,

C ;lpynghted malenal

tion of the necropolis, either the trip the re was by sail (with the north
wind, butagainn the current) and the relUrn trip by oar (with the current,
bm against the wind). or vice versa. III the barque sat the statues of the
tomb owner and his wife. In so far as the brief captions yield infonnation,
the journey to Abydos was con n«.ted with the desire to participate in the
cultic dramas of Osiris that were celebrated there. In inscriptions of the
New Kingdom, we often encounter the wish to travel to Abydos and
Busiris in a transformed state in order to participate in the major festivals
of Osiris:

Tr.w.:ling dowll.'llream to Busirh iIll a living ba,

tra\'Cling upstream to Ab)dos iIll it phoenix.
following Wennefer in U-poqer
at his festival of the beginning of the )"Car.
A seat is prepared for me in the lU:'Ihrnd-barque
on the day of the ferrying of th e god.
May my name be called OUI when he is found
before the one who decides '1UUIL '~

Behind the journey to Abydos stood the co ncept of the spet:ial sacredness
of this place , a sacredness in which the deceased wis hed to share uncon-
ditionally at his transition into the netherworld. The necropolis of Ahydos
W"dS the oldest Egyptian royal n ecropoli,,; here lay the kings of Dynll.'Sties

I and 2, and modern excavations ha\·c discovered a MDynasty o~ that

makes it possible to extend the series of rOY'tl tombs back well inlo late
prehistory. Even after other places in the north and the south came to be
used as royal cemeteries, Abydos retai ned ilS paramount sanctity. which it
had perhaps first won as a semi-mythical place of origins. Though there
were cemeteries everywhere in the land , there was thus a place that WJ.S
clo~r to the netherworld than any o the r, just as Heliopolis was closer to
the sky than an y other city in Egypt. That place ....'aS Abydos. The concept
or transition from home to tomb thus included ajourney to the one p lace
on earth with an especially close connection to Osiris and the nether-
world. More generally speaking, the concept of a sacred place in Egypt
included the ract that it opened into the nethen·:orld. In Hcliopolis lay
Ule body or the sun god. at Busiris th ere was a neulerworldly counterpart
in which Osiris lay, at Thebes there was the mortuary cult of the primeval
gods al Medinet Habu, while in the later periods or histol)" fourteen or
sixteen-the numbers varied-religious centers in Egypt had a tomb or
Osiris. 1llis idea of a s.."l.cred city as elltr.lnce to the Iletherworld had its
origin and model in Abydos. Abydos \\-'as sometimes also the location of
the Judgment or the Dead. Certain texts give the ~ day of examining the
dead~ as the date of the journey to Abydos.1 7


C :opynghted malenal

may you han: power there, a.'I a beloved onc Illert', as Foremo~t of the
may you be: there. Osiris N.

The cult dmma of the journey to Abrdos seems to ha\'e been perfonned
in connection with the funeral, givcn that thc two are regularly depicted
together in the representations in tombs of Dynasty t8, But it was
undoubtedly also repeated later, as emerges, for example, from this text,
according to which the journey to Abydos was enacted every rear on the
eighteenth and nineteenth day of the first month of the inundation
season. This was the date o f the wag-festiv.tI. At Abydos, this was the day
of the great river processio n of the lIe:Jhm~.. barque to U-poqer, the holy
place of the tomb o f Osiris, where the festival participants n :"cdved the
~wreat h ofjustification~:

A "Teath is placed ro und your neck

on ule day of Ul<' wagfcstiml.'I>II

This is the ~ bandage " that is also mentioned in the text considered here.
Adorned with it, the deceas<.-d was supposed to return to his tomb,

c) The Procession to the Tomb

T he deceased was conveyed from the embalming hall to the tomb in a
solemn procession. The sledge bearing the sarcophagus, again dnlwn by
cattle, was accompanied by the shrine containing the canopic jars and tht:
mysterious 1~l!J_'t 1 As already noted, the lekenu might have been a sack
containing materials left over from the embalm ing process. Another plau-
siblt: explanation of I.he lekalu that has been proposed by Hermann Kees,
who sees it as ~a sort of ~apegoa t " that "v.~.l.S supposed to attract the evil
powers that won control over a pel1lOn in death, so that the transfigured
body would remain free of them ,~ that is, it was the embodiment of the
noxious substances (Egyptian 4w.t nb.t ue\'erything evin remm<ed during
the embalming process.H
The threefold procession was accompanied by an age-old song that
....-as also sung during processions of d eities: "Beware, 0 eanh: a god is
comi n g!~'tj The song is another sign that the funcr-a.l proce~sion was cel-
ebrated as a hierophany. an appearance of a sacred being. The caption s
ideillify the active participants who helped to drag the sledge a~ ~peopl e
of Pe and Oep (: BUIO), o f H ennopolis. lseum< Sais. and I:fw.t-wr-jJ.lw,~
and they are also globally referred to as rby.t IIb.t, ~all the subjects." The
funera l was thus a public one for all the land to see, as least as far as Lower
Egypt was cOllcemed. ~Your anns 011 yo ur ropes!" the chief lector priest


C ;.pvrlgnted matenal

distinction in the way in which men and women were depicted displayi ng
grief. The women d isplay intense pain , while the men grieve calmly. In
the Amarna and post-Amarna Periods. howC\'cr, artists did not hesitate to
depict e\'en high-ranking men maki ng gestures of passio nate mourning.
In the royal tomb at A1narna, we see Akhenaten by the bier of his de<:eased
daughter Meketaten , holding his head in the same gesture of d espair as
Neferti ti. while in a newly acquired relief in Munich , one of the two viziers
is de p icted turning away crying and holding a hand to his face . f'/
This change in the representation.s from depic tions of an image sanc-
ti fi ed by tradition to de pictions of ac tions that really took p lace occurred
at the same time as the open expression o f pain and m ourn ing, and the
negative images of dea th in the songs of mourni ng sung at fu nerals, a few
of which were cited in chap te r 5. These far-reachin g changes in the
iconography of the funeral ri tual do not point to a change in the ritual
itself, wh ich had undoubtedly been carried out in the same Wdy for SQme
centuries, but rather to a change in the pictorial and textual re presenta-
tions' relationship to reality. Earlier, the desire had been to stress the
funera l's ritual and cul tic aspect as a canonical festival drama that res ted
on an age-old ancestral tradition. Now, the desi re was to emphasize i rs
ritual and above all its emotional character. T he ind ivid ual im portance of
the deceased WolS shown by the intensity and variety of the emo tions
expressed: theatricality and authentici ty were always closely connected in
these rep rese nL'llions. But whe reas previously the authenticity was seen in
the reference (preserved on ly in pictures) to rituals fro m prehistoric
ti mes, now it was seen in the liveliness and articulateness of expressions
of emotion in language, mime, and gesture.

