The Liturgy of Funerary Offerings

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The Liturgy of Funerary Offerings

By E. A. Wallis Budge

The Liturgy of Funerary Offerings Described

THE religious literature of all periods of Egyptian history proves that the Egyptians believed in a resurrection and in immortality, and that from the earliest to the latest times they performed ceremonies at, or in, the tomb, and recited formulae, which were part incantations and part prayers, with the view of assisting the dead to renew their life, to enjoy their existence in the Other World, and to escape from "dying a second time." We have already seen that so far back as the beginning of the IVth Dynasty, about B.C. 3800, it was customary to offer series of gifts of food, and drink, and raiment to the dead, and there is every reason to think that the presentation of such gifts was made by priests, who recited over them forms of words which were believed to sanctify the things offered, and to make them to become suitable for the needs of the dead. We know that certain kinds of food and drink were offered in certain quantities, and in a definite order, and that every detail of the ceremonies connected with their presentation was performed according to a system which had then been in use for a very long time. The ceremonies and formulae of the liturgy of funeral sacrifice in their oldest forms belong, no doubt, to the earliest period of Egyptian civilization, and it is very probable that many of them were in existence in the Predynastic Period.

Among the oldest of the ceremonies which were performed for the benefit of the dead is that called the "Opening of the Mouth," and its object is explained by its name. The Egyptians realized at a very early period that it was useless to load the tables for offerings in the tombs with bread, beer, meat, fruit, and vegetables unless the dead could in some way partake of them, and the priests invented a series of ceremonies and composed formulae which were intended to bring about this desirable result. The belief in the importance of "Opening the Mouth" for the dead has long been known to Egyptologists, in fact ever since the publication of the text of the Saïte Recension of the Book of the Dead by Lepsius in 1842. In the Saïte Recension, as in the Theban, the XXIIIrd Chapter is devoted to the opening of the mouth of the deceased, and in the Vignette a priest is seen standing before a statue of the deceased, to which he addresses certain words. In his left hand he holds a vase of unguent, which played a prominent part in the ceremony performed by the priest whilst he uttered the prescribed formula.

The, XXIst and XXIInd Chapters were written with the view of "giving a mouth to a man in Neter Khert," or the Other World, and in the Vignette the priest is seen standing and holding the Ur-hekau instrument in his right hand, and a vase in his left. He holds out the instrument towards the face of the deceased, and is, as we know from other sources, about to touch his mouth. In the text of the XXIIIrd Chapter the deceased says, "Ptah hath opened for me my mouth with his instrument of iron wherewith he opened the mouth of the gods." This is an important statement, for it shows that in the Ptolemaic Period a legend was extant that at some time during their existence the mouths of the gods needed opening, that the origin of the ceremony of "Opening the Mouth" was divine, and that it was performed in the mythological period.

The illustrated papyri which contain the Theban Recension of the Book of the Dead supply further details of the ceremony, and in the papyrus of Ani, in the Vignette of Chapter XXIII., we see a SEM priest, clad in a panther's or leopard's skin, performing one portion of it on a figure of the scribe Ani. In front of him are a sepulchral box for holding unguents, three  instruments, and the instrument . In another Vignette in the same papyrus is a representation of the performance of the ceremony at the door of the tomb. The mummy of Ani is held upright by Anubis, and three priests are officiating; two hold the instruments to the face of the mummy, and the third reads the formulae from a roll of papyrus in his hands. Between the mummy and the priests is a table loaded with offerings, and on the ground round about are the various objects which are used in the performance of the ceremony. Behind the priests are the cow and calf for sacrifice, and an assistant is seen bringing a leg of beef.

In the Papyrus of Hunefer this scene is repeated with some modifications and fuller details; these are illustrated by the accompanying block. In the upper register one priest presents to the face of the mummy four vases, and another holds in one hand the instruments , and presents with the other the Ur-hekau instrument, the head of which is in the form of that of a ram. The SEM priest stands behind holding a libation jar in his right hand, and a censer in his left. In the lower register are the cow and calf for sacrifice, two ministrants, the one bearing the heart and the other the leg of a bull, a sepulchral coffer, a table of offerings, and a stand on which are spread out a panther's skin or leopard's skin, and the instruments, vases, &c., which were used in the performance of the ceremony. Above these scenes are several short lines of text, which are entitled, "The Chapter of performing the Opening of the Mouth of the statue" [of the deceased]. This chapter contains two extracts from the "Liturgy of Funerary Offerings."

The merit of discovering the "Liturgy of Funerary Offerings" belongs to Sig. Ernesto Schiaparelli, who in 1877 was able to prove that the contents of Papyrus No. 3155 in the Louvre were identical in a large number of places with the text on the coffin of Butehai-Amen, in Turin. Butehai-Amen was a priest who flourished under the XXth Dynasty, and he caused a copy of the Book of Opening the Mouth to be written upon the two covers of his coffin in red and black ink. Devéria had examined this papyrus many years before, and he stated in his Catalogue des Manuscrits Égyptiens (Paris, 1881, p. 171) that it "contained a liturgical text entirely different from the ordinary funerary works, and that it was noteworthy by reason of the mention in it of the priests of different orders who officiated, and the description of the part which each individual performed in the funeral ceremony." In a valuable paper entitled "Le Fer et l'Aimant en Égypte," 1 he translated about a page and a half of the papyrus, and Sig. Schiaparelli believes that he cherished the thought of publishing the complete work.

