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Dendera-Temple-Complex

Dendera Temple complex

Dendera Temple complex (Ancient Egyptian: Iunet or Tantere; the 19th-century English spelling in most sources, including Belzoni, was Tentyra) is located about 2.5 kilometres (1.6 mi) south-east of Dendera, Egypt. It is one of the best-preserved temple complexes in Egypt. The area was used as the sixth Nome of Upper Egypt, south of Abydos.

Layout and Description

The whole complex covers some 40,000 square meters and is surrounded by a hefty mud brick enclosed wall. Dendera was a site for chapels or shrines from the beginning of history of ancient Egypt. It seems that pharaoh Pepi I (ca. 2250 BC) built on this site and evidence exists of a temple in the eighteenth dynasty (ca 1500 BC). However, the earliest extant building in the compound today is the Mammisi raised by Nectanebo II – last of the native pharaohs (360–343 BC). The features in the complex include:

  • Hathor temple (the main temple)
  • Temple of the birth of Isis
  • Sacred Lake
  • Sanatorium
  • Mammisi of Nectanebo II
  • Christian Basilica
  • Roman Mammisi
  • a Bark shine
  • Gateways of Domitian and Trajan
  • the Roman Kiosk

The Temple Complex

Visitors to Luxor, who have the time, should try and visit the famous Temple of Hathor at Dendera. In a taxi, the trip takes about 1hour from Luxor. The buses, which are always accompanied by a Police convoy, that leaves at 0800 daily . The entrance fee is LE 35.

The Temple is located about 4KM from the River Nile, on its west bank, roughly opposite the city of Qena, the capital of the province and governorate of Qena (population – 2,000,000), which is inhabited by both Coptic and Muslims. This town is very famous for the manufacture of water pots, called “gula” jars in Arabic.

The Muslim Sheik, Abdel Raheeem El-Kenawi, who spent all of his life in this town and died in 1170 A.D, founded the modern city. The birthday of this saint is celebrated every year, and a great number of pilgrims come from all over Egypt for the festivities. The name of the city goes back to the time of the Pharaohs , and was taken from the ancient Egyptian word Qeny, which means, “to bend”; the River Nile has a huge (and famous) bend here.

The Temple of Hathor was built in the 1st century B.C and it is one of the best-preserved Temples in the whole of Egypt! Ptolemy VIII and Queen Cleopatra II built it, and then later, Roman Emperors continued to decorate it and honour the Goddess Hathor; the Goddess of maternity, love and music. The Greeks identified the Goddess Hathor as Aphrodite.

Temple of Hathor

The first gateway, built by Roman Emperor Domitian in 80 A.D, leads to the great hall of the Temple, which is decorated with Hathoric columns (columns with the face of Hathor on them) and is in a very good condition. The upper, front edge of the cornice is decorated with the winged sun disc, while stone screens between the columns and the scene, which represent the Roman Emperor Tiberius and other Roman rulers who present votive offerings to the Goddess of the Temple, enclose the front portion. Hathor is chiefly represented with the horns of the sacred cow protruding from her head, supporting the solar disc of the sun, and in her hands she is holding an “Ankh”, the symbol of life, and a sceptre. Sometimes she is also represented with the head of a cow.

The interior walls of the great hall have remarkable scenes that mainly depict sacrifices being made to the Goddess of the Temple. The amazing ceiling, with its astronomical representations, is very interesting! The ceiling is divided into 7 divisions, and the best remaining 3 are:

The first division on the eastern side, which depicts the Goddess Nut, the Goddess of the sky, who is bending herself towards the earth, with the sun disc shining on the Temple and the mask of Hathor.

Secondly, and next to the first, is a representation of the sun boat and star Goddess.

The sun boat and the Star Goddess

The third one is the western ceiling, which shows a perfect representation of the zodiac signs, which is one of the reasons that the Temple is so famous (the original zodiac relief is now in the Louvre museum in Paris, France). The 12 figures of the ram, the bull, the heavenly twins, the crab, the lion, the virgin, the scales, the scorpion, the archer, the goat, the watering pots and fishes with glittering tails. On the inner walls of the screen, the hawk headed God Horus, and the Ibis headed God Thoth, are pouring drops of holy water over the King. This scene is called the baptism scene, symbolising life and happiness.

The second hall has 6 columns adorned with rich capitals and granite pedestals. On both sides of this hall are small rooms that were used as storerooms, used to store the wine jars that came from the Island of Crete, and the fertile Fayoum and Kharga oases.

Next is the central chapel, which has two altars; one for the sacred boat, and the other for the sacrifices offered to the Goddess Hathor. The beautifully sculptured relief’s on the walls of the shrines represent Ptolemy VIII and other rules, whose names were left blank in the oval cartouches, dancing with offerings to the sacred boat of Hathor and her husband Horus. The representatives of the King, the high Priests and noblemen, used to gather in the great hall in preparation for the daily rituals. The ceilings are covered in stars, and black soot from the fires of the later inhabitants of the Temple.The rooms around the sanctuary were used for scientific purposes, the storing of the sacred boat, the sacred wreath, the golden image of the Goddess Hathor and musical instruments

There is a small corridor on the right, which leads to a small room that contains the crypt, highly recommended should you visit here.

