History Embalmed

Death Rituals


Death Rituals

The Death Rituals practised by the Ancient Egyptians included embalming and mummification (which are detailed on other pages). The mummies of dead Egyptians were placed in anthropoid (man-shaped) coffins which was decorated with a likeness of the deceased. The coffins were then placed in protective stone sarcophagus. These are well known Death Rituals but there were other extremely important death rituals which were practised including the 'Opening of the Mouth ' ritual. The key element in Ancient Egyptian religion revolved around ritual. Rituals included the ceremonies of the priests, sacrifices and magic incantations and spells. These rituals were believed to be essential to both the living and the dead.

Death Rituals - the Funeral Procession
The Funeral procession was an element of the death rituals in Ancient Egypt. After 70 days following the death of a person a elaborate funeral procession headed towards the designated tomb of the deceased. The mummy lies in a coffin on a bier which is protected by effigies of gods. Oxen pull the sledge through the desert following the musicians who headed the procession.

Wailing mourners followed the procession accompanied by priests, some wearing animal masks. The jackal masked impersonator of the god Anubis was a key figure in these death rituals. Servants or slaves followed carrying the items that would be buried with the mummy in the tomb. The possessions of the deceased included furniture, clothes, jewelry and cosmetics.  A fresh foreleg of a sacrificial calf. Poultry, Meat and vegetables were also taken for the death sacrifices. The procession terminated when the location of the tomb was reached and the 'Opening of the Mouth' death rituals commenced.

Death Rituals - the Opening of the Mouth Ceremony
The Opening of the Mouth Ceremony was one of the most important Death Rituals of the Ancient Egyptians. The Ancient Egyptians believed that the death rituals performed during these ceremonies revived the mummified senses of the deceased so that he could eat, drink and speak in the next world. The Death Rituals performed in the 'Opening of the Mouth' ceremony was as follows:

  • Ancient Egyptian coffins were usually Anthropoid coffins meaning man-shaped. The term anthropoid coffin is therefore used for coffins made in the shape of a human
  • The mummy, in its coffin, was held in the standing position, facing South, by the jackal masked impersonator of Anubis who was an embalming priest
  • A close member of the family burned incense
  • The women wailed loudly
  • Garlands of flowers were sometimes draped around the neck of the coffin. Cosmetics were applied to the likeness painted on the anthropoid coffin
  • Another priest chanted potent spells
  • Death sacrifices were made of the food and drink and the calf leg, still spurting fresh blood
  • Ritual Purification was conducted using salt and cow's milk
  • The mysterious Opening of the Mouth death rituals were performed using the main tools of the embalmer and the coffin maker. A priest touched the mouth, eyes, ears and nose with an adze in order to awaken the senses of the deceased and could accept the food sacrifices
  • When the opening of the mouth ceremony and the other death rituals had been completed the coffin and mummy was finally placed in a sarcophagus and sealed in the tomb
  • The Ancient Egyptian Death rituals often ended with a feast and a celebration as the deceased had started their journey into the glorious afterlife

Death Rituals
Each section of this Egyptian website addresses all topics and provides interesting facts and information about the Golden Age of Egypt. The Sitemap provides full details of all of the information and facts provided about the fascinating subject of Egypt, the Ancient Egyptians and of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun, King Tut.

Egyptian Mummies

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