Egypt Magic - Magical Ceremonies

Chapter VI

Magical Ceremonies

In the preceding pages we have seen how the Egyptians employed magical stones or amulets, and magical words, and magical pictures, and magical names, in the performance of deeds both good and evil; it remains to consider these magical ceremonies in which the skill of the magician-priest was exerted to its fullest extent, and with the highest objects, that is to say, to preserve the human body in a mummified condition, and to perform the symbolic acts which would restore its natural functions. When we think of the sublime character of the life which the souls of the blessed dead were believed to lead in heaven with the gods, it is hard to understand why the Egyptians took such pains to preserve the physical body from decay. No Egyptian who believed his Scriptures ever expected that his corruptible body would ascend into heaven and live with the gods, for they declare in no uncertain manner that it remains upon the earth whilst the soul dwells in heaven. But that the preservation of the body was in some way or for some reason absolutely necessary is certain, for the art of mummification flourished for several thousands of years, and unless there was some good reason, besides the observance of conservative custom and traditional use, why it should do so, king and priest, gentle and simple, and rich and poor, would never have burdened their relatives and heirs with the expense of costly funeral ceremonies, and with the performance of rites which were of no avail. At first sight, too, it seems strange to find the Egyptians studying carefully how best to provide the dead with a regular supply of sepulchral offerings, for when we come to think about it we notice that in arranging for the well-being of the dead nothing whatever was left to chance. For example, a papyrus will contain several prayers and pictures with appropriate formul, the object of each of which is to give the deceased meat and drink; any one of these would have been enough for the purpose, but it was thought best in such an important matter to make assurance doubly sure, and if there was the least doubt about the efficacy of one Chapter one or more of the same class were added. Similarly, the tendency of the natural body after death being to decay, the greatest care was taken in mummifying its various members, lest perchance any one of them should be neglected accidentally, and should, either by the omission of the words of power that ought to have been said over it, or through the lax performance of some ceremony, decay and perish. The Egyptian declared that he was immortal, and believed that he would enjoy eternal life in a spiritual body; yet he attempted by the performance of magical ceremonies and the recital of words of power to make his corruptible body to endure for ever. He believed that he would feed upon the celestial and imperishable food whereon the gods lived, but at the same time he spared no effort or expense to provide for his tomb being supplied at stated intervals throughout the year with perishable food in the shape of offerings of oxen, feathered fowl, cakes, bread, and the like. He mummified his dead and swathed them in linen bandages, and then by the performance of magical ceremonies and by the recital of words of power sought to give back to their members the strength to eat, and drink, and talk, and think, and move at will. Indeed, all the evidence now forthcoming seems to prove that be never succeeded in bringing himself to think that the gods could do without his help, or that the pictures or representations of the scenes which took place in the life, and death, and burial, and resurrection of Osiris, upon which he relied so implicitly, could possibly fail to be as efficacious as the actual power of the god himself.