The staircases, which lead to the roof of the Temple, are decorated with some beautiful symbols representing the 12 months of the year. On the eastern corner, of the roof, is the chapel of the God Osiris. The scenes on its walls represent Osiris rising from the dead and becoming the God of the underworld. It is from this chapel that the best representation of the zodiac was taken.

The most preserved, magnificent zodiac relief

The southern exterior wall relief show Cleopatra VII and her son Caesarian, son of JuliusCaesar, making offerings to Hathor and allthe other deities of Dendera. On the same wall, near the cornice, are some stone lion heads, serving as water spouts. Adjoining the Temple building to the west is the sacred lake, which was used for the priests’ ablutions. Next to the lake is a small shaft, discovered in 1917, which contained valuable treasures of Cleopatra’s era, which are now displayed in the Egyptian Museum.

Around the Temple are the remains of the mud brick wall, which surrounded the whole Temple, as well as the ruins of Coptic houses and churches, including a large number of Coptic crosses, which were chiseled into the stones. To the north lies the Mamisi, the birth house of Horus, the son of Isis and Osiris, which was erected by the Roman Emperor Trajan in 90 A.D. This little Temple is surrounded by a row of columns, with different capitals embellished with relief images of the God Bes, the chief God of childhood who drove evil spirits away from the babies. Bes is a hideous dwarf, with a big stomach and long whiskers.

Sources: Wikipedia (wikipedia.org), ask-aladdin (www.ask-aladdin.com).

 

 

osiris-isis-templewall

The Myth & Mysteries of Osiris

After the creation of the world, the first five gods were born of the union of Geb (earth) and Nut (sky) and these were Osiris, Isis, Set, Nephthys, and Horus. Osiris, as the first born, assumed rule as Lord of the Earth, with Isis as his queen and consort. He found the people of Egypt uncivilized and lawless and so gave them laws, culture, religious instruction, and agriculture. Egypt became a paradise under Osiris’ rule where everyone was equal and there was abundant food as the crops were always plentiful. Set was jealous of his brother’s success and grew resentful. Their relationship deteriorated further after Nephthys, Set’s wife, disguised herself as Isis and seduced Osiris, becoming pregnant with the god Anubis. Set had a beautiful coffin made to Osiris’ exact height and then threw a grand party where he presented this box and told the guests that whichever of them fit in it most perfectly could have it as a gift. When Osiris lay down in the coffin, Set slammed the lid on, fastened it shut, and threw it into the Nile, where it was carried away down river.

Osiris’ body traveled out to sea and eventually his coffin became lodged in a great tamarisk tree growing near Byblos in Phoenicia. The tree grew quickly around the coffin until it completely contained it. The king of Byblos, Malcander, came to the shore with his wife Astarte and admired the tree and the sweet scent which seemed to emanate from it. He ordered the tree cut down and brought to his palace as an ornamental pillar for the court, and there Osiris remained, trapped inside the coffin within the pillar, until he died.

Isis had meanwhile left Egypt in search of her husband and eventually came to Byblos, disguised as an older woman, where she sat down by the shore and cried for her missing husband. She was invited to the palace by the royal handmaidens who had come to the shore to bathe and there ingratiated herself to the king and queen so she was asked to be nursemaid for their young sons. Isis tried to make the younger boy immortal by bathing him in fire and, when Queen Astarte discovered this, she was horrified. Isis then revealed herself as the goddess and the king and queen promised her anything she wanted if she would only spare them. She requested only the pillar – which they swiftly granted to her.

Osiris as the kind and just ruler, murdered by his resentful brother, who comes back to life is the most popular and enduring image of the god.

After leaving the court, Isis cut Osiris from the tree and carried his body back to Egypt where she hid him from Set in the swampy region of the Nile Delta. She left him to go gather herbs to make a potion to return him to life, leaving her sister Nephthys to guard the body. While she was gone, Set learned of his brother’s return and went out to find his body. He managed to get Nephthys to tell him where it was, and when he found it, he hacked it into pieces and scattered it across the land and into the Nile. When Isis returned, she was horrified but quickly composed herself and went to work finding the pieces of her murdered husband. With Nephthys’ help, she recovered all of the body parts except the penis, which had been thrown into the Nile and eaten by the oxyrhyncus fish, which is why this fish was forbidden food in ancient Egypt.

Isis was able to revive Osiris and, once he was alive, she assumed the form of a kite and flew around him, drew the seed from his body into her own, and became pregnant with a son, Horus. Even though Osiris now lived, he was incomplete and could no longer rule the land of the living. He withdrew into the afterlife where he became Lord and Judge of the Dead. Isis, fearing what Set might do to her son, hid Horus among the swamps of Egypt until he was grown. At that point, Horus emerged as a mighty warrior and battled Set for control of the world. In some versions of the story, Set is killed but, in most, he is defeated and driven from the land. The chaos Set had unleashed on the world was conquered by Horus, who restored order, and then ruled with his mother.