). 'I'M Riles oj Opening /l,e MQuth at tM Entronce oj the Tomb

a) The Opening of the MOUlh Ri tual

The different files of the burial procession , which towed the sledge
hearing the coffin , the sh rine con taining the cano picjars, and the ttkenu
(which disa ppeared fro m the represenL'ltions at the begin ning of the
Ramesside Period). ended in fron t of the lomb, which was usually repre-
sented as a pyramid with a \'estibule and a stela. Here, the mummy \\Ia5
take n o ne last time out o f its coffin o r sarcophagus and set up right in
from of the Stela, facing south, in the forecourt of the tom b. In lhe rep'
rescntalions, it is often supported from behind by Anubis (Figure 5).:18 It
is generally thoug ht that this ....-as a priest wearing a d og-h eaded mask:
de picting the god himself in these scenes would not have suiled the
relationship to reality otherwise found in these representation.s. The


G righted malenal




.•-, -

0 1'"
, -
-- "-
•• ,"
- -"
• ~,


. ~Jo

depictions in the to m~ mostl y show twO mummies set up in frOIll of the

tomb, and seholars have taken these to be the mumm ies of the tomb
owner and his wife. The wife thus plays a double role in these depic tions.
She appears in the role of widow bewa iling her h usband, which was !lIe
role of Isis, and sh e is al~ rep resented as already deceased. standing
mummifonn next (0 the m ummy of her husband, just as she al~ sits and
sta nds next to him in the o ther repn:scntatio ns o n the walls of the tom b,
receiving mortuary o fferings , adoring the gods, stridi ng th rough the gates
of the netherv.·orld, and unde rgoi ng the Judgment of the Dead before
The Opening ofthe Mouth (Egyptian wp.l-d) ritual was carried o u t on
the mummiesset up in frolll o fth e tomb.29 This was originally a ritual for
bringing the tomb SL"ltue to life , and it lhen developed into it consecra-
tio n ritual carried Out on all possible sacred objects, fro m offering stands
to an entire temple, in order to dedicate them to their sacred purpose.
The ritual lranllfonned the sta tue fro m an object crafted by artisa ns into
a cultic body that was capable o f being animated by a god o r an ancesLra\
spirit in the fmmC\\'Ork of sacred ac tions.
None of o ur sources is older than the New Kingdom, but the ritual itself
mUll! have bee n much o lder than th al. A number of its spells arc already
allested in the Pyra mid Texts of the O ld Ki n gdom, and many sunes
display a vOC'dbulary and a form that point to an even older period,
pel'ilaps that of the fi ot t ....o dynasties. in which lhe p reparation of divi ne
statues was such an important ac tivity that it was used in the names of
years. Eberhard O uo, to whom we owe the defi nith-e publicatio n and
study of the ritual , ....'as thus motivated by an understa ndable inte rest in
est<iblish ing the o ldest layers o f the text and maki ng out the various St<iges
in its dcvelopment. This proved to be an impossible tas k, and the ritual
of the Archaic Period cannot be reconstmcted . il thus appears more
meaningful to understand the ritual as an element o f the mo nuary
cult in the New Kingdom, rcgardless of th e diffe ring ages of its various
componcnts. The modcm cdition o f thc ritual with its se\'cnty-fivc sccnes
is an abstractio n put together from vario us \"ersions. \-I,Ie prefer he re to
procced from a single one of these concrctc versions, that in the tomb of
the royal domai n adm in istrator Ne~umenu from the rcign of Rame$CS
II (ca. 1250 B.C. E.) . In this lOmb. the scenes of the Opening of the Mouth
ritual arc spread o ut o\'er four walls. so that !llcrc is already a divisio n
into four seque nces that prove upon close examination to be entirely
meani ngful. T he fi rst sequence (5CeJlCS 1-8) st<inds, looking at it fro m
the e ntrance, o n the left rear wa ll (west \\'all, soulhem portion ), the
second (scenes 9-25 , omitting 20-22 and 24) on the left entr.lOce wall
(east wall, southern ponion). the third (sccnes 28-32, remainder
d estroyed but presumably, with omissions, to 4 Ii!) on the rig ht rear wan


C ;.pvrlgnted malarial
Rituals of Transition from Hom~ to Tomb

(west wall, nonhe rn portio n ), and the founh (scenes 43-59, with om is-
sions) on the right entrance wall (east wall, no rthe rn portion).
First sequence: scenes . -6 all consist of purifications. T he accom pany-
ing spells begin with the foml ula Ml'u re, p ure!~ , which is to be repeated
four times. So fa r as the representations are preserved (scenes 4--6), they
depict censings. In scenes 5 an d 6 , the statue is circled four times and
censed with d iffere nt ki nds of aromatic substances. T his sequence
includes abo\'e all a purification with fo ur ntmSt'l-jars, which must be
assumed h ere in the destroyed portio n . In this purification as well , the
statue was circled fou r times and v,mer was poured out. This sequence
clearly has the chardcter of an in itial purifi cation ritual. In the daily
tem ple cult as well , the offering sequence wa.~ preceded by purifications
with incense and water.
T he seventh scene bears the ti tle "Enteri ng, g-.ui ng upon him.· ~ E n ter­
ing, gazing u pon the god" is also a scene in the daily temple ri tual. T he
eigh th scene is enti tled MGoing to the tomb" (sm.! r j1.). The priests who
participate in it are the jmj-!Jnt (chamberlain) and the lector priest. As
depicted, the lomb looks like a tall base with sloping walls resting o n a
pedestal, the hieroglyph for the typical tomb of the Old Ki ngdom, which
we designate with the Arabic word Mmast.'l ba." The to mb is captioned
"tomb of the Osiris, the domain administrator Nebsumenu."
The second sequence on the opposite east wan begins on the rig ht with
a series of scenes that belong to th e core material of th e ritual. They arc
uniq ue in the history of Egyptian religion; they are an instance of trance
or medit.'ltion , fo r which there arc no parallels whatsoever in Egypt. In
ou r tomb , th ese scenes arc unfortunatel y badly damaged. so that we
arc obliged to consult better-prescn'ed variants. A stm-priest is depicted
wrapped in a mantle and squatting o n a bed or chair. In the tomb of
Nebsume nu , he is de picted kneeling. According to the caption, he is
"sleeping~ or ~spendi n g the night ~ (sgr). "The um-priest, sitti ng before
him (i.e .. the stalUe)M says, MHe has srj (shattered?) me,M and the jmHz.
who is stand ing behind him, says, MHe has drjll' (Olto suggests 'shoved')
me.~ T hejl11ffr. th en says four times "My fa ther! My fa ther! My fathe r! My
fath er! ~ Finally, we read, "\faki ng the sleeping one, the stm-priesl. Finding
the jmjll'./;nt priests." In the fo llowing scene 10. the um.priest, sti ll squat-
tin g on his chair, conducts a dialogue with the jmj ....'ilnt: "To be spoken by
the stm-priest: ' I have scen my father in all his o utl ines!' MThe word qd
"ou tli n e~ is a play o n qd "sleep.· "The jmjw-iml say 10 the sem: 'Your fa ther
shall not depart fro m you!' The urn says to the jmjw./;m: 'The face hu n ters
have capturM h im.' T hejmjw.ynr say to the sen:' 1 have scen my father in
all his o utlines. Bev.'llfC lest he perish. Lct there be no da mage to h im!'"
T he st'I'Jtopriest pla~'S the role of the SOil of the deceased, o r vice \'ersa.
O nly th e SOil v,~.lS capable of doing what is ha ppening here: seeing the


