Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Opening the mouth in Egyptian ritual

Through the reanimation of their sensory organs, the royal deceased of ancient Egypt were revived through their cultic images so that they could live eternally in the hereafter. This ritual procedure, known as the Opening of the Mouth (wpt-r), was applied to mummies, sarcophagi, and statues of the dead. In the latter two cases, the images were constructed by human craftsmen from stone and/or wood and adorned with precious materials and/or painted details. However, like its Mesopotamian counterpart, the wpt-r indicates that the divine image was also “reborn.” This notion is communicated not only by the verb used to describe the image’s creation, msiʾ, “to give birth, bear,” but by the equipment used for the opening of the mouth (the p –kf set, particularly the p –kf knife), the overall progression of events in the ritual from birth through childhood, and through a series of explicit references in the wpt-r itself to birth and newborn care. Thus, as with Mesopotamian divine statues, Egyptian images of the deceased were “born” or “reborn” through ritual means but they were also constructed from raw materials. The end product was not simply a physical representation. Rather, it was considered to be a living manifestation of the deceased that was now able to consume the sustenance necessary in the afterlife.—The "Image of God" in the Garden of Eden, page 109

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