The examination of mummies has shown us with tolerable clearness what methods were adopted in preparing bodies for bandaging and final ornamentation, and the means adopted for disposing of the more corruptible portions of the body are well known from classical and other writers. But for an account of the manner in which the body was bandaged, and a list of the unguents and other materials employed in the process, and the words of power which were spoken as each bandage was laid in its place, we must have, recourse to a very interesting papyrus which has been edited and translated by M. Maspero under the title of Le Rituel de l'Embaumement.1 The first part of the papyrus, which probably gave instructions for the evisceration of the body, is wanting, and only the section which refers to the bandaging is at all perfect. The text opens with an address to the deceased in which it is said, "The perfume of Arabia hath been brought to thee to make perfect thy smell through the scent of the god. Here are brought to thee liquids which have come forth from R, to make perfect . . . thy smell in the Hall [of Judgment]. O sweet-smelling soul of the great god, thou dost contain such a sweet odour that thy face shall neither change nor perish. . . . Thy members shall become young in Arabia, and thy soul shall appear over thy body in Ta-neter (i.e., the 'divine land')." After this the priest or mummifier was to take a vase of liquid which contained ten perfumes, and to smear therewith the body from head to foot twice, taking especial care to anoint the head thoroughly. He was then to say, Osiris (i.e., the deceased), thou hast received the perfume which shall make thy members perfect. Thou receivest the source [of life] and thou takest the form of the great Disk (i.e., Aten), which uniteth itself unto thee to give enduring form to thy members; thou shalt unite with Osiris in the great Hall. The unguent cometh unto thee to fashion thy members and to gladden thy heart, and thou shalt appear in the form of R; it shall make thee to be sound when thou settest in the sky at eventide, and it shall spread abroad the smell of thee in the nomes of Aqert. . . . Thou receivest the oil of the cedar in Amentet, and the cedar which came forth from Osiris cometh unto thee; it delivereth thee from thy enemies, and it protecteth thee in the nomes. Thy soul alighteth upon the venerable sycamores. Thou criest to Isis, and Osiris heareth thy voice, and Anubis cometh unto thee to invoke thee. Thou receivest the oil of the country of Manu which hath come from the East, and R riseth upon thee at the gates of the horizon, at the holy doors of Neith. Thou goest therein, thy soul is in the upper heaven, and thy body is in the lower heaven . . . O Osiris, may the Eye of Horus cause that which floweth forth from it to come to thee, and to thy heart for ever!" These words having been said, the whole ceremony was repeated, and then the internal organs which had been removed from the body were placed in the "liquid of the children of Horus," so that the liquid of this god might enter into them, and whilst they were being thus treated a chapter was read over them and they were put in the funeral chest. When this was done the internal organs were placed on the body, and the body having been made to lie straight the backbone was immersed in holy oil, and the face of the deceased was turned towards the sky; the bandage of Sebek and Sedi was then laid upon the backbone. In a long speech the deceased is addressed and told that the liquid is "secret," and that it is an emanation of the gods Shu and Seb, and that the resin of Phoenicia and the bitumen of Byblos will make his burial perfect in the underworld, and give him his legs, and facilitate his movements, and sanctify his steps in the Hall of Seb. Next gold, silver, lapis-lazuli, and turquoise are brought to the deceased, and crystal to lighten his face, and carnelian to strengthen his steps; these form amulets which will secure for him a free passage in the underworld. Meanwhile the backbone is kept in oil, and the face of the deceased is turned towards the heavens; and next the gilding of the nails of the fingers and toes begins. When this has been done, and portions of the fingers have been wrapped in linen made at Sas, the following address is made to the deceased:--"O Osiris, thou receivest thy nails of gold, thy fingers of gold, and thy thumb of smu (or uasm) metal; the liquid of R entereth into thee as well as into the divine members of Osiris, and thou journeyest on thy legs to the immortal abode. Thou hast carried thy hands to the house of eternity, thou art made perfect in gold, thou dost shine brightly in smu metal, and thy fingers shine in the dwelling of Osiris, in the sanctuary of Horus himself. O Osiris, the gold of the mountains cometh to thee; it is a holy talisman of the gods in their abodes, and it lighteneth thy face in the lower heaven. Thou breathest in gold, thou appearest in smu metal, and the dwellers in Re-stau receive thee; those who are in the funeral chest rejoice because thou hast transformed thyself into a hawk of gold by means of thy amulets (or talismans) of the City of Gold," etc. When these words have been said, a priest who is made to personify Anubis comes to the deceased and performs certain symbolical ceremonies by his head, and lays certain bandages upon it. When the head and mouth and face have been well oiled the bandage of Nekheb is laid on the forehead, the bandage of Hathor on the face, the bandage of Thoth upon the two ears, and the bandage of Nebt-hetep on the nape of the neck. Over the head was laid the bandage of Sekhet, in two pieces, and over each ear, and each nostril, and each cheek was fastened a bandage or strip of linen; over the forehead went four pieces of linen, on the top of the head two, outside the mouth two, and inside two, over the chin two, and over the nape of the neck four large pieces; there were to be twenty-two pieces to the right and to the left of the face passing over the two ears. The Lady of the West is then addressed in these words:--"Grant thou that breathing may take place in the head of the deceased in the underworld, and that be may see with his eyes, and that he may hear with his two ears; and that he may breathe through his nose; and that he may be able to utter sounds with his mouth; and that he may be able to speak with his tongue in the underworld. Receive thou his voice in the Hall of Mati and his speech in the Hall of Seb in the presence of the Great God, the lord of Amentet." The addresses which follow these words have, reference to the delights and pleasures of the future life which shall be secured for him through the oil and unguents, which are duly specified and described, and through the magical figures which are drawn upon the bandages. The protecting properties of the turquoise and other precious stones are alluded to, and after a further anointing with oil and the placing of grains of myrrh and resin, the deceased is declared to have "received his head," and he is promised that it shall nevermore depart from him. On the conclusion of the. ceremonies which concern the head the deceased has the power to go in among the holy and perfect spirits, his name is exalted among men, the denizens of heaven receive his soul, the beings of the underworld bow down before his body, the dwellers upon earth adore him, and the inhabitants of the funeral mountain renew for him his youth. Besides these things, Anubis and Horus make perfect his bandages, and the god Thoth protects his members by his words of magical power; and he himself has learned the magical formul which are necessary to make his path straight in the underworld, and also the proper way in which to utter them. All these benefits were secured for him by the use of bandages and unguents which possess both magical names and properties, and by the words of power uttered by the priests who recited the Ritual of Embalmment, and by the ceremonies which the priest who personated Anubis performed beside the body of the deceased in imitation of those which the god Anubis performed for the dead god Osiris in remote days.

