Ancient Egypt history covers a continuous period of over three thousand years. To put this in perspective - most modern countries count their histories in hundreds of years. Only modern China can come anywhere near this in terms of historical continuity.
The entire civilization of Ancient Egypt was based on religion, and their beliefs were important to them. Ancient Egypt belief in the rebirth after death became their driving force behind their funeral practices.
Ancient Egypt believed that death was simply a temporary interruption, rather than complete cessation, of life, and that eternal life could be ensured by means like piety to the gods, preservation of the physical form through Mummification, and the provision of statuary and other funerary equipment. Each human consisted of the physical body, the 'ka', the 'ba', and the 'akh'. The Name and Shadow were also living entities. To enjoy the afterlife, all these elements in Ancient Egypt belief had to be sustained and protected from harm.
This scene depicts what occurs after a person has died, according to ancient Egypt.
Beginning with the upper left-hand corner, the deceased appears before a panel of 14 judges to make an accounting for his deeds during life. The ankh, the key of life, appears in the hands of some of the judges.
Next, below, the jackal god Anubis who represents the underworld and mummification leads the deceased before the scale. In his hand, Anubis holds the ankh.
Anubis then weighs the heart of the deceased (left tray) against the feather of Ma'at, goddess of truth and justice (right tray). In some drawings, the full goddess Ma'at, not just her feather, is shown seated on the tray. Note that Ma'at's head, crowned by the feather, also appears atop the fulcrum of the scale. If the heart of the deceased outweighs the feather, then the deceased has a heart which has been made heavy with evil deeds. In that event, Ammit the god with the crocodile head and hippopotamus legs will devour the heart, condemning the deceased to oblivion for eternity. But if the feather outweighs the heart, and then the deceased has led a righteous life and may be presented before Osiris to join the afterlife. Thoth, the ibis-headed god of wisdom stands at the ready to record the outcome.
Horus, the god with the falcon head, then leads the deceased to Osiris. Note the ankh in Horus' hand. Horus represents the personification of the Pharaoh during life, and his father Osiris represents the personification of the Pharaoh after death.
In the ancient egypt mythology
Osiris, lord of the underworld, sits on his throne, represented as a mummy. On his head is the white crown of Lower Egypt (the north). He holds the symbols of Egyptian kingship in his hands: the shepherd's crook to symbolize his role as shepherd of mankind, and the flail, to represent his ability to separate the wheat from the chaff. Behind him stand his wife Isis and her sister Nephthys. Isis is the one in red, and Nephthys is the one in green. Together, Osiris, Isis, and Nephthys welcome the deceased to the underworld.
In ancient egypt the tomb-owner would continue after death the occupations of this life and so everything required was packed in the tomb along with the body. Writing materials were often supplied along with clothing, wigs, and hairdressing supplies and assorted tools, depending on the occupation of the deceased.
Often model tools rather than full size ones would be placed in the tomb; models were cheaper and took up less space and in the after-life would be magically transformed into the real thing.
Things might include a headrest, glass vessels which may have contained perfume and a slate palette for grinding make-up.
Food was provided for the deceased and should the expected regular offerings of the descendants cease, food depicted on the walls of the tomb would be magically transformed to supply the needs of the dead.
In ancient egypt Images on tombs might include a triangular shaped piece of bread (part of the food offerings from a tomb). Other images might represent food items that the tomb owner would have eaten in his lifetime and hoped to eat in the after-life.
Life was dominated by Ma'at, or the concept of justice and order. Ancient Egypt believed there were different levels of goodness and evil. Ancient Egypt believed also that part of the personality, called the Ka, remained in the tomb. Thus elaborate and complex burial practices developed.
The removed internal organs were separately treated and, during much of Ancient Egypt history, placed in jars of clay or stone. These so-called Canopic Jars were closed with stoppers fashioned in the shape of four heads -- human, baboon, falcon, and jackal - representing the four protective spirits called the Four Sons of Horus.
The heart was removed to be weighed against a feather representing Ma'at to determine moral righteousness. The brain was sucked out of the cranial cavity and thrown away because the Ancient Egypt thought it was useless. Personal belongings were usually placed in the tomb to make the Ka more at home and to assist the dead in their journey into the afterlife.
Text was read from the 'Book of the Dead' and the ritual of "opening the mouth" was performed before the tomb was sealed.
After judgment, the dead either went to a life not unlike that on Earth or were cast to the 'Eater of the Dead'. In addition to the decorations on the tomb walls, in some periods, models for the use of the spirit were included in the funerary arrangements. A model boat was transportation on the waters of eternity. Likewise, models of granaries, butcher shops, and kitchens would guarantee the continued well-being of the deceased in the life after death.