Source: Ancient History (www.ancient.eu)

egypte-orisis-family

Osiris

Osiris is the Egyptian Lord of the Underworld and Judge of the Dead, brother-husband to Isis, and one of the most important gods of ancient Egypt. The name `Osiris’ is the Latinized form of the Egyptian Usir which is interpreted as ‘powerful’ or ‘mighty’. He is the first-born of the gods Geb (earth) and Nut (sky) shortly after the creation of the world, was murdered by his younger brother Set, and brought back to life by his sister-wife Isis. This myth, and the gods involved became central to Egyptian culture and religious life. Osiris was originally a fertility god, possibly from Syria (though this claim is contested) who became so popular he absorbed the function of earlier gods such as Andjeti and Khentiamenti, two gods of fertility and agriculture worshipped at Abydos. He is associated with the djed symbol and is often depicted with black or green skin symbolizing the fertile mud of the Nile and regeneration. He is also frequently shown as a mummy or in a partially mummified form in his role as Judge of the Dead.

Images of Osiris as a living god depict him as a handsome man in royal dress wearing the crown of Upper Egypt as a plumed headdress known as the atef and carrying the crook and flail, symbols of kingship. He is associated with the mythical Bennu bird ( an inspiration for the Greek Phoenix) who rises to life from the ashes. Osiris was known by many names but chiefly as Wennefer, “The Beautiful One” and, in his role as Judge of the Dead, Khentiamenti, “The Foremost of the Westerners”. The west was associated with death and ‘westerners’ became synonymous with those who had passed on to the afterlife.

He was also known as The Lord of Love, King of the Living, and Eternal Lord. After Isis, Osiris was the most popular and enduring of all the Egyptian gods. His worship spanned thousands of years from shortly before the Early Dynastic Period (c. 3150-2613 BCE) to the Ptolemaic Dynasty (323-30 BCE), the last dynasty to rule Egypt before the coming of Rome. It is also possible that Osiris was worshipped in some form in the Predynastic Period of Egypt (c. 6000-3150 BCE) and probably that he originated at that time.

Although he is usually seen as a just, generous, and giving god of life and abundance there are also depictions of him as “a terrifying figure who dispatches demon-messengers to drag the living into the gloomy realm of the dead” (Pinch, 178) though these are the minority. Osiris as the kind and just ruler, murdered by his resentful brother, who comes back to life is the most popular and enduring image of the god.

Small statue of Osiris

Worship of Osiris

The myth embodied some of the most important values of Egyptian culture: harmony, order, eternal life, and gratitude. Set’s resentment of Osiris, even before the affair with Nepthys, grew from a lack of gratitude and an envy for someone else’s good fortune. In Egypt, ingratitude was a kind of “gateway sin” which opened the individual up to all others. The story dramatically illustrated how even a god could fall prey to ingratitude and the consequences which could follow. Just as importantly, the myth told the story of the victory of order over chaos and the establishment of harmony in the land; a central value of Egyptian culture and religion.

A sandstone relief stele depicting in the top panel Minhotep and his son Nakhtmin making offerings to Hathor, Anubis, and Osiris. The middle panel shows Minhotep and his wife Nefertari. The bottom panel shows Nakhtmin and his wife Sekhmet. New Kingdom, Dynasty XVIII, c. 1300 BCE. (Egyptian Museum, Turin)

Osiris’ rebirth was associated with the Nile River, which was considered a symbol of his life-giving power. Osiris’ festivals were held to celebrate the beauty of the god and his transcendent power but also his death and rebirth. The festival of the Fall of the Nile commemorated his death while the Djed Pillar Festival celebrated Osiris’ resurrection.

The city of Abydos was his cult center and the necropolis there became the most sought-after burial ground as people wanted to be buried as close to the god as they could get. Those who lived too far away or did not have the resources for such a burial had a stele erected there with their name on it. Osiris was most widely worshipped as Judge of the Dead but the ‘dead’ continued to exist in another realm and death was not the end of one’s existence. The festivals, therefore, celebrated life – both on earth and afterwards – and part of these celebrations was the planting of an Osiris Garden which was a garden bed molded in the shape of the god and fertilized by the mud and water of the Nile. The grains which would later grow symbolized Osiris rising from the dead and also the promise of eternal life for the one who tended the garden. Osiris Gardens were placed in tombs where they are known as an Osiris’ Bed.

Priests of Osiris tended the temple and statue of the god at Abydos, Busiris, and Heliopolis and, as was customary with Egyptian worship, the priests alone were allowed into the inner sanctum. The people of Egypt were invited to visit the temple complex to make offerings and ask for prayers, seek medical advice and counsel, receive aid from the priests by way of material goods or financial gifts, and leave sacrifices to the god in asking for a favor or by way of thanking the god for a request granted.

Osiris, the King, & the People

Osiris was considered the first king of Egypt who established the cultural values all later kings were sworn to uphold. When Set murdered the king, the country plunged into chaos and order was only restored with the victory of Horus over Set. The kings of Egypt identified with Horus during life (they each had a personal name and a ‘Horus Name’ they took at the beginning of their reign) and with Osiris in death. As Isis was the mother of Horus, she was considered the mother of every king, the king was her son, and Osiris was both their father and their higher aspect and hope of salvation after death.

A 2nd century CE Roman marble statue of the Egyptian god Osiris. (Palazzo Altemps, Rome)

It is for this reason that Osiris is so often depicted as a mummified pharaoh; because pharaohs were mummified to resemble Osiris. The image of the great mummified god preceded the practice of preparing the royal body to look like Osiris. All the Egyptian symbols and images which made up the Pyramid Texts on the walls of tombs were meant to remind the soul of the deceased what to do next once they arrived in the afterlife. Their appearance as Osiris himself would not only remind them of the god but also would drive away dark spirits by fooling them into thinking one was the great god himself. The king’s appearance as modeled after Osiris’ extended throughout his reign; the famous flail and shepherd’s staff, synonymous with Egyptian pharaohs, were first Osiris’ symbols as the flail represented the fertility of his land while the crook symbolized the authority of his rule.