C JPYnghted malenal

form of h is fathe r in a trance or in meditative concemrdtion and captur-

ing it in its outlines so that artiJla ns can render it in stone o r wood. Scene
1 I is entitled, ~S tanding up by the Y in. He lakes his staff. He wears the
qnjbreastpl ate. ~ The sem thus d resses himself, putti ng on a gan ne n t whose
name means ~e m bracer.~ Scene 1 2 depicts h im facin g three "wood-
car\"ers~ (qs.tjw). He says to them: '"Brand my fathe r! Make my fathe r fo r
me! Make it like m y father! Who is it who ma kes it simila r fo r me?" In
scene 13, the sem addresses three other artisans, the bone-carver, the
woodchopper, and the craftsman who wielded the polishing SlOne, with
the words: "Who are they wh o wish to approach m y father? Do not smite
my fath e r! Do no t touc h his head! ~ The artisans' activities on the statue
e ntail violence that must be neutralized. Scene 14 depicts the sem making
a symbolic gesture designated "add ing the mo uth .. ; he extends his arm to
the statue and touc hes its mouth wi th h is little finge r. The Egyptian term
rendered "addi ng" he re is a carpenter's te rn} tha t means pUlti ng two
pieces togethe r in such a way tha t they inte rlock. He th en recites (i n the
Rekhmire versio n ):

I havt: come to seek/e mbrace ~'Oll , I am Horus.

I have added your mouth.
I am your son, who loves you!

Scene 15 also has !.he purpose of ,werling the disagreeable consequences

of unavoidable violence. T he sem says to the artisans. "Come, smite my
father for me!" and the artisans say, MLet !.hose who sm ite yo ur fathe r be
protecled! " ln scene 16 , the Je7nsays to a woodchopper, MI am Horus an d
Seth; I do not allow you to make the head of my father wh i tcl~ In scene
17. the jmyw-!;nt say to a priesl called ~ lh e o ne behind Horus," "]sis, go
to Horus, that he may seek his futher!~ In scene 18, thc ch ief lector priest
stands before the urn a nd says, MHu rry and see you r fa ther!" The statue is
now ready, and it is to be recognized by the son as a porlrait o f his fath e r.
The sequen ce of scenes involving a rtisans comes to a n e nd he re, and
with scenes 19-2 1, something new begins. The JD1I must change his
c10 thcs; he removes the q,y.breastplatc an d do ns the panther skin that is
his characteristic item of clothing. His recitation is dcvo ted solely to this
ac tio n : Ml have saved his eye from his mouth ! I have ripped off his leg.~
The chief lector priest sa)'S to the statue, MO N. , 1 havc branded your eye
fo r you, so thaI you may be bro ught to life by it! MT he words " brand~ and
~be brought to life~ are puns on the word fo r panther skin.
Like mOSt o f the other versio ns, th e one in to mb 183 proceeds imme-
d iately to scene 23. Th is is t he beginn ing of the c h ief portion of the e n tire
ritual, the actual open ing of th e mouth . Scene 23 presc::rilx.'S a slaughte r.
Utter, we shall go in to this in detail, so we shall merely summarize it h ere .


C JPYnghted malenal
RitUllu of Transition fro m Ho~ w Tomb
One leg and the heart are re moved fro m a bull, and the heads of a goat
and a goose are cut o ff. In scene 24, the chief lector priest and the selin'-
priest quickl y bring the leg and the hean to the statue and place them,
along with the goat and the goose, on the ground in front of it. This scene
has been misunderstood by Otto and others as an offering scene. It is
clearly tilled "opening of the mouth and eyes. ~ The Sent does nO[ offer the
leg to the statue hut rather uses it as an implement to open its mo uth . In
this rega rd , we must note that in the writing system, the hieroglyph depict-
ing a hull's leg resembles an adz, the actual implement for opening the
mouth, which is e mployed in the foll owing scenes 26 and 27 (which are
lost in lo mb 183). The slaughter is thus a part of the opening of the
mouth , which begins with scene 23 and ends with Ke ne 27. We can now
grasp the scenes o n the left entrance walt as a unity: they include the sleep
sequence in which the se7n beholds the fathe r (9-12), the artisan
sequence 13-18, and the opening of the momh sequence 23-27. Scene
19, in which the sem-ptiest changt.'S his garb, selVes as an intermissio n .
Third sequence: the ritual continues on the right rea r v,'aU. In scene
28; the jmj-hnt and a priest called j rj·p'.1 ~ h e rcdi lary nobl e~ (again a son 's
role) stand facing one anothe r. The recitation here yields no sense and
is (as will later become clear) displaced to here from the opening of the
mo uth scenes: "I smite him for his mother. so that she bewails him . I smile
him fo r his consort. ~ Scene 29 is a repetition of scene 17. The jmj-bnt
again sars to "the one behind Horus," "'sis, go to Horus, that he may
embrace his fa th erl~ Scene 30 repeats Ke ne 16. Scene 3 1 is a double
scene. The first part has to do with Mflllding the 'son who 100'es,' who is
standing o utside." and the second part with "bringin g the 'son who loves'
inside the tomb.M¥le see the sem take the Mson who IO\'C5,M who pr«cdes
h im, by the hand and guides h im into the tomb. Behind the m stands the
lector priest, and behind the to mb the statue, which is presen t in all t.he
scenes. The recitatio n reads: "0 N. , I b ri ng you your loving son. that he
may open }'our mouth for yo u !W In scene 32. the "loving son wgoes into
action to open the mouth and the eyes: "C..mying OUI the opening of the
mouth and eyes, first with the ddft-implemenl, and then with L1le finger
of el«trum." The lector priest recites. "0 N., I have attached your mouth
for )lOu! This cleaning o ut of the mouth o f your fat.her N. in your name
'Sokar' (etc.) .w In scene 33, there follows the Mo pening ofthe mouth with
the little finger,~ in which, as in scene t4 , the sem to uches the mo uth of
the staltle ....ith his little fin ger. In scenes 34-39 an d 4 l (40 is a d oublet)
various objects are extended to the statue, objects lhal are to have a life-
endowing. Mmouth openingWefTt."1:t: a nemes (scene 34 ), at whose offerin g
the chief l«tor priest says, "I clean out yo ur moudl, I open your eyes for
)lOu; four 'b.t·grains (35 and 36). at whose o fferi ng it is again said, M clean_
ing out the mouth and the eyes, opening the mouth and the eyes with