PRIESTS AND PRIESTESSES
Those who spoke to the Gods and Goddesses were the Priests and Priestesses supposedly a carry-over from the time of Atlantis. They were the souls who carried the sacred knowledge about creation and the nature of our reality. There were initiates who studied the knowledge of both the sacred mystery teachings and the religious philosophies of the times. This sacred knowledge would be passed down in many forms including the genetics of certain souls. That information would one day be brought out into the open in its truest form. That time is NOW!
Because the Pharaoh could not perform ceremonies at all the temples throughout Egypt, he appointed high priests to carry out the sacred rituals at each temple. Priests often passed down their positions from father to son. They enjoyed great power and wealth in Egyptian society.
The priests' duties were to care for the gods and attend to their needs. They also performed funeral rites, teaching school, supervising the artists and works, and advising people on problems.
The priesthood of ancient Egypt has a far reaching and deep history, rooted within the traditions of Ancient Egypt. Unlike the orthodox priesthoods usually found within Western society, the role of the Egyptian priest or priestess was vastly different within the society as a whole. Rather than seek the divine and develop a rapport with the gods, the role of the priest was akin to an everyday job.
For, as the pharaoh was seen as a god himself, the priests and priestesses were seen as stand-in's for the pharaoh; as it was the greater job of the priests and priestesses to keep Egyptian society in good order, as is the case with most theoretically based societies. The mystical attributes of the priests and priestesses take on a secondary role, when one considers the heightened role religion played within Egyptian society. Not only was religion a way to attain the ethereal and basic needs of the Egyptians, but it also served as a mechanism to order society, to create a hierarchy, and to preserve the culture for future generations. As such, the role of the priests and priestesses was both functional and mystical on both levels.
A priest or priestess in ancient Egypt was generally chosen by either the king, or attained their post by hereditary means. In either case, the priests who received their positions hereditarily and through the king were not set apart from mundane life. In Ancient Egypt in fact, such priests were made to embrace the mundane life to keep Egyptian society functioning properly (and as stated above it was a job of fairly high status). Though the priesthood had started out simply, with relatively few temples, in the later dynasties the temples expanded into the hundreds. With such growth, a large bureaucracy was needed in Ancient Egypt to keep the temples in good standing; and thenceforth, the small priesthood's of the Egyptians grew from an estimated hundred priests into the thousands, and with it came a priestly hierarchy.
The daily life of a priest or priestess in Ancient Egyptdepended on their sex and also their hierarchical standing within the priesthood. Priests were often rotated from position to position within the priestly hierarchy and were integrated in and out of mundane society. This rotation system generally went, that a priest would enter into temple life one month, at three times a year. This rotation system in Ancient Egypt had a direct connection to the often stringent purity rites of the priests.
Regardless of what status the priest was, there were numerous taboos and tradition's in Ancient Egypt, a priest had to or could not partake of. Of these taboos and traditions, a priest or priestess could not eat fish (a food thought to be ascribed to peasant life), could not wear wool (as nearly all animal products were unclean), were generally circumcised (only common among the male priests), and it was not uncommon for priests to bathe three or four times a day in "sacred" purificatory pools. It was also not uncommon for the "oracle" tending priests (one of the most sacred positions), to shave off all of their body hair, partially to get rid of lice, but partially for purificatory functions.
These "oracle" priests symbolically gave food to the statues of the gods, clothed the statues of the gods, sealed the temple chamber in the evening, and were known as stolists. As can be seen from the example of the stolists, the need for purity extended not only upon the mundane level, but also held true within the afterlife as well. Further, from such purificatory rites in Ancient Egypt the priests were often times known as the "pure ones" regardless of status within the temples.
The priesthood was a civil function in ancient Egypt. Recruited from the local population, the priests served three months at a time then returned to their daily lives. A small core of superior priests, or adepts, served the temple full time. During the New Kingdom, every temple, no matter how small, had at least one resident priest. The function of a priest was to maintain the universal order as dictated by the Gods in the Zep Tepi, or the First Time, the original Golden Age of the High God. To this end, their primary function was to perform the rituals of the Divine Drama, the Great Myth, at the appropriate time and in the correct way. By involving a large portion of the local population in its services, the temple became the center of local culture.