Harmony and order had been established by the son of Osiris, Horus, and the king was Horus’ living representative who provided for the needs of the people. Osiris was credited with establishing both the kingship and the natural order and law of life and so, through one’s participation in one’s community and observance of rituals, one was following Osiris’ guidelines. The people, as well as royalty, expected the protection of Osiris in life and his impartial judgment after death. Osiris was the all-merciful, the forgiving, and the just judge of the dead who oversaw one’s life on earth and in the afterlife.

The Mysteries of Osiris

Osiris’ identification with eternal life, with life from death, gave rise to his mystery cult which would travel beyond the boundaries of Egypt as the Cult of Isis. Although no one knows what rituals were involved in the mystery cult of Isis, they may have developed from Osiris’ earlier mysteries celebrated at Abydos beginning in the Twelfth Dynasty (1991-1802 BCE). These were very popular festivals which drew people from all over Egypt to participate in the ritual. Bunson notes that “the mysteries recounted the life, death, mummification, resurrection, and ascension of Osiris” (198). Dramas were staged with the major roles given to prominent members of the community and the local priests who enacted the story of the Osiris myth.

The story known as The Contention Between Horus and Set was then acted out in mock battles between The Followers of Horus and The Followers of Set where it seems anyone could participate. Once the battle had been won by the followers of Horus, the people celebrated the restoration of order and the golden statue of Osiris was brought forth from the inner sanctum of the temple and carried among the people who lavished gifts upon the image. The statue was carried through the city in a circuit and finally placed in an outdoor shrine where he could be admired by his people and also participate fully in the festivities. The emergence of the god from the darkness of his temple to participate in the joys of the living symbolized Osiris’ return to life from death.

Although this festival was primarily held at Abydos, it was also celebrated at other cult centers dedicated to Osiris throughout Egypt such as Bubastis (which was another very important cult center), Busiris, Memphis, and Thebes. Osiris, of course, was the central figure of these celebrations but, in time, the focus shifted to his wife, Isis, who had actually saved him from death and returned him to life. Osiris was intimately tied to the Nile River and the Nile River Valley of Egypt but Isis eventually became detached from any given locality and was considered the Queen of Heaven and the creator of the universe. All other Egyptian gods were finally seen as aspects of the mighty Isis and in this form, her cult traveled to Greece, to Phoenicia, to Rome and throughout the Roman Empire.

The Cult of Isis was so popular in the Roman world that it outlasted every other pagan belief system once Christianity took hold of the popular imagination. The most profound aspects of Christianity, in fact, can be traced back to the worship of Osiris and the Cult of Isis which grew from his story. In ancient Egypt, as in the modern day, people needed to believe that there was a purpose to their lives, that death was not the end, and that some kind of supernatural being cared for them and would protect them. The worship of the great god Osiris provided for that need just as people’s religious beliefs do today.

Source: Ancient History (www.ancient.eu), feature image: wikipedia.

temple_of_seti_i

Temple of Seti I

The temple that the Greeks called the Memnonium in Abydos, actually dedicated to Seti I, Osiris and Isis along with Ptah, Ptah-Sokar, Nefertem, Re-Horakhty, Amun, and Horus, is one of the major archaeological sites in that region. It was begun by Seti I and finished by his son, the great Ramesses II. In fact, this structure built of fine white limestone is actually one of the most impressive religious structures in Egypt.

The present facade of the Temple was once the backdrop to the second of the two courtyards, the first of which, along with its entrance pylon, have long since fallen into ruin.

The temple, in the shape of an L, once had a landing quay, a ramp, a front terrace, two pylons, though the outer one is mostly lost, with two courts and pillared porticoes, followed by two hypostyle halls and seven chapels, with additional chambers to the south making up the short leg of the L. Storage chambers fill the area from the southern wing to the front of the temple. The main body of the temple was symmetrical back to the seven chapels. While the L shaped floor plan of this temple is unusual, analysis seems to show that the southern wing was no afterthought, but the result of a well thought out alternative to the usual axial temple plan.

Ground Plan of the Main Seti I Temple (L Shaped)

One approaches the temple through its outer courts, now ruined but with the huge tanks for the absolution of the temple’s priest still visible. This was the first temple we know of in Egypt that incorporated these structures. Along the way there are also row upon row of mud brick storage annexes grouped around a stone entrance hall.The access to the temple proper is up a long flight of 42 shallow stairs

The outer pylons and courts, as well as the first hypostyle hall which is relatively shallow and has two rows of twelve columns with lotus bud capitals, were hastily completed and decorated by Ramesses II. In fact, an image of him worshipping his father, along with Osiris and Isis is incorporated into the initial decorations. Most of the decorations completed by Ramesses II are inferior to those done during his father’s reign, but some are interesting and noteworthy, including the depiction of him as a young boy roping a bull with his father (elsewhere in the temple). Here, we also find a number of military scenes (second courtyard). Within the first hypostyle hall, it is interesting that Ramesses II placed decorations over those of his father. Within the portico that leads to the hypostyle halls, there was once seven doors that gave way to seven processional paths through the towering clustered columns to seven chapels at the rear of the temple.

