The Liturgy of Funerary Offerings

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The Liturgy of Funerary Offerings

By E. A. Wallis Budge


THE present volume contains the Egyptian text and English translations of two copies of one of the most, important documents connected with the dead which have come down to us, namely, a detailed list of the offerings which were made to the dead, and also of the consecrating formulae which were recited by the chief officiating priest, as he presented them to a mummified body, or to a statue of the deceased. The ancient title of the composition, if it ever had one in early days, is unknown to us, but it has been called the "Liturgy of Funerary Offerings," because the document deals exclusively with the presentation of offerings to the dead, and because this title is convenient for reference.

This Liturgy is associated in the funerary texts in the tombs and papyri with another work entitled the "Book of Opening the Mouth" and this fact suggests that it is a portion of or a supplement to it, and that it is a development of the canonical List of Offerings which we have reason to believe was in existence under the IIIrd or IVth Dynasty. We know that funerary chapels were attached to the. pyramids and mastaba tombs of this period, and that offerings of meat and drink were made in them to the dead daily by properly qualified priests. It follows as a matter of course that the proceedings of the priests were regulated by some system, and that some kind of written service must have been recited regularly, and we are justified in believing that the Liturgy of Funerary Offerings was that which was commonly said for kings and other royal personages, and for men of high civil and ecclesiastical rank.

In the case of the "Book of Opening the Mouth" the object of the recital was, in the earliest times at least, to bring about the reconstitution and resurrection of the dead man, and even in later times, when the work was recited before a statue, on which the accompanying ceremonies were performed, the idea of the Egyptians on this matter remained unchanged. It must be remembered also that the Egyptians intended by means of ceremonies and formulae to bring back the Ka, or double, either to the dead man, from whom it had been temporarily separated, or to a statue which represented him; and when this had been done they believed it to be their bounden duty to provide meat and drink for its maintenance. It was the Ka and the heart-soul (Ba), not the spirit-soul (Khu), which fed upon the offerings, and if meat and drink of a suitable character, and in sufficient quantity, were not provided for them, these suffered from hunger and thirst, and if the supply of offerings failed, they perished by starvation. The texts make it quite clear that the Egyptians believed in a dual-soul; one member could not die, but the other only lived as long as it was fed with offerings by the living and provided with an abode, i.e., a statue. Offerings were brought to the funerary chapels and tombs daily, and additional gifts were presented on the days of all great festivals.

In very primitive times offerings of meat and drink were brought to the graves, and laid there for the souls of the dead to partake of at pleasure, just as is the case at the present day in -many places in the Sudan. When the ceremonies connected with the Book of Opening the Mouth were evolved, it became customary for the offerings to be brought forward at a certain place in the service, and afterwards, little by little, the canonical List of Offerings, and its later development, the Liturgy of Funerary Offerings, came into being.

As in the Book of Opening the Mouth the words spoken by the Kher-heb, or chief officiating priest, were believed to change the meat, and bread, and wine into divine substances, so in the Liturgy also the formula which was said over each element was supposed to change it into a divine and spiritual food, which was partaken of by the souls of the gods and of the dead. The material elements of the offerings were eaten by the priests and the relatives of the dead, and the act of eating brought them into communion with the blessed dead, and with the gods. The age of the belief in the transmutation of offerings cannot be stated, but it is certain that it was well known to the Egyptians under the Vth Dynasty, and there is reason to think that it was not unknown to their ancestors in the latter part of the Neolithic Period, and that it is coeval with the indigenous African belief in the immortality of the soul, and in a life beyond the grave.

The life of the Liturgy of Funerary Offerings was long. It is found in a more or less complete form in many mastaba tombs of the Ancient Empire, in a very complete form in the pyramids of Unas and Pepi II., in incomplete forms on sarcophagi and in tombs of the XIIth Dynasty, and in the tomb of Seti I. of the XIXth Dynasty, and in complete forms in the tomb of Peta-Amen-hp of the XXVIth Dynasty and in papyri written in the first or second century of the Christian Era. The changes textually in the complete copies of the different periods are very few, and we may say that this work was used by generation after generation, in a practically unaltered form, for about four thousand years.

A description of the labours of my predecessors on this important text will be found in the introductory matter to the present volume.


August 5th, 1909.



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