Next the left hand of the deceased was mummified and bandaged according to the instructions given in the Ritual of Embalmment. The hand was stretched out on a piece of linen, and a ring was passed over the fingers; it was then filled with thirty-six of the substances which were used in embalming, according to the number of the forms of the god Osiris. This done, the hand was bandaged with a strip of linen in six folds, upon which were drawn figures of Isis and Hpi. The right hand was treated in a similar way, only the figures drawn upon the bandages were those of R and Amsu; and when the appropriate words had been recited over both hands divine protection was assured them. After these things the ceremonies concerning the right and left arms were performed, and these were followed by rubbing the soles of the feet and the legs and the thighs, first with black-stone oil, and secondly with holy oil. The toes were wrapped in linen, and a piece of linen was laid on each leg; on each piece was drawn the figure of a jackal, that on the right leg representing Anubis, and that on the left Horus. When flowers of the nkham plant and other substances had been laid beside and on the legs, and they had been treated with ebony-gum water and holy oil, and appropriate addresses had been said, the ceremony of bandaging the body was ended. Everything that could be done to preserve the body was now done, and every member of it was, by means of the words of power which changed perishable substances into imperishable, protected to all eternity; when the final covering of purple or white linen had been fastened upon it, the body was ready for the tomb.

But the Ritual of Embalmment which has been briefly described above seems to belong to a late period of Egyptian history, and although the ideas and beliefs contained in it are as old as Egyptian civilization itself, it seems as if it was intended to take the place of a much older and more elaborate work which was in use as far back as the period in which the Great Pyramid was built, and which was intended to be recited during the performance of a complex series of ceremonies, some of which are still not completely understood. It seems as if the performance of all the ceremonies would require several days, and it is clear that only the wealthy could afford the expense which must have attended such elaborate obsequies; for the poorer classes of men the various ceremonies must have been greatly curtailed, and at a very early period we find that a shortened form of ritual had taken their place. Of all the ceremonies, the most important was that of the "Opening of the Mouth and Eyes," which was performed either on the mummy itself or upon a statue which represented it. It has already been stated that the Egyptians believed that they could transmit to a statue the attributes of the person in whose image it was made, and similarly that that which was done to the statue of the mummified person was also done to it. The use of a statue instead of the actual mummy has obvious advantages, for the ceremony could be performed at any time and in any place, and the presence of the mummy was unnecessary. As a matter of fact the ceremony was performed in a chamber at the entrance to the tomb, or outside the tomb at a place which had been made ceremonially pure or consecrated, and those who took part in it were:--(1) The Kher-heb, or chief officiating priest, who held a roll of papyrus in his hand. (2) The Sem priest. (3) The Smer, who was, perhaps, some intimate friend of the deceased. (4) The Sa-mer-ef,1 or man who was either the son of the deceased or his representative. (5) The Tcherau-ur, or woman who represented Isis. (6) The Tcherau-sheraut, or woman who represented Nephthys. (7) The Menhu, or slaughterer. (8) The Am-asi priest. (9) The Am-khent priest. (10) A number of people who represented the armed guard of Horus. All these became actors in scenes which were intended to represent the events which took place in connexion with the burial of Osiris, with whom the deceased is now identified; the two women took the parts of the goddesses Isis and Nephthys, and the men those of the gods who helped them in the performance of their pious duties. From the scenes2 which accompany the texts3 relating to the ceremony of opening the mouth and eyes we see that it began with the sprinkling of water round about the statue or mummy from four vessels, one for each quarter of the earth, and with the recital of addresses to the gods Horus, Set, Thoth, and Sept; this act restored to the deceased the use of his head. The sprinkling of water was followed by a purification by means of incense, also contained in four vases, one for each of the four quarters of the earth. The burning of this sweet-smelling substance assisted in opening the mouth of the deceased and in strengthening his heart. At this stage the Sem priest dressed himself in the skin of a cow, and lying down upon a kind of couch pretended to be asleep; but he was roused up by the Am-asi priest in the presence of the Kher-heb and the Am-khent priest, and when the Sem priest had seated himself upon a