Even though Seti’s place in history was overshadowed by his son, Ramesses II , arguably one of the greatest pharaohs in Egyptian history. Yet, Seti was an important character in his own right, as he was one of the pharaohs who had to bring order back to Egypt and re-establish Egyptian sovereignty over its eastern neighbours (Syria and the Levant) following the social disruption caused of Akhenaten’s religious reforms . Seti was also responsible for commissioning the construction of a grand temple in Abydos.

rving of Seti I in the Temple of Seti, Abydos (Image: Wikipedia)

Abydos has a special place in the sacred landscape of ancient Egypt, as it was believed to be the place where Osiris was buried. Thus, Abydos was an important cult centre for Osiris. A number of temples dedicated to Osiris, all of which were located in one area, were built prior to the reign of Seti. The Temple of Seti, however, was built on new ground to the south of the said temples.

Seti’s temple was built mainly of limestone, though parts of it were built in sandstone. Although work began under Seti, the temple was only completed during the reign of his son, Ramesses II. This is visible in some of the temple’s reliefs depicting Ramesses slaying Asiatics and worshipping Osiris. Like the temples of his predecessors, Seti’s temple was dedicated to Osiris, and consisted of a pylon, two open courts, two hypostyle halls, seven shrines, each to an important Egyptian deity (Horus, Isis, Osiris, Amun-Ra, Ra-Horakhty and Ptah) and one to Seti himself, a chapel dedicated to the different forms of the god Osiris, and several chambers to the south. In addition to the main temple, there was also an Osireion at the back of it. Various additions to the temple were made by later pharaohs, including those from the Late, Ptolemaic and Roman periods.

The Temple of Seti played an important role in his family’s claim as a legitimate royal household. Prior to the ascension to the throne by Seti’s father, Ramesses I, Seti’s ancestors were merely warriors, generals at most. Without royal blood in his veins, Seti had to consolidate his position, and one of the ways to do so was to build temples. As Akhenaten’s religious reforms did away will the old gods, Seti’s dedication of his temple to Osiris and other important Egyptian deities symbolised a return to the traditional way of life, thus allowing himself to be seen as a restorer of order.

Seti I offering a menat up to a deity and receiving the djed and ankh in return. (Credit: Kyera Giannini / flickr)

In addition to the worship of Egypt’s traditional gods, Seti’s temple had another feature that made his rule legitimate. This was the Abydos King List, which was found carved on a wall of the temple. The Abydos King List contains the names of 76 kings of ancient Egypt, predecessors whom Seti acknowledged to be legitimate pharaohs. On the other hand, earlier rulers who were considered illegitimate, such as Hatshepsut and Akhenaten were conveniently omitted from the List. The Abydos King List was arranged in three rows, each containing 38 cartouches. Whilst the first two rows consisted of the names of his predecessors, the third row is just a repetition of Seti’s throne name and praenomen.

Apart from being an important legitimising tool for Seti’s dynasty, the Abydos King List was also an incredibly important document for our understanding of the kings of ancient Egypt, especially those from the Old Kingdom and the First Intermediate Period. Although the List provides the order of the Old Kingdom rulers, it is far more valuable for the fact that it is the only known source for the names of many of the kings from the first two dynasties of the First Intermediate Period (Dynasties 7 and 8).

The Temple of Seti at Abydos was a strategic building project on the part of Seti I in order to bolster his family’s claim to the Egyptian throne. This desire for legitimacy has also indirectly benefitted us today, as Seti left behind a list of kings that helped patched some holes in the history of Egyptian kingship, as well as a spectacular monument that continues to be visited by thousands of people every year.

Sources: Tour Egypt (touregypt.net), Ancient Origins. (ancient-origins.net).

mummification-process

History and Secrets of Egyptian Mummification

Egyptian embalmers were so skilled that people mummified four thousand years ago still have skin, hair and recognizable features such as scars and tattoos.

The practice of mummifying the dead began in ancient Egypt c. 3500 BCE. The English word mummy comes from the Latin mumia which is derived from the Persian mum meaning ‘wax’ and refers to an embalmed corpse which was wax-like. The idea of mummifying the dead may have been suggested by how well corpses were preserved in the arid sands of the country.

The word mummy comes from the Arabic mummiya, meaning bitumen or coal and every Egyptian, except the most abject criminal, was entitled to be embalmed and receive a decent burial.

Early graves of the Badarian Period (c. 5000 BCE) contained food offerings and some grave goods, suggesting a belief in an afterlife, but the corpses were not mummified. These graves were shallow rectangles or ovals into which a corpse was placed on its left side, often in a fetal position. They were considered the final resting place for the deceased and were often, as in Mesopotamia, located in or close by a family’s home.

Graves evolved throughout the following eras until, by the time of the Early Dynastic Period in Egypt (c. 3150 – c. 2613 BCE), the mastaba tomb had replaced the simple grave, and cemeteries became common. Mastabas were seen not as a final resting place but as an eternal home for the body. The tomb was now considered a place of transformation in which the soul would leave the body to go on to the afterlife. It was thought, however, that the body had to remain intact in order for the soul to continue its journey.