C ;.pvrlgnted material

each of the m , twice, ~ the pss-H-fimplcrnem, a kind of flint knife (37)

with the words -I have opened yo ur mouth for you with the pss-H f, '....ith
which the mouth of every god and co.·ery goddess is opened, - grapes (38),
with the wo rds -0 N., take the Eye of Horus, seize it; if you seize it, it will
not pass by,· an ostrich feather (39) , with the words -take the Eye of
Horus, may your face not be dco.'Oid of it, ~ and a bowl of Woller (<II ), with
the words "take the Eye of Horus. take the water that is in it! ~ These are
symbolic gifLS that do not n ourish the deceased but ratJler are to open
the mouth and eyes of his statue.
The final sequence o f scenes is o n the right entrance wall (east wall ,
nonhern portion). It begins with the rare scene 40, a repetition o f scene
20 with the recitation -I have saved the Ere of Horus from his mouth. I
have tom off his leg! I ha\'e desired this Eye of Horus for you, so that )''Ou
may be ba by means o f it,- the last an allusion to the SfflI-p riest's panther
skin. In the fo llowing scenes, there are also repetitions o f actions from
the second sequence, which is on the southern ponion of the east wall.
The correspondences are as follows:

no. 20 intenni$sion no. 40

no, 23 ~laughtcriog IICcnc no. 43
no. 24 prl:$entatiQn of the heart and I~ no. +I
no, 25 prcscnution or thc leg 00. 45
nO. 26/ 27 opening of the mouth wilh Ih " acI~ nO. 4 6

The core of the ritual, the opening of the mouth with the leg of the freshly
slaughtered bull . is thus carried out twice, which undoubtedly corre-
sponds to an intent of the tomb owner that these two most important
scenes stand opposite aile another on the eastenl wall, to the left and
right of the entrance. On the southern side, these principal scenes are
preceded by the sequen c(:s involving the sleeping SfflI-priest and his dia-
logue with the artisans. On the northern side, the .scenes are preceded by
scenes that conclude the ritual in this version. These begin ....ith scene 55.
in which the sen anoints the statue, touching its mouth with the index
fmger of his right hand. The following spell is then recited (i n the vcrsion
in a monuary liturgy on a papyrus of th e Late Period:'" in to mb 183, only
the fi rst three verses are presen 'ed):

o Osi ris N., your mother has given birth to you today!
You ha\'e been made into one who I;,nO\l., what wall not I;,no,",'Il,
Geb at the head of the corponttion of the Great Ennead has healed you,
joining your head to your bones.
Then he speab to you, and the Great Ennead
among the living hears it on this day.


C ;.pvrlgnled malenal

TIle day of burial, striding freely to his tom b.

Pcrfonning the Opening of the Mouth at die (... J in the HOll~ of Gold,
set upright on the desert soil.
ilS lace turned to the solllh ,
bathed in light on earth on the day of being dothed (i.e., the
~in\'est i lure~). 31

Cen$ing and liooting to Osiris N.

in order to open the mou th for the statue of N.,
it being onellled "ith its face 10 the south on the desert sa nd.
May you be balhed in light on the day of being dothed (Le., the
~im'esti lure") !I"

The IlIrning of the face towards the south probably means that the
mummy or statue was set up at midday, facing th e sun, wh ich was in the
south at that hour. Since the procession began in the early moming, at
Ihe embalming hall , we must conclude that it arrived at the tomb around
1 2 noon. The mean ing of this setting up of the statue or mummy is that
it was bathed in light and "charged" by the rays of the sun.
It is thus ofte n stressed in mortuary spells that the mummy is to be ~t
up at the entra nce of the tomb "before~ or "for" Re." These fommlas
appear at the same point in ti me as the representations: at the end of
Dynasl)' 1 8, arou nd 1300 H.C.E. The earliest men tion is in a harper'~ song
in the tomb o f the god's father Neferhote p from the re ign o f Aya:

Their mummies are setup before Re,

while their people mlJurn ceaselessly.
Death comes al ilS ti me,
Shay (i.e., fate, lifetime) counlS his days."

In Theban Tomb 224 , a nd simi larly in the tomb o f the "lZIer Paser
(Theban Tomb 106) from the early Ramesside Period, the deceased
exprcs-<;es the wish :

May my augmt mummy be set up in the sighl of Re

and a great alTering placcd at the enlnlncc to my 10mb.
Then those in the Seduded Land will say,
"See the praised one, N.!~!6

There is cons tant stress on contact with the sunlight. The mummy is SCt
up "for~ or "before~ Re, and the entrance. or mo re ofte n, the court (wsb.t)
of the 10mb is specified a.~ lhe place wh ere this takes place:

Your mummy is set up for Re

in the forecourt of)~ur t om b:~


C ;!pynghted ma1enal
Rituals QfTransition from H()m~ U! 70mb

A text attested in two tombs of the late thirteenth cemury COllneCl~ this
rite with a dear allusion to the Judgment of the Dead:

Your mumm~ is sel up for Re

ill the court of your tomb.
)'Ou being given o\'1.:r to the scale o f the Ilecropolis.
May you emerge vindicated ."