seat, the four men together represented the four children of Horus,1 or the gods with the heads of a hawk, an ape, a jackal, and a man respectively. The Sem priest then said, "I have seen my father in all his forms," which the other men in turn repeat. The meaning of this portion of the ceremony is hard to explain, but M. Maspero2 thinks that it was intended to bring back to the body of the deceased its shadow (khaibit), which had departed from it when it died. The preliminary purifications being ended, and the shadow having been joined to the body once more, the statue or mummy is approached by the men who represent the armed guard of Horus; and one of their number, having taken upon himself the character of Horus, the son of Osiris and Isis, touches its mouth with his finger. The Kher-heb next made ready to perform the sacrifice which was intended to commemorate the slaughter, at some very early period, of the fiends who were the friends of Set. It seems that, the soul of Horus dwelt in an eye, and that Set nearly succeeded in devouring it; but Horus vanquished Set and saved his eye. Set's associates then changed themselves into the forms of animals, and birds, and fish, but they were caught, and their heads were cut off; Set, however, who was concealed in the form of a pig, contrived to escape. The sacrifice consisted of a bull (or cow) or two, two gazelles or antelopes, and ducks. When the bull had been slain, one of the forelegs was cut off, and the heart taken out, and offered to the statue or mummy; the Sem priest then took the bleeding leg and touched, or pretended to touch, the mouth and eyes with it four times. The slaughtered gazelles or antelopes and ducks were simply offered before the statue. The Sem priest next said to the statue, "I have come to embrace thee, I am thy son Horus, I have pressed thy mouth; I am thy son, I love thee. . . . Thy mouth was closed, but I have set in order for thee thy mouth and

thy teeth." He then brought two instruments, called "Seb-ur" and "Tuntet" respectively, and touched the mouth of the statue or mummy with them, whilst the Kher-heb said, "Thy mouth was closed, but I have set in order for thee thy mouth and thy teeth. I open for thee thy mouth, I open for thee thy two eyes. I have opened for thee thy mouth with the instrument of Anubis. I have opened thy mouth with the instrument of Anubis, with the iron implement with which the mouths of the gods were opened. Horus, open the mouth! Horus, open the mouth! Horus hath opened the mouth of the dead, as he in times of old opened the mouth of Osiris, with the iron which came forth from Set, with the iron instrument with which he opened the mouths of the gods. He hath opened thy mouth with it. The deceased shall walk and shall speak, and his body shall be with the great company of the gods in the Great House of the Aged One in Annu, and he shall receive there the ureret crown from Horus, the lord of mankind." Thus the mouth and the eyes of the deceased are opened. The Sem priest then took in his hand the instrument called ur hekau, i.e., the "mighty one of enchantments," a curious, sinuous piece of wood, one end of which is in the form of a ram's head surmounted by a uraeus, and touched the mouth and the, eyes of the statue or mummy four times, whilst the Kher-heb recited a long address in which he declared that this portion of the ceremony had secured for the deceased all the benefits which accrued to the god Osiris from the actions of Nut, Horus, and Set, when he was in a similar state. It has been said above that every dead man hoped to be provided with the hekau, or words of power, which were necessary for him in the next world, but without a mouth it was impossible for him to utter them. Now that the mouth, or rather the use of it, was restored to the deceased, it was all important to give him not only the words of power, but also the ability to utter them correctly and in such wise that the gods and other beings would hearken to them and obey them; four touches of the ur hekau instrument on the lips endowed the deceased with the faculty of uttering the proper words in the proper manner in each of the four quarters of the world. When this had been done, several other ceremonies were performed with the object of allowing the "son who loveth him" or his representative to take part in the opening of the mouth of his father. In order to do this he took in his hand a metal chisel and touched the openings of the mouth and of the eyes, and then the Sem priest touched them first with his little finger, and afterwards with a little bag filled with pieces of red stone or carnelian, with the idea, M. Maspero thinks, of restoring to the lips and eyelids the colour which they had lost during the process of mummification. The "son who loves him" then took four objects called "iron of the South, and iron of the North," and laid each of them four times upon the mouth and the eyes while the Kher-heb recited the proper address in which the mummy or statue is said to have had his mouth and lips established firmly. This done, the Sem priest brings an instrument called the "Pesh-en-kef,"