Once freed from the body, the soul would need to orient itself by what was familiar. For this reason, tombs were painted with stories and spells from The Book of the Dead, to remind the soul of what was happening and what to expect, as well as with inscriptions known as The Pyramid Texts and Coffin Texts which would recount events from the dead person’s life. Death was not the end of life to the Egyptians but simply a transition from one state to another. To this end, the body had to be carefully prepared in order to be recognizable to the soul upon its awakening in the tomb and also later.

The Osiris Myth & Mummification

By the time of the Old Kingdom of Egypt (c. 2613-2181 BCE), mummification had become standard practice in handling the deceased and mortuary rituals grew up around death, dying, and mummification. These rituals and their symbols were largely derived from the cult of Osiris who had already become a popular god. Osiris and his sister-wife Isis were the mythical first rulers of Egypt, given the land shortly after the creation of the world. They ruled over a kingdom of peace and tranquility, teaching the people the arts of agriculture, civilization, and granting men and women equal rights to live together in balance and harmony.

Stela of Neskhons Queen of Pinezem II

Osiris’ brother, Set, grew jealous of his brother’s power and success, however, and so murdered him; first by sealing him in a coffin and sending him down the Nile River and then by hacking his body into pieces and scattering them across Egypt. Isis retrieved Osiris’ parts, reassembled him, and then with the help of her sister Nephthys, brought him back to life. Osiris was incomplete, however – he was missing his penis which had been eaten by a fish – and so could no longer rule on earth. He descended to the underworld where he became Lord of the Dead. Prior to his departure, though, Isis had mated with him in the form of a kite and bore him a son, Horus, who would grow up to avenge his father, reclaim the kingdom, and again establish order and balance in the land.

This myth became so incredibly popular that it infused the culture and assimilated earlier gods and myths to create a central belief in a life after death and the possibility of resurrection of the dead. Osiris was often depicted as a mummified ruler and regularly represented with green or black skin symbolizing both death and resurrection. Egyptologist Margaret Bunson writes:

The cult of Osiris began to exert influence on the mortuary rituals and the ideals of contemplating death as a “gateway into eternity”. This deity, having assumed the cultic powers and rituals of other gods of the necropolis, or cemetery sites, offered human beings salvation, resurrection, and eternal bliss.

Eternal life was only possible, though, if one’s body remained intact. A person’s name, their identity, represented their immortal soul, and this identity was linked to one’s physical form.

The Parts of the Soul

The soul was thought to consist of nine separate parts:

  1. The Khat was the physical body.
  2. The Ka one’s double-form (astral self).
  3. The Ba was a human-headed bird aspect which could speed between earth and the heavens (specifically between the afterlife and one’s body
  4. The Shuyet was the shadow self.
  5. The Akh was the immortal, transformed self after death.
  6. The Sahu was an aspect of the Akh.
  7. The Sechem was another aspect of the Akh.
  8. The Ab was the heart, the source of good and evil, holder of one’s character.
  9. The Ren was one’s secret name.

The Khat needed to exist in order for the Ka and Ba to recognize itself and be able to function properly. Once released from the body, these different aspects would be confused and would at first need to center themselves by some familiar form.

BURIAL PRACTICE & MORTUARY RITUALS IN ANCIENT EGYPT WERE TAKEN SO SERIOUSLY BECAUSE OF THE BELIEF THAT DEATH WAS NOT THE END OF LIFE.

The Mummification Process

When a person died, they were brought to the embalmers who offered three types of service. It would seem, however, that people still chose the level of service they could most easily afford. Once chosen, that level determined the kind of coffin one would be buried in, the funerary rites available, and the treatment of the body. Egyptologist Salima Ikram, professor of Egyptology at the American University at Cairo, has studied mummification in depth and provides the following:

The key ingredient in the mummification was natron, or netjry, divine salt. It is a mixture of sodium bicarbonate, sodium carbonate, sodium sulphate and sodium chloride that occurs naturally in Egypt, most commonly in the Wadi Natrun some sixty four kilometres northwest of Cairo. It has desiccating and defatting properties and was the preferred desiccant, although common salt was also used in more economical burials.

According to Herodotus, who lived in the fifth century BC, described the different methods:

In the most expensive type of burial service, the body was laid out on a table and washed. The embalmers would then begin their work at the head:

  1. Draw out the brain through the nostrils
  2. Take out the whole contents of the belly, and clean the interior with palm-wine and spices.
  3. Fill the belly with pure myrrh, cassia and other spices and sew it together again.
  4. Cover up in natron for seventy days.
  5. Wash the corpse and roll it up in fine linen.

In the second-most expensive burial, less care was given to the body:

  1. Fill the belly with oil of cedar-wood using a syringe by the breech, which is plugged to stop the drench from returning back; it dissolves the bowels and interior organs.
  2. After the appointed number of days with the natron treatment the cedar oil is let out and the corpse is left as skin and the bones.
  3. Returned the corpse the family.

The third and cheapest (For the Poor) method of embalming was “simply to wash out the intestines and keep the body for seventy days in natron”. The internal organs were removed in order to help preserve the corpse, but because it was believed the deceased would still need them, the viscera were placed in canopic jars to be sealed in the tomb. Only the heart was left inside the body as it was thought to contain the Ab aspect of the soul.