Here, setting up the mummy in the Court of the tomb was taken as the
sigtlal for an enactment of the Judgment of the Dead, which perhaps con-
sisted of a recitation of chapter 125 of the Book of the Dead. This was
presumably a repetition of the vindication of the deceased that had been
carried out in the framework of the embalming rilUa\.
As we ha\'e seen, the forecourt of the tomb is mentioned as the place
where these proceedings took place. When we consider the development
of the Egyptian monumental tomb in the course of the New Kingdom ,
we take note of an aston ishing coincidence. Just when the textual for-
mulas describing the setting up of the m umm y and the artistic represen-
tatioTUi o f the rites made their appearance, that is, at the end of Dynasty
18, there WdS a change in the 'Ippcarance of the forecoun of the tomh."'l
It was now surrounded by a high wall that protected it from the outside
world, and often enough, its character as a sacred place was emphasized
by pillar.;, decorated fa.;:ades . and stelae. The tomb of Amenemope, which
was the starting poim for our treatment of the funeral rituals, furnishes
a good example ofl.his new type of court. In this case, the court is sunken,
and it is entered by a staircase leading down from the cast. The south,
east, and north sides are surrounded by pillar.;, and the pillars o n the
50uth side are decorated v.~th mummiform, mez:w-rilie\'o statues of the
LOmb owner, while the pillars of the other twO sides wou ld undoubtedly
also have had such statues had their preparation been com pleted. 'nle
motif ofseuing up the mummy in the forecourt -before Re- is thus arch i-
tectonically realized in this instance. Tomb 183, which served as our
model for the reconstruction of the Opening of the Mouth ritual. also
has a richly decorated forecourt . It was entered from a second court
through a pylon. O n all sides, including the west side, it is surrounded by
pillars, and o n the sides facing the court, these pillars are decorated with
figures of the tomb owner. Similar figures flank the fa.;:ade of the entrance
to the transverse cham ber (where the Opening of the Mouth ritual is
located), as well as the doorway from the transverse chamber to the
This change in LOmb architecture serves as an important indication that
with the mmsition from Dynasty 18 to Dyn,lsty Ig. not only did the con-
ventio ns of representing the funeral change but also the ritual itself.


C ;.pvrlgnted malarial

Perhaps the mummy had been set up atlhe entrance to the tomb before
being buried from time immemorial, o r oil lea'll since the begi nn ing of
the New Kingdo m : we have no way of knowing, for the earlier rep resen-
tations do nOt de pict the rillials that were actually carried om but rathe r
a son of p ictorial recollection of ule time of origins. Now, however, what
actually happened ass umed so much importance that the arc hitecture
took note of it and furn ished an appropria te cuhic stage for it. The most
important aspect of th e rite was probably the contact with the sunlight.
This emerges from the passages cited above, describing how the mummy
or statue was set up ~faci n g south,~ and the poi nt is also stressed in mor·
lllaf}' spells that refer to this scene of th e Opening of the Mouth at the

May )'ou stand erect on the sand of Rasetau,

may you be greeted when the sun $hines on you
SO as 10 carry Out your purification."

Your mouth will be opened, your limbs will be purified

before Re when he riM!.~ !
May he transfigure you, may he grant that you be rejuvenated,
living alllong the go(bl40

The cult o f the sun flourished in New Ki ngdom Egypt, culminating in late
Dynasty 18 and early Dynasty 19, and solar religio n al.'loO grew ever more
important in fu nerary beliefs. Tomb owners often had themse h'es repre-
sented on the southern thickness of the entrance to their tomb, striding
Out to greet the rising sun wi th a hym n. On the opposite th ickness, they
re turned illlo their tomb with a hymn to the evening sun or to Osiris."
In this way, the to mb decoration expressed the idea of ~gojng forth by
day" and l;onnected it with the sun god. During this period, stelae with
solar hymns and represelltations of the Open ing of the Mouth ritual were
often placed on the fat;:ades of tombs ... 2 1l1e wmb of Amenemope is again
a good example of th is practice. Not only d id it have three stelae in front
of itS fat;:ade, two on the south side with solar hymns and on e on the north
side with a hymn to Osiris, bUl the .'IoOuth side v.'aS itself decorated wi th a
representation of the su n god and a lengthy hymn to him.'" The motif of
the deceased's association V.ilh the sun god, which played .'100 great a role
in the transfi guration texts of this period , found its iconographic and
architectonic expression in this tomb. Its ritual expressio n , howeve r, was
in the rite of setting up the mummy "before Re."
Also co nnected with this motif wa.~ the practice of setting up stelae dec-
orated with sun hyrn ns and represe nta tions of the Opening of the MOUlh
ritual in the forecourts of tombs. in front of the fa,ade , as fint attested
in the reign of Amenophis III. Association with lh e sun god. which played


C JPYnghted malenal
Rituals oJ Transition Jrom Honu to Tomb

so great a role in the transfiguration spells, had its cultic equi\'alent

in this rite: setti ng up the mummy in frOllt o f the entrance to th e tomb
was thus well suited to the period in which it was fi rsl mentioned and
The rile can also be connected "'ith a tradition dating back to the
Pyrnmid Texts, from !he period when the Opening of the Mo uth ritual is
also first m entioned. Pyramid Texts spell 222 is especially well suited to
!he fram ework of a comparable rile. Here, tOO, !he deceased , in the fonn
o f a statue, coffin, o r mummy, stands face to face with the sun . This spell
ste ms from the liturgywhosc initial spells ( 2 13 - 216) were cited in chapte r
6. I cite it here in a versio n from a tomb of Dynasty 18, from which it is
d ear that it W'dS also used in the cult a t this time:

May you stand up on it, on this land

from which Attlm emerged ,
on th e spUlum that came OUI of Kh epfe r.
May rou cOllie into being on it, mar you come on h igh on it,
50 Ihat )'Our father sees }'Ou,
50 that Re: sees you.

The stanza that follows is addressed to the sun god, d escribing !he
deceased, who has been set up in front of him:

He has come to )'Ou, his father,

He has coml; to you , 0 RI;.
He: has come to }'Ou, his father,
he: has come to you, 0 Ndj."
He: has come to you, h is father,
he has come to you, 0 Dndrl. ~
He has come to you, his father,
he has come to rou, 0 Great Wild Bull .
He has come to you, his father,
he has come to }'Ou, 0 Great Reed float.
He has come }UU, his fath er.
he: hall come to you, 0 Equipped Onc.
He has come to yo u, his fathe r,
he h a5 come 10 you. 0 Sharp-toothc..'<i One.
May you grant that th i, N. !lCil.e his sky'''''
May you gnmt that this N. rule th e Nine Bows and ma ke the Ennead
may you place the shepherd's staff in N.·s hand (a.'i) a di\ine gift,
lIIay )'O u gram (him) Upper and Lower Egypt.