and touches the mouth of the mummy or statue therewith, and says, "O Osiris, I have stablished for thee the two jaw-bones in thy face, and they are now separated"; that is to say, the bandages with which they have been tied up can no longer prevent their movement when the deceased wishes to eat. After the Pesh-en-kef had been used the Sem priest brought forward a basket or vessel of some kind of food in the shape of balls, and by the order of the Kher-heb offered them to the mouth of the mummy, and when this portion of the ceremony was ended, the Sem priest took an ostrich feather, and waved it before its face four times, but with what object is not clear. Such are the ceremonies which it was thought necessary to perform in order to restore to the deceased the functions which his body possessed upon earth. But it must be remembered that hitherto only the "bull of the south" has been sacrificed, and that the "bull of the north" has yet to be offered up; and all the ceremonies which have been already performed must be repeated if the deceased would have the power to go forth at will over the whole earth. From the earliest times the South and the North were the two great sections into which the world was divided, and each section possessed its own special gods, all of whom had to be propitiated by the deceased; hence most religious ceremonies were ordered to be performed in duplicate. In later days each section was divided into two parts, and the four divisions thus made were apportioned to the four children of Horus; hence prayers and formul

The ceremony of "opening the mouth" being performed on the mummy of Hunefer, about B.C. 1350
(From the Papyrus of Hunefer, sheet 5)

were usually said four times, once in honour of each god, and the rubrical directions on this point are definite.

In the limited space of this book it is not possible to reproduce all the scenes of the ceremony of opening the mouth and the eyes which are depicted in the tombs and elsewhere, but on page 199 is a general view of the ceremony as it is often given in the papyri of the XVIIIth and XIXth dynasties. On the right we see the pyramidal tomb in the Theban hill with its open door, and by the side of it is the funeral stele with a rounded top inscribed with a figure of the deceased standing in adoration before Osiris, and with a prayer to the god for sepulchral offerings. Anubis, the god of the dead, embraces the mummy, thus indicating his readiness to take the deceased under his protection. Nasha, the wife of the deceased, stands weeping before the mummy, and at his feet kneels another weeping woman, probably his daughter. Anubis and the mummy stand upon a layer of sand which has been placed there with the object of sanctifying the ground. A priest clad in a panther's skin holds a censer containing burning incense in one hand, and a vase, from which he sprinkles water, in the other. One ministrant holds the two instruments "Tun-tet" and "Seb-ur" in the right hand, and the "Ur hekau" instrument in the left; and another offers four vases of unguent. In the lower register are a cow and he calf, and two men are carrying along to the mummy the haunch which we must assume to have been recently cut from the slaughtered bull, and the heart which has just been taken out of him. On a table we see lying a number of objects, the "Meskhet," and Pesh-en-kef," and other instruments, two sets of four vases for holding unguents and oil, the bags of colour, the iron of the south and north, etc. The text which runs in short vertical lines above the scene reads: "The Chapter of the opening of the mouth of the statue of Osiris, the royal scribe, Hunefer, which is to be performed [when] its face [looketh] towards the south, [and when it is set] upon the sand behind him. And the Kher-heb shall say four times unto the Sem priest as he goeth round about him bearing four vases of water: 'Thou art pure with the purification of Horus, and Horus is pure with thy purification. Thou art pure with the purification of Thoth, and Thoth is pure with thy purification. Thou art pure with the purification of Sep, and Sep is pure with thy purification. Thou art pure with the purification of Seb, and Seb is pure with thy purification. Pure. Pure.' [Say] four times. 'Incense hath been offered unto thee of the incense of Horus, and incense hath been offered unto Horus of thy incense. Incense hath been offered unto thee of the incense of Thoth, and incense hath been offered unto Thoth of thy incense. Incense hath been offered unto thee of the incense of Sep, and incense hath been offered unto Sep of thy incense. Incense hath been offered unto thee of the incense of Seb, and incense hath been offered unto Seb of thy incense.'" The above words are all the text that the scribe considered it necessary to give in the Papyrus of Hunefer, and that he curtailed the representation of the ceremony of opening the mouth and eyes as much as possible is evident.