  1. Cleanse out the belly with a purge.
  2. Keep the body for seventy days of natron treatment.
  3. Return the corpse to the family.

Canopic Jars

Except for the heart, which was needed by the deceased in the Hall of Judgment, the embalmers removed all of the internal organs from the body. These were placed into four vases, called Canopic Jars. The lids formed the shape of the Four Sons of Horus. The liver was associated with Imset who was depicted with a human head. The lungs were associated with Hapi who was depicted with a baboon’s head. The stomach was associated with Duamutef with the head of a jackal. The intestines and viscera of the lower body was associated with the falcon headed Kebechsenef.

Canopic Jars

Embalmer’s Methods

The embalmers removed the organs from the abdomen through a long incision cut into the left side. In removing the brain, as Ikram notes, they would insert a hooked surgical tool up through the dead person’s nose and pull the brain out in pieces but there is also evidence of embalmers breaking the nose to enlarge the space to get the brain out more easily. Breaking the nose was not the preferred method, though, because it could disfigure the face of the deceased and the primary goal of mummification was to keep the body intact and preserved as life-like as possible. This process was followed with animals as well as humans. Egyptians regularly mummified their pet cats, dogs, gazelles, fish, birds, baboons, and also the Apis bull, considered an incarnation of the divine.

The removal of the organs and brain was all about drying out the body. The only organ they left in place, in most eras, was the heart because that was thought to be the seat of the person’s identity and character. Blood was drained and organs removed to prevent decay, the body was again washed, and the dressing (linen wrapping) applied.

Although the above processes are the standard observed throughout most of Egypt’s history, there were deviations in some eras.

Funeral Rites & Burial

Once the organs had been removed and the body washed, the corpse was wrapped in linen – either by the embalmers, if one had chosen the most expensive service (who would also include magical amulets and charms for protection in the wrapping), or by the family – and placed in a sarcophagus or simple coffin. The wrapping was known as the ‘linen of yesterday’ because, initially, poor people would give their old clothing to the embalmers to wrap the corpse in. This practice eventually led to any linen cloth used in embalming known by the same name.

Mummy Case

The funeral was a public affair at which, if one could afford them, women were hired as professional mourners. These women were known as the ‘Kites of Nephthys’ and would encourage people to express their grief through their own cries and lamentation. They would reference the brevity of life and how suddenly death came but also gave assurance of the eternal aspect of the soul and the confidence that the deceased would pass through the trial of the weighing of the heart in the afterlife by Osiris to pass on to paradise in the Field of Reeds.

Shabti box

Grave goods, however rich or modest, would be placed in the tomb or grave. These would include shabti dolls who, in the afterlife, could be woken to life through a spell and assume the dead person’s tasks. Since the afterlife was considered an eternal and perfect version of life on earth, it was thought there was work there just as in one’s mortal life. The shabti would perform these tasks so the soul could relax and enjoy itself. Shabti dolls are important indicators to modern archaeologists on the wealth and status of the individual buried in a certain tomb; the more shabti dolls, the greater the wealth.

Besides the shabti, the person would be buried with items thought necessary in the afterlife: combs, jewelry, beer, bread, clothing, one’s weapons, a favorite object, even one’s pets. All of these would appear to the soul in the afterlife and they would be able to make use of them. Before the tomb was sealed, a ritual was enacted which was considered vital to the continuation of the soul’s journey: the Opening of the Mouth Ceremony. In this rite, a priest would invoke Isis and Nephthys (who had brought Osiris back to life) as he touched the mummy with different objects (adzes, chisels, knives) at various spots while anointing the body. In doing so, he restored the use of ears, eyes, mouth, and nose to the deceased.

The son and heir of the departed would often take the priest’s role, thus further linking the rite with the story of Horus and his father Osiris. The deceased would now be able to hear, see, and speak and was ready to continue the journey. The mummy would be enclosed in the sarcophagus or coffin, which would be buried in a grave or laid to rest in a tomb along with the grave goods, and the funeral would conclude. The living would then go back to their business, and the dead were then believed to go on to eternal life.

Sources: ancient.eudiscoveringegypt.com

horus-temple

Horus

Horus is one of the oldest and most significant deities in ancient Egyptian religion, who was worshipped from at least the late Predynastic period through to Greco-Roman times. Different forms of Horus are recorded in history and these are treated as distinct gods by Egyptologists. These various forms may possibly be different perceptions of the same multi-layered deity in which certain attributes or syncretic relationships are emphasized, not necessarily in opposition but complementary to one another, consistent with how the Ancient Egyptians viewed the multiple facets of reality. He was most often depicted as a falcon, most likely a lanner or peregrine, or as a man with a falcon head.

The name Horus is Greek. In Ancient Egypt he was known as “Heru” (sometimes Hor or Har), which is translated as “the distant one” or “the one on high”(from the preposition “hr” meaning “upon” or “above”). He was considered to be a celestial falcon, and so his name could be a specific reference to the flight of the falcon, but could also be seen as a more general solar reference. It is thought that the worship of Horus was brought into Egypt during the predynastic period.

He seems to have begun as a god of war and a sky god who was married to Hathor, but soon became considered as the opponent of Set, the son of Ra, and later the son of Osiris. However, the situation is confused by the fact that there were many Hawk gods in ancient Egypt and a number of them shared the name Horus (or more specifically Har, Heru or Hor). Furthermore, the gods Ra, Montu and Sokar could all take the form of a falcon. Each “Horus” had his own cult center and mythology, but over time they merged and were absorbed by the most popular Horus, Horus Behedet (Horus of Edfu).