The next Slan zas once ag"din address the deceased , describing his partic.
ipation in the course o f the sun . The first depicts his as~ialion with the

C ;.pvrlgnted material
Ritllals of Transition from HOlM to Tomb
(J;nm-jln), consisted of a procession in which the Slatues were Iaken to the
tem ple roof on specified occasions and set out in the sunlight." Here , th e
illumination by the sunlight seems to have taken the place of the Opening
of the Mouth ritual and its consecrating, life-end ov.-ing function. This
h istory of transmission , which spanned three mille nnia, re...eals a creative
powe r that began with the royal and then the nomoyal funerary cults and
finally extended to the temple cult of the gods.
The setti ng up of mummies before Re and his shining down on them
was thus alread y an imporlant, even centr.l.l ri te, one that was enti rely
independent o f the further ri tes that were carried o ut o n the mummy
after it was set up. 111I!SC consisted first of all of a purification scene that
we often see rep resented in the tombs. In this rite, water was poured o ...e r
th e mummy fro m the so-called mmstljars. In a mortuary spell that appears
above a rep resenlatio n of the Jt'ntopriest and the mourners in Theban
Tomb 23, the rite is described in delail:

May you stand up on the sand of Rasetau,"

may you be greeted when th e sun shin<."S on )'ou.
and may your purification be carried out for you as a dail y pe rformance .
May Nun purity you.
may cool water come forth for )'O u fro m Elephantine.
may you be: greeted ,,"i ul the 1lt'IUdjar.
l'dke incense for yourself,
re<:e i\'e lIatron !
May the divine words purify }'01I,!.<
may )'Qur mouth be open ..-ct by Ule chisel of Plah .""
May your 1,,"'0 eyes be: ope ned for you.
May Ihe requirements or all arislocral be brought to you,:OS
5(1 thaI their "'Ork can be carried o ul for you.

May the lectOr priest come 10 you wiUI his book roll5"
and ule ,iD",pliest with his Ir.!.nsfiguration spells.
May the pit.'C~ of carpentry be grallled to yo u by Plah,
namely, th e cheSI, provided with its implenll:nL~. ~
May Anubis place his arms 011 you,
may thejunNIlw. t=f pricst~ Jibate for you.
May the Great Mo urning Birds (i.e. , mounting wome n playi ng the rolC$
o f Isis and Nephthys) cOllie to you and punish your enemies.
The $ .f·prie$t stands in fro m of the lomb be h illd you.
May the four-threaded cloth that Tayl has WO\'ell cOllie 10 )'Qu.
May your phean mount up to il$ place for you
and may )'Ollr /I~. tj-hearl be as il was.
May your body be transfigured , and may your b~ ~ d i\1ne.
May )'Ou keep company \\11h Ihe god in th e sky.
May the sky belong to your bl,
may the ne therworld belong to )'Our corpse. 60

G righted malenal

May linen belong to your mummy

and breath be at you r n ose. thaI you not suITOCItc:. 61
May you re new yourself dailf"
and assume any fonn you ....ish,
May )"Ou emerge as a li\ing I:>~.

c) Offering of the Heart and Leg

The cen tral rite of the Opening o f the r..louth ritual was celebrated with
an offeri ng. which we shilll consider in some detail here. This was an
u nusually ghastly offering scene, first attested in tombs and Book of the
Dead papyri from after the Amarna Period. A foreleg of a living calf was
amp utated while its mother stood beh ind it, mo urning her you ng with
upraised head and her tongue stuck out. A priest weill running with the
leg, carrying it to the mummy: evideOlly, it was important that it be pre-
seilled while it "''as still waml with life. Sometimes, a second slaughter was
depicted , and another prie~ t went runni ng to the mu mmy with a heart.
In twO tom bs, this 5Cene has a caption from which it emerges that not
o nly did the wann fles h of the calf playa role in this rite but also the
mournful bello....<ing of its mother:

The spell of thai wh ic h the cow 5<lYS:

'\'lX' ping over you, 0 dearly beloved!
The cow is !iOrrowful (a t) your tomb,
her heart grieves OI'C r hc r lorrl. M

Both of these, the fres h meat and the bellowing o f the bereaved cow,
which was illlerpreted as mournin g over the deceased , were supposed w
have a life.endowing, ~ m otlth-ope n ing~ elTect on the mummy.
Among UIt: scenes of the Opening of the Mouth Ri tual, as we ha\'C seen,
it is the scen es of slaughtering and o f pr(.'SCnting the hcart and leg that
occur twice. 6oI In each case, the presentation of the heart and leg is fol-
lowed immediately by the central scenes of the entire ritual, the "opening
of the mo u th~ with the carpenter's tool specific to that purpose. Though
the texts that accompany the arc haic ritual are unclear, they fu rnish indi-
cations as to the meaning o f the slaughtering scene , which does nO[ sen "e
to feed ule statue but rathe r to endow it wiul life, A, usual, the slaugh ter
of the an imal is explained as punishment of the enemy. The \\-'oman
playing the role o f Isis whispers inw the ear of the offering animal, wh o
evidcntly represenl~ Seth, that he has brought the judgment on himself.
This statement alludes to the scene in the H ouse o f the Nobles at H cliopo-
lis, where Seth , attempting to defend himselfbcfore the gods, tries to shift
the blame lO his offering and in UI C p rocess signs h is own death warrant
(Pyramid spell 477, see chapter 3).~


C JPYnghted malenal
Riluals of Transilion from Ho~ 10 Tomb

Kene 23 = 4 3:
Sem.prU5t laying a hand o n the male Upper Egyptian s«.-er.
Shlugh/em'. de$Cending on it, remo\ing its leg, taking out its hearL
RI:ci/ing in its ear by the ~Grea t Kitc~ (i.e .. Isis as mourning .....oman ):
~It is your lips that han: done this to rou through the cleverness of your
mouth !~

Bringing a goat: cUlting ofT its head. Bringing a goose; cutting ofT its head.

It is said lO the e nem y incorporated in the animal to be slaughte red that

he has pronounced his own judgmcnl!66
In the scenes that follo,"", the leg and heart are g iven lO two priests, who
hurfl' to the statue ....ilh them. It is thus clear thal this is still a malter of
the cow-calf scenes, in which the speed of the delh'ery plays so great a ro le:

Scene 24 = 44:
Slaughlr.rtr. giving the leg to the chief lector priest, the heart to the SDIIn.
The heart is thus in the ha nd of the SCI1/U, the leg in the hand of the chief
lector priest.
They run quickly "ith them. 61 Laying the leg and the heart down before N.

&rita/Um: Take the leg, the Ere of Horus!

I have brought you the heart that was in him (i.e .. Seth).
Do not approach that god!
I ha\"e brought you the goat, its head cut off.
I have brought you I..he goose, its head cut oil.

Just what this offering rite is about is made clear in the scene that follows.
The severed , h as tily deli\'ered leg is held to lhe face of the statue so that
the still warm vital energy streaming out of it will open its mouth and eyes,
that is, e ndow it with life. There is an allusion lO Seth , in the third person
and without m e ntio n of his n ame, an allusion that acquires meaning only
from the scene with the cow and the calr:611

scene 115 '= 45

Sem-Priat and Chi4l«/1Jr J.rtWl:
Taking the leg, opening the moulh and eyes.

