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Thus, wine is depicted being offered, often by statuettes of the king on the palanquin, or within the shrine; incense is burnt; libations are poured; bouquets and piles of offerings are presented. These are among the most common ritual acts depicted on temple walls and called for in temple liturgies. Priests practiced these rites daily. They also practiced them in processions on a regular basis. Thus, there were only a few special episodes, such as cutting the grain, which were not acts performed at least several times a month by the performers. This repetition stabilized the festival celebration and incorporated the powerful–and potentially dangerous–elements of the festival into the predictable fabric of everyday life.

Ancient Egyptian Temple Ritual, Katherine Eaton

I think this may be one of the hardest things to really get under the skin about Egyptian stuff, this idea that breaks in the daily routine are perilous, more prone to things going wrong, and need to be normalised.

I think that a lot of people are more accustomed to an idea of festival time as celebration, as special, as holiday, and certainly there are aspects of that to many festivals, but the precariousness of non-standard time is also a thing that has to be handled gentle, and hemmed in with normalcy, to keep it all grounded.

Wp Rnpt

The most important of the Decan stars was Sirius. This star was represented by a goddess known as to the Egyptians as Sopdet and to the Greeks as Sothis. She was shown as a woman wearing a crown surmounted by a five-pointed star. Each year the period when Sirius rose above the horizon at dawn coincided with the coming of the inundation. This event also marked the start of the Egyptian year. In the Pyramid Texts, Sopdet is named as a manifestation of the goddess Isis. Later in Egyptian history, Sopdet was equated with the Eye of Ra and the heliacal rising of her star was linked to the myth of the return of the Distant Goddess.

Egyptian Mythology, Geraldine Pinch

Death On Trial

Every death is to be traced back to the influence of something evil. This evil is personified by Seth, who is held accountable. The Egyptian myth, however, goes one step further. It not only portrays the violent character of death but also its injustice. It constructs its image of death on the basis of the distinction between right and wrong, thus providing an opening for ritual action. Every death is an offense against what is right, the truth/justice/order that the Egyptians called maat. It was thus possible for them to call it to account, to denounce it, to bring it to justice. They could do something about it and restore the order that had been destroyed. Because death was not natural, because it did not lie in the nature of things, they could not accept it, they could and had to do something to counter it. And so they initiated a legal proceeding against death, with Seth as the accused and Osiris as the complainant.

Death and Salvation in Ancient Egypt, Jan Assmann

I am being topical. I do not have functional words beyond these borrowed ones.

Back to Work

I had a doctor’s appointment and thus wound up sitting and reading on my tablet while waiting for her to show up, which meant I found this glorious tidbit:

The burial of the king and the burial of Osiris employed the same symbolic motifs and the same types of ritual actors. after all, a primary goal of the king’s mortuary ritual was to facilitate his transformation into Osiris. Thus, these features do not set the DRP apart from other ancient Egyptian ritual cycles. Both the veneration of kings, living and deceased, and the manipulation of the Horus and Seth motif are ubiquitous in ancient Egyptian ritual as it was performed every day. Moreover, the fact that these features were part of the fabric of everyday life, and therefore familiar and perhaps even comforting, gave this special application of the rites the power to reduce the anxiety of the fraught transition of royal power (if that was indeed its purpose). As with mortuary ritual, the desire was not to celebrate, or even mark the potentially dangerous change, but rather to incorporate it into the fabric of everyday life as much as possible, thereby conquering the potential for chaos.

Katherine Eaton, Ancient Egyptian Temple Ritual.

One of the things I’ve said on and off is that Set’s role in the cosmos may be as an antagonist, but he is ultimately the antagonist that becomes part of the system. I tend to approach this as an outsider – a system which is large enough to contain and encompass Set is large enough for people like me. However, this is an establishment perspective on the same thing, that even the form of Set which is the usurper and murderer is part of the system, because by ritually wrestling with his presence in the cosmos, we become prepared to deal with the inevitable disruptions that fall within his domains. Basically, it’s ritual PTSD/grief therapy which can be done in advance of loss, into which the experience of actual non-ritualized loss can be sorted, normalized, and accepted.

Holy shit, guys. This is brill.

I’ma sit with this for a bit now.

Timing On This Was Funny

Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II must have been very willing to allow himself to be depicted in an ancestral ritual, thus demonstrating his legitimacy as king and, perhaps more importantly, the legitimacy of the Ptolemaic Dynasty, reaffirming its right to govern Egypt. By worshipping his Ancestors he established a link between himself and those who had been kings of Egypt since time immemorial. From the point of view of the priesthood, this was a desirable thing. It did not matter to them that the king whose legitimacy was being proclaimed on the Naos of Edfu Temple was a Macedonian, a foreigner, a fact that is made abundantly clear in the scenes in which Euergetes II is depicted wearing Greek dress. To the priests of Egypt, especially those devoted to Horus, the royal god par excellence, it was Kingship itself and not any individual king that was all-important.

The House of Horus at Edfu: Ritual in an Ancient Egyptian Temple, Barbara Watterson

I found this hilarious because I happened to read that chunk a couple of days after my latest Hills of the Horizon column was posted: A Defense of Sacred Kingship. Which approaches a similar point from a catastrophically different angle.

(The passage in the Watterson goes on to note that the priesthood was interested in preserving the customs of Egyptian ritual kingship until they could get rid of the %$*&# Greeks, mind, which is oblique of the thing I found funny.)

(… please excuse weird errors in my transcription, there’s some damn autocorrect on and it changed the author name and introduced other errors and WTF.)