He was the protector and patron of the pharaoh. As Horus was associated with Upper Egypt (as Heru-ur in Nekhen) and Lower Egypt (as Horus Behedet or Horus of Edfu) he was the perfect choice for a unified country and it seems that he was considered to be the royal god even before unification took place. The Pharaoh was often considered to be the embodiment of Horus while alive (and Osiris once he was deceased). The Turin Canon describes the Predynastic rulers of Egypt as “the Followers of Horus”, and the majority of Pharaohs had an image of Horus at the top of their serekh (a stylised palace facade in which one of the king´s name was written).

However, Sekhemhib (Seth Peribsen) chose to place Horus´ opposite and enemy Set on his serekh while Khasekhemwy placed both Set and Horus above his serekh. As a result, some scholars argue that the mythical battle between Horus and Set was once a real battle between the followers of Set and the followers of Horus. If this was the case, it would seem that the followers of Horus won as Horus remained a popular emblem of kingship while Set was gradually transformed into a symbol of evil. The Pharaoh also had a name (known as the “Golden Horus” name) which was preceded by an image of a sacred hawk on the symbol for gold which specifically linked the Pharaoh to the god. However, it is interesting to note that Set was also known as he of Nubt (gold town), so the symbol for gold could, in fact, relate to him.

Horus and Set were always placed in opposition to each other. However, the exact nature of their relationship changed somewhat over time. Set was the embodiment of disorder and chaos while Horus was the embodiment of order. Similarly, Horus represented the daytime sky while Set represented the nighttime sky. However, in early times the two were also seen as existing in a state of balance in which Horus and Set represented Upper and Lower Egypt respectively. They were often depicted together to indicate the union of Upper and Lower Egypt and there is even a composite deity named Horus-Set, who was depicted as a man with two heads (one of the hawk of Horus, the other of the Set animal).

At this stage, Horus was often considered to be Set´s brother and equal and the fight between them was thought to be eternal. However, the rise in importance of the Ennead resulted in Horus being cast as the son of Osiris and thus the nephew of Set. This changed the nature of the conflict between them, as it was now possible for Set to be defeated and for Horus to claim the throne of Egypt as his own.

The “Eye of Horus” was a powerful protective amulet and when it was broken into pieces (in reference to the time Set ripped out Horus’ eye), the pieces were used to represent the six senses (including thought) and a series of fractions.

Horus was also the patron of young men and was often described as the perfect example of the dutiful son who grows up to become a just man. However, this is perhaps debatable in the light of one of the stories concerning his fight with Set. The mother of Horus (Isis) was a great magician who most certainly had the power to destroy Set. However, when her chance came she could not take it. Set was, after all, her brother. This angered Horus so much that he chopped off his mother’s head in a fit of rage! Thankfully, Isis was more than able to handle this insult and immediately caused a cow’s head to grow from her neck to replace her head. Luckily for Horus, Isis was a compassionate and sympathetic goddess and she forgave her vengeful son his aggressive act.

The Egyptian God Horus was usually depicted as a falcon or a falcon-headed man. He often wore the Double Crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. In anthropomorphic form Horus appears as both an adult man and a child, wearing the sidelock of youth (as the son of Isis). There are also numerous depictions of a Horus the child hunting crocodiles and serpents and amulets are known as “cippi” were inscribed with his image to ward off dangerous animals.

Sky god

Since Horus was said to be the sky, he was considered to also contain the sun and moon. It became said that the sun was his right eye and the moon his left, and that they traversed the sky when he, a falcon, flew across it. Later, the reason that the moon was not as bright as the sun was explained by a tale, known as the contestants of Horus and Set, originating as a metaphor for the conquest of Upper Egypt by Lower Egypt in about 3000 BC. In this tale, it was said that Set, the patron of Upper Egypt, and Horus, the patron of Lower Egypt, had battled for Egypt brutally, with neither side victorious, until eventually, the gods sided with Horus.

As Horus was the ultimate victor he became known as Harsiesis, Heru-ur or Har-Wer (ḥr.w wr ‘Horus the Great’), but more usually translated as Horus the Elder. In the struggle Set had lost a testicle, explaining why the desert, which Set represented, is infertile. Horus” left eye had also been gouged out, which explained why the moon, which it represented, was so weak compared to the sun.
Horus was occasionally shown in art as a naked boy with a finger in his mouth sitting on a lotus with his mother. In the form of a youth, Horus was referred to as Neferhor. This is also spelled Nefer Hor, Nephros or Nopheros (nfr ḥr.w) meaning ‘The Good Horus’.

The Eye of Horus is an ancient Egyptian symbol of protection and royal power from deities, in this case from Horus or Ra. The symbol is seen on images of Horus” mother, Isis, and on other deities associated with her.

God of war and hunting

Horus was also said to be a god of war and hunting. The Horus falcon is shown upon a standard on the predynastic Hunters Palette in the “lion hunt”. Thus he became a symbol of majesty and power as well as the model of the pharaohs. The Pharaohs were said to be Horus in human form. Furthermore, Nemty, another war god, was later identified as Horus.