Illriting: 0 N .. I have come in S(:,lrch of )"ou (to e mbrace you) !

I am Hon.l.'l, and I have supplied your mouth.
I am your beloved 5011 , and I ha\'e opened your mouth for you.
How he (i.e., Sel.h, I.he animal being offered ) is slain ror his mother, ..... ho
bewails him,
how slain he is for his companion.
Ho ..... hng (the meaning or this word is unknown ) is yo ur mouth l
I have fil. )'Our mouth on your bom..'$.
o N.t I have: opened your mouth ror you "ith th e leg/ Eye of Horus!


G righted malenal

The offering of a heart and leg is also mentioned in mortuary spells of

the New Kingdom . It is dear that this was n Ot j ust a rite connected with
a ritual that endowed a statue with life, but that in a more general sense,
it had 10 do wilh bringing the deceased h imself to life:

A leg is c ut off for you;

a leg is cut off for yo ur A:a.
and a ~ l .tj-heart for )'our mummy."

In an oft-attested texlthat accompanied food o fferings , lhe rite that inter-

l'SlS us herc is mentioned in the fourth stanza:

An offering litany with incen$l:: will be brought 10 )'OU

at the cntrdnce to your 10mb.
A fordeg will be cut ofT for your Iw,
and a heart for )'Qur mummy.
May your btl go abo\-e
and your COrp5(: below:'"

The rite is expressly conn«ted with the Opening of the Mouth in the
fo llowing mortuary spell:

Opening of lhe Mouth and rejoicing

for yo ur 1ro in e\'ery beautiful place.
while the stm-prie$t carries out the (ritual) of Opening the Mouth
and the Great Leader of the Craftsmen exalts your ka.
Maya leg be cuI off for your ba.
tllat it may be divinc in tllC realm of the d ead.' l

The essential poilll is thai this presentation of the h eart and leg, which
is carricd oUllwice during the Opening of the Mouth rilUal. has nothing
to do with an o rdinilry food offering. This offering occu rs later: after a
series of censi ngs and libations (scenes 58-64) . the offering mcal (scenes
65-'70) serves as the crowning poilll of this last segmcnt of the funeral.
In mOSt representations. we thus sec not only the Opening of the Mouth
implcmenlli in fro nt o fthc dC(:cascd bUI also a huge pile of o fferings. This
offering is both an e nd and a beginning: it completes the procession to
the to mb, and it inauguraLCs the offering cull thaI from now o n will be
regularly carried OUl in thc LOmb.
Scene 71 i~ a censing for Re-Harakhty, an aCI Ihat agolin integrates the
ritual perfonnance into the c:ourse of the sun . The priest addresses a
litany invoking maat

ORe. lord of ,mull! 0 Re, who liw:$ on maaJ!

ORe, who rejoices o\'er maa~ 0 Re. who 10\'1:5 ",aa~

3, 6

CJPYrignted malenal

Car l")i ng by nin e $mnll.

o .f1III"W. C'.lrry him 011 ~'our arms!
R«;ilaljqn: 0 son.'! of Horus, hurry with your fath er, carry him.
He is not LO be far from )'Q u, carry hi m!
O N ., Hol'lls has placed you r children ull der you,
that th ey may C'drry you and th at you may have powe r ove r th em.
o you SOilS of Horus, Im5(:t, Ha pi,
Duamutef, Qebe hs.e nuf!
Hurl')' ,,;t1l your father!
He is no t to be far frOIll you.
O N., t,hey carry you like Sokar in m e hnllffia rque.
It (the barque) ele\'atC5 ~'O u as a god in your name Sokar.
ON., you are embrdced; )'Ou have power ove r Uppe r and Lowe r Eg)-'Pt
as this HOnJ~, wiul who m you are un itt:d.7:I

This Ke n e occ u rs in a numbe r of Middl e and New Ki ngdo m to m bs. H

Playing th e role o f th e n in e frie n ds, the SO IlS o f H orus also carry th e
corpse o f O sir is in lh e r itua l of the Osiri s ch apels a t De ndilra:

The gud is theJl carried in on Ul cir sho ulders. o n those of th e so ns of

whose name refers to nine gods.1)

Thi.~ act co n cluded t h e fu n eral ri tu al. Mte r bein g SCt up befo re Re in the
forecou rt o f the tomb, th e m umm y was again placed in ilS coffin , wh ich
WolS transfe rred fro m th e sledge to ca r ryi n g poles. A gro up of partici pants
lifted it onto t h eir sh o u ld e rs and carrie d it from th e fOI'C(:o u rt to t h e sar-
co phagus chamber. In a re p r esentation in the Middle Ki n gd o m LOm b of
Illyotefoqer (The ban To mb 60), this K e n e occ u rs in front of th e e ntrance
to th e tomb, wh e re the mU Il·d an ce rs g~eted th e coffin . AI th e beginn in g
o f th is ch a p te r. we cite d texIS that m e n ti o n t.h eir d an ce. In th e tomb of
Ame n em h e t (The ban To m b 82) fro m th e re ign of Tuthmosis rn , the
scen e occu rs in front of th e fa lse d oor, in th e in terior of ule tomb. 7t At
th e end , the co ffi n was bro u ght to its p roper place in th e sarcop h agus
c h ,un ber. T h e ~ frie n ds~ and - royal d e pe n dents" the n too k. the coffi n and
p laced it on a sledge. Two p r iests look IU m s dra ggi n g th e sledge, o n e to
th e south and the oUle r to th e n o nh , ullIi l it reach e d its final position.
III th e tomb o f Rekhmir e , we re ad the fo llo win g:

To be spoke n by ule Ii:lHCf\".lnt: It is I who drag it to the SC/um !

To be spoke n by th e embalme r: It is I who drag it to the north!"

III th e 10mb of Me lllu h e rkho p shef (The ban To m b 20), this scene occ u rs
in a space tha t might well re p rest:1lI th e sarcophag us c h amber. Seven


C :lPYnghted malenal

Provisioning the Dead

here were two important frameworks for the r«itation of m ortu-

T a!)' liturgies: the rites in tile embalming chamber during the night
before the funeral and the offering service in the cult place in the
tomb. The Egyptian expression for -morlua!), offering," translated liter-
ally into English, is "coming Out at the voice."l The idea ....'as that at the
sound o f the mortua!), priest's voice, the ba of the d«eascd would Mcome
out~ from the netherworld. the sky. or wherever it was conceived of as
being, and re<eive the offering. The te n n for making an offering is wIb
jb.l, literally, -to set things down."2 TIle offerings are sometimes accom-
panied by Mtransfigurations~ (s ~bw.w). '
Offerings were made to the ba of the deceased, the aspect of his person
that made it possible for him to Memerge~ from die next-worldly realm to
receive the offering. In the texts of the New Kingdom. the characteristic
fonnula is ~Ir brw njs 1/ wIb j/J.t, M(emerging) at the sound of the call of
the making of offerings" or ~at the sound of the caU of the one making
the offerings,"4 as in the fonowi ng example:

May my ba emerge, al the sound of its monmuy pri<.""SI,

to recd\"~ the offering th at has been brought to it.)