Drink the Good Intoxicating Drink

A very common expression in the liturgies of wine offering is “may you be powerful through it (wine)”. This could have been a pun on the name of Sekhmet if viewed through the Hathor-Sekhmet myths. It may also have been simply a description of the condition after wine-drinking. This condition of being “powerful”, however, is perhaps more than a state of mind or physical prowess after the stimulation of alcohol. Rather, it refers to a rejuvenating power that was embodied in wine. Thus a text read:

The wine you like is offered to your divine ka; its vineyards flourish in Edfu, the Eye of Horus (i.e. wine) of Imet which rejuvenates (snrp) your heart, together with inmt (wine) which came from Bahria — may you be powerful through it; may you eat (i.e. taste) it; may you drink it. It is pure.

Similarly, another text reads:

May you be dignified through wine (š3); may you be rejuvenated through wine.

Wine and Wine Offering In The Religion of Ancient Egypt, Mu-Chou Poo

Face the Music

In the annual Opet Festival, during which Amun traveled from the Karnak temple to the Luxor temple, the procession was greeted by the queen who shook two sistra. Behind her was a group of seven women, labeled “Singers of Amun,” who hold menats and shake sistra before the boat that carried the god. As the boat carrying the god returned to Karnak, temple singers with sistra and menats performed near a man with a large double-ended drum slung around his neck and a group of Libyans with clap sticks. In another scene from the festival, three temple musicians “of the khener of the temple,” with their sistra and menats, performed in conjunction with a larger group composed of a harpist, three men who clap their hands to keep the beat, male dancers, and a group of acrobatic female dancers who do back flips and throw their hair over their faces.

The Life of Meresamun: A Temple Singer in Ancient Egypt, edited by Emily Teeter and Janet H. Johnson

Human Responsibility

Assmann argues that the ancient Egyptian gods were thought to be absent from everyday life (as opposed to the Greek gods, for example), creating a particular human responsibility that was required to draw them into the earthly realm. Whether we accept Assmann’s bold statement that the Egyptians doubted the “real” existence of their gods in their temple space, it does seem to be the case that the state, the community, and the household took on the responsibility of pulling divinity into their lives through means of complex and symbolic rituals, all of them charged with magical power.

– “The Daily Offering Meal in the Ritual of Amenhotep I: An Instance of the Local Adaptation of Cult Liturgy”, Kathlyn M. Cooney and J. Brett McClain

And now something practical

The remainder of the verso is occupied with magical spells of considerable interest, unfortunately marred by numerous lacunae. The first of these is directed against a complaint called by the Egyptians gs-tp ‘half-head’, which Goodwin long ago recog nized as the origin of the Greek [hemicrania], our ‘migraine’ or ‘megrim’. There could be no more eloquent testimony to the dependence of Greek upon Egyptian medicine.

i) A CHARM FOR EXORCIZING HEADACHE. 0 Rë, 0 Atüm, 0 Shu, 0 Tefënet, 0 GEb, 0 Nut, O Anubis in front of the divine shrine, 0 Horus, 0 Seth, 0 [Isis], 0 Nephthys, 0 Great Ennead, O Little Ennead, come and see your father entering girt with radiance to see the horn(?) of Sakhmet. Come ye (?) to remove that enemy, dead man or dead woman, adversary male or female which is in the face of N, born of M. TO BE RECITED over a crocodile of clay with grain in its mouth, and its eye of faience set [in] its head. One shall tie (?) (it) and inscribe a drawing of the gods upon a strip of fine linen to be placed upon his head. TO BE RECITED an image of Rë, Atüm, Shu, Meliyt, Gab, Nut, Anubis, Horus, Seth, Isis, Nephthys, and an oryx on whose back stands a figure’ carrying his lance.

from Hieratic Papyri in the British Museum, Third Series, Chester Beatty Gift, edited by Alan H. Gardiner

An old book, but, you know, even a seventy-year-old translation of a spell against migraine is worth knowing. At least I assume that other migraine sufferers will agree with me on that one. ;)

And now, flowers!

Corresponding to the length of the papyrus stalk, gaily colored blossoms or petals, especially blue Nymphaeae, cornflowers, and red poppies, are grouped by stages around this trunk so that the bouquet as a whole looks as though it consisted of many members nested one inside another. One is strongly reminded of certain Egyptian faience necklaces of the Empire, the individual members of which consist of blossoms thrust into one another, of the same sort as are still much worn in Indian today, and among us, too, are prepared by children out of elder blossoms.

– Ludwig Keimer, “Egyptian Formal Bouquets”, The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures 41.3 (1925)

One of the interesting things about doing research is the rabbitholes that one goes down. I started from the book on temple ritual that I’ve been quoting on and off, which has a mention of the Ritual of the Royal Ancestors having variations for particular holidays. Which included a mention of something about bouquet presentation for the sixth-day festival, so I tried to chase that down, and my attempt to chase down the papyrus the author there was quoting came up with something that does not appear to actually contain the information I want, but which is too long and dry to actually plow through all at once. So I went looking for information about ancient bouquets, and came across this old analysis of their structure.

Which is really a long way of saying, “Man, getting anything done is hard. There are so many ideas to chase around….”

But anyway, according to this paper, a typical ancient Egyptian bouquet started with a sheaf of papyrus or other reed stems bound together (which reminds me of some of the djed pillar representations) with symmetrical arrangements of flowers using that as a base. Often flared at one end, though some of them were basically columns of stuff that went on and on and on. In case anyone wants to shoot for floral authenticity here.