The performance of the ceremony of opening the mouth was followed by a number of other less important ceremonies which had for their object the providing of the mummy or statue with scents, and unguents, and various articles of wearing apparel; these were not essentials, but sufficient importance was attached to them to make the performance of them almost obligatory. Among the objects presented to the deceased in these ceremonies scents and perfumed unguents play a prominent part, and this is not to be wondered at. To certain kinds of oil, magical properties have been attached from time immemorial in the East, and the important place which they occupied in the ceremonies and rituals of many nations proves that remarkable effects were expected to follow their use. The living made use of oil to soften the skin and to preserve it from the parching heat of the sun, and the dead were anointed with it during the process of mummification so that their skins might, through the magical words which were pronounced whilst it was being rubbed on them, remain soft for all time, and so that the curative properties of the oil might heal the wounds which the mummifiers had made. A glance at the medical papyri of Egypt will shew that oil appears in scores of prescriptions, and it was no less useful to the magician1 than to the physician in producing good or evil results. It seems to have been used with the idea of effecting transformations by the former, just as it was employed by the priest in the performance of certain important religious ceremonies, and a curious survival of this use is mentioned by Lucian,2 who relates that a woman transformed herself into a night-raven by its means. The woman first undressed herself, and going to a lamp threw two grains of incense into the flame and recited certain words; she then went to a large chest containing several bottles, and taking out one which, the writer thinks, contained oil, rubbed all her body with the liquid, from head to foot, beginning with the ends of the nails, and suddenly feathers and wings began to grow upon her, and a hooked, horny beak took the place of her nose. In a very short time she resembled a bird in every respect, and when she saw that she was well feathered, she flew upwards and, uttering the cry of a night-raven, disappeared through the window.1 In connexion with the recital of certain Chapters of the Book of the Dead a number of interesting ceremonies were performed, but as they only illustrate the beliefs described above they need not be mentioned here.

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185:1 In Mmoire sur quelques Papyrus du Louvre, Paris, 1875.

193:1 I.e., "the son who loveth him."

193:2 See Dmichen, Der Grabpalast des Patuamenap, Leipzig, vol. i., 1884; vol. ii., 1885; vol. iii., 1891; and Champollion, Monuments, Paris, 1845, tom. iii., plates 213-248.

193:3 See Schiaparelli, Il Libro dei Funerali degli antichi Egiziani, Turin, 1882; see also Maspero, Le Rituel du sacrifice funraire (Revue de l'Histoire des Religions, tom. xv., p. 159 ff.).

194:1 I.e., Mestha, Hpi, Tuamutef and Qebhsennuf.

194:2 Op. cit., p. 168.

204:1 See the description of the ceremony of the beetle, p. 42.

204:2 Lucius Sive Asinus, xlii., 12 (ed. Didot, p. 419). Compare also 54 (p. 466).

205:1 From the words, Xrsmati memageumnwj e?palepsasa ?non poih'seie (see Lucius sive Asinus, xlii., 54, ed. Didot, p. 466), it is clear that the person who is speaking believed that he had been transformed into an ass by means of the use of "bewitched oil."