C JPYnghted malenal
ProvisWning the Dmd
We can thus see that in Egypt, a mortuary offering \\-'as first and foremost
a matter of speech and sound. The offering rite en tailed a recitation, and
it was this verbal act thaI made the difference.
In this chapter, I wish to presen t some well·attested spells that we re
recited at the making of offerings. They all have a similar structure;

1. invitations to the deceased to ready himself 10 receive offerings:

2. fonnulas for presenting the o fferin gs (~ta ke to yo urself ... ~);
3. mentio n of further actions of the deceased tha t result fro m receiving
the offering and represent the ~sacramenta l explanation- of the
offeri ng.

Sometimes, there is also

4. a ~cond uding text- in which the officiant speaks o f himself and his
activities on beh alf of the deceased.

There are hundreds of spells structured according to this scheme. The

fo llowing three spells, which I would like to presen t in some detail, h,we
been selected because of the freq ue ncy of thei r occurrences. From thei r
popularity, it can be concluded mat they are typical and representative of
this form of mortuary liturgy.

f. Pyramid 1als SJxU 37J

The first spell is [rom the Pyram id Texts. It is first attested in the
pyramid o fTeti and is then repeatedly attested down into the periods
o f Egyptian h istory. This spel1 also occurs in the con text of a mo rtuary
liturgy that we shal1 nOt treat in its entirety here. s

Raise yourself. Osiris N.!

take you r head,
gather your bones,
collect your lim bs.
shake: the: soil from )'<Iur flesh!
Take your bread. which doc'S nOI grow moldy,
and )<)ur be<:!r, wh ich dO<.'5 nOt grow sour.
You wi ll step op before the door·leaves that keep out the subjl.'(;t.s,
and Khenti·menutef wi ll go out to you
to take yoo by the hand
and lead )'Ou to the ~ky,
10 you r father Ceb.


G righted malenal

He "ill rejoil:e at your prdence

and exte nd hi$ arms to yo u.
He will kiss you and feed you
and place you at the head of the transfigured spirits, the imperishable o nes.
Those with hidden places will wors hip you.
the great ones will gather around you,
and th e guardians \">111 stand up before you.
I ha\'e ull"e$lll:d barley and reaped em mer for yo u.
Ulat I may arrange your monthly festival "ith Ulem
and arrange )'Our full moon festi V'.t1 with them,
as your fathe r Ceb has commanded to be done for you .
Raise ~'l)urself, Osio., N., )'OU have /lo t died!

The text is divided into three stanzas of 7, 5, and 7 verses, to which

the re is added a concluding text of 5 verses. T he first stanza consists
of motifs I and 2, that is, th e invitation to the deceased LO come and
receive the offering and the fonn ula for presenting the ite ms offered. The
second and third stanzas are dC'o'oted to the third motif, the sacramental
explanation of the offering, which thus takes up by far the most space in
th is spell . The last verse of the concluding text refers back to the first
verse of the spell, repeating the invitation to the dcceast.'<l to raise
himself up.
The call to MR.a.isc yo u rseIn ~ appears a hundred times and more in mor·
tUllry texIS. It refers to the common goal o f all the ritual activities aimed
at the deceased, from the embalming process to the mortuary o fferings.
It is a ~wake-up ca1l~ intended to rouse the deceased fro m his unconscious
State. Lying down and still1ding up are the clearest manifestations of death
and life. To th is wake-up call are added invitations to gather the limbs, as
though the deceased, after the carrying out of the rituals of embalming,
mummifi cation, and burial did not have this stage long beh ind him.
These rituals had been aimed at restoring his personal, that i.s, his physi-
cal and spiritual unity, and now, he had to rouse himself from h is condi-
tion of physical decline, as described in chapter I , which dealt with the
image of ~ Ikath as Dismcmbennent." In the Pyramid Texts, the mo tif of
waki ng and uniting the limbs is often connected wi th tha t of invitations
to receive offe rings, for example:

Wake. 0 N., raise yourself.

take you r head.
gather your bones.
shake otT your dust,
seat youNClf on that brazen throne of yo urs!
You are to parL"lke of an ox's leg,


G righted malenal
Provisioning Iht fkud

put a piece of meat in yo ur mouth;

panake of your ribjoin u
in the sky in the com pany of th e gods.:

Ano the r text adds the motif of th e bread tha t is 1I0t to grow moldy and
the beer tha t is n Ot to grow so u r:8

Raise you ~lf, 0 N. here,

take your water,
gathe r )"Qur bones,
get up on yo ur feel,
tr.I.nsfig\lred at the head of the tr.msligured Ollb!
Raise yourself to this bread of yO Ul-s thaI does nOt gro.... mOldy
and to )"O\Ir beer Ihal does no t g row sour.'

The fo llo wing verses begin a spell for presentin g the deceased with fo ur
jugs o f wa ter, evidemly to pur ify h im:

Stand up, rdise you rsel f, 0 my fa ther N.,

gathe r )'our bones,
ta ke your limhs,
shake the soil from your fl esh,
take tJu:se four 1It'msd'jars, filll.""({ to the brim.' o

Ano the r spell begins wi th a presentation of water and incense:

Rai'}C )'Uurself, 0 N. there,

gather you r bon ~,
heslir your mem bers,
your \\"dle r comes from Elep ha ntine,
your ince nse from the palace of the goo Y

The same formu las occur whe n mo re subs tan tial offerings afe presented ,
fOr example , meal:

Raise yourself, 0 N. there,

gather yo ur bones,
take your head ,
Ihe Ennead has commanded that )"OU be seated 0.1 )"Our j·w,. bread
and that you ("Ul ofT an ox's leg on the great ~laughle ri nK hl oc:k,
for the ribjoinu ha\'e been placed for yo u on the slaughte ring block of

This combinatio n of m o tifs, so typicdl of the Pyram id Tex ts, d oes not
occu r later in texts h aving to do wi th food offcrin g5. We mig ht see in th is


C JPYnghted malenal