The initiation, or attunement, of a priest was essentially the same in all temples. A baptism in a sacred pool, symbolic of the waters of Nu, the Cosmic Ocean, washed away all evil. Then the candidate was sprinkled with oil and water as purification, led to the statue of the Goddess and instructed in the secret ways of touching and working with the statue. The candidate then undertakes a ten day fast, at the end of which the mysteries are revealed by some sort of psychic/shamanic experience.
Within the temple structure, there were classes of priests. The administrative officials in the large temples, such as Karnak, functioned as a separate group, one not too concerned with religious perspectives. They took care of the business end of the temple and its property. The religious establishment also had its classes. The temple of Amun had five different priestly sections, each with its own sub-divisions. The High Priest of Ptah at Memphis was called "the great chief of all artisans," as all crafts were under the protection of Ptah. These first and second "prophets," mis-translated by the Greeks from the Egyptian "servants of the God," were mostly royal appointments and could be chosen from any level of society. They led the higher ranks of the priesthood in the ritual functions of the temple.
In addition to the political administration, the priests and priestesses took on both magical and economic functions, however set apart from the hierarchy of priests are the lay magicians who supplied a commoners understanding of Egyptian religion. Through the use of magic and their connection to the gods, lay magicians provided a service to their community, usually consisting of counseling, magical arts, healing, and ceremony.
Lay magicians who served within this last and final caste of the Egyptian priesthood belonged to a large temple known simply as "The House of Life". Laymen would come to "The House of Life" to meet with a magician, priest or priestess to have their dreams interpreted, to supply magical spells and charms, to be healed and to counteract malevolent magic, and to supply incantations of various types. Though the House of Life provided it's Laymen with many prescriptive cures for common ills, it was largely shrouded in mystery in ancient times. In fact, the library of The House of Life was shrouded in great secrecy, as it contained many sacred rites, books, and secrets of the temple itself which were thought could harm the pharaoh, the priests, and all of Egypt itself.
Though the magicians of The House of Life, were seen as another step from the ceremonial duties of the priests, they were by no means less important, and as is evidenced by the presence of many magical wands, papyri text, and other archeological evidence, The House of Life took on a role direly important to the way of life of Ancient Egypt.
One final position within the priesthood highly worthy of mention in Ancient Egypt is that of the Scribes. The scribes were highly prized by both the pharaoh and the priesthood, so much so that in some of the pharaoh's tombs, the pharaoh himself is depicted as a scribe in pictographs. The scribes were in charge of writing magical texts, issuing royal decrees, keeping and recording the funerary rites (specifically within The Book of The Dead) and keeping records vital to the bureaucracy of Ancient Egypt. The scribes often spent years working on the craft of making hieroglyphics, and deserve mentioning within the priestly caste as it was considered the highest of honors to be a scribe in any Egyptian court or temple.
Finally, worthy of mention, though there is considerable historical evidence telling of the role of priests within the priestly hierarchy, the status of the priestesses was at times equal if not minor to that of the male priesthood. The female priestesses held the main function within the temple's of music and dancing. At Thebes, however, the chief-priestess of Amun bore the title of god's wife; she was the leader of the female music-makers who were regarded as the god's harem and were identified with the goddess Hathor, who was associated with love and music. In the Twenty-third Dynasty and afterwards such priestesses were practically rulers of the theocracy, their duties centering around the reverence of Isis, and many other female and male goddesses and gods.
The hierarchy of priests consisted of a milieu of offices and duties. At the top of the hierarchy of priests was the high-priest, also known as the sem-priest, and as "the First Prophet of the God". The high-priest was often very wise in years, and old. Not only did he serve as political advisor to the pharaoh, but he was also a political leader for the temples he belonged to as well. The high-priest was in charge of over-seeing magical rites and ceremonies as well as advising the pharaoh. Maintaining a fairly ceremonial position, the high-priest was often times chosen by the pharaoh as an advisor, however, it was not uncommon for a high-priest to have climbed through the ranks to his official status.
Below the high-priest were a number of priests with many specialized duties. The specialization of these second tier priests ran from "horology" (keeping an accurate count of the hours through the days, extremely important during the time of the sunboat worshippers, but also for agricultural reasons as well), "astrology" (extremely important as well to the mythology of Egypt as well as to the architectural and calendrical systems of Egypt), to healing. As is obvious by the specialization of the priests, the cycles of the cosmos were extremely important, as they decided when crops would be planted, when the Nile would wax or wane, and further when the temple rites were to begin in the morning. The result of these Egyptian priests studies can be seen in both the mythological studies of Ancient Egypt, as well as within the agricultural practices, which rival even the modern Caesarian Calendar still used within the western world today.
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