The papyrus was-written for a priestess called SAIS. The lower portions of the first few leaves are wanting, and the writing is in places very difficult to read. Being convinced of the importance of the text, Sig. Schiaparelli spent a winter in copying it, and he devoted himself to the preparation of an edition of the text on the coffin in Turin, which dates from the XXth Dynasty, and that of the Paris papyrus, which was written probably between A.D. 50 and 150. Neither text is accompanied by Vignettes, and many parts of them it is impossible to understand without illustrations. About this time, fortunately, his attention was called to a series of drawings of scenes in the tomb of Seti I. at Thebes which Champollion 1 had made and published. In these priests are represented performing ceremonies on the statue of the king, and the short texts which accompany them were quickly seen by Sig. Schiaparelli to resemble passages in the Liturgy of Funerary Offerings. From a paper by Professor Naville 2 he was able to identify a passage in the text on the coffin of Butehai-Amen, and with the help of the careful copy of all the scenes and texts in the tomb of Seti I., with which Professor Naville supplied him, he was at length able to give a rendering of the whole text, and to describe the ceremonies which were there illustrated.

The first part of his work, 3 i.e., the plates, appeared in 1881, and the two volumes of text in 1882 and 1890 respectively. In 1882 Professor Maspero published in his Recueil (tom. iii., p. 171 ff.) the first part of the texts from the Pyramid of Unas, which contains the oldest known form of the Liturgy of Funerary Offerings, with a French translation of a portion of it. Another copy of this early form is found in the Pyramid of Pepi II. Nefer-ka-Ra, and this Professor Maspero published, with a translation of the whole, in a later volume of the same work, and in his complete edition of the "Pyramid Texts" entitled, "Les Inscriptions des Pyramides de Saqqarah," Paris, 1894. In 1884-5 Dr. J. Dümichen published the first two parts of his monograph 1 on the tomb of Peta-Amen-apt, a high priestly official who flourished under the XXVIth Dynasty, containing copies of the scenes and texts with descriptions, translations, &c., in German. The first part contains the complete text of the Liturgy of Funerary Offerings, and the second a version of the Book of Opening the Mouth; both works have Vignettes.

A year later appeared the first volume of the great French work on the Royal Tombs of Thebes, 2 containing all the scenes and texts in the Tomb of Seti I. Among these were accurate copies of the texts of the Liturgy of Funerary Offerings, as they are found in the tomb of Seti I. at Thebes, and the Book of Opening the Mouth. In 1887 Professor Maspero published a valuable paper in the Revue de l'Histoire des Religions, tom. xv., pp. 159-188, in which he treated the Book of Opening the Mouth at considerable length, and explained the Vignettes and the texts of the version in the tomb of Seti I. Since that time the texts of several tombs at Thebes have been published, and the material available for the study of the texts and Vignettes has been greatly increased.

The principal versions of the Liturgy of Funerary Offerings and the Book of Opening the Mouth may now be summarized. For the Liturgy there are two copies of the period of the Ancient Empire, one in the Pyramid of Unas, and one in the Pyramid of Pepi II. Nefer-ka-Ra. Several Lists of offerings, more or less complete, from the mastaba tombs at Sakkarah are also available. Of the XIXth Dynasty there are the Lists in the tomb of Seti I. at Thebes and in his temple at Abydos. Of the XXth Dynasty there is the List on the covers of the coffin of Butehai-Amen; of the XXVIth Dynasty the List of Peta-Amen-apt; and of the Roman Period the List in the Papyrus of Sais, the priestess, in Paris. For the Book of Opening the Mouth there are: a copy, with Vignettes, in the tomb of Rekhmara at Thebes, of the XVIIIth Dynasty; a copy, with Vignettes, in the tomb of Seti I. at Thebes, of the XIXth Dynasty; a copy, without Vignettes, written for Butehai-Amen on the covers of his coffin, of the XXth Dynasty; a copy, with Vignettes, in the tomb of Peta-Amen-apt, of the XXVIth Dynasty; a copy, without Vignettes, written for the priestess Sais in the Roman period.

The reader who will take the trouble to compare the various versions of the Liturgy and the Book of Opening the Mouth will find that, in all essentials, they remained unchanged from the IVth Dynasty to about the end of the first century. of the rule of the Romans in Egypt. The Vignettes, though we owe them to the funerary artists of the XVIIIth, XIXth, and XXVIth Dynasties, illustrate faithfully ceremonies which had been performed for many centuries before they were drawn, and the evidence which they afford may be used as a sure guide in determining the exact meaning of many obscure points in the rubrical directions and texts.

We may now give an account of the Liturgy of Funerary Offerings, derived from the texts in the Pyramid of Unas and the tomb of Peta-Amen-apt. The Liturgy was recited in a chamber of the tomb called "Tuat," and when the offerings had been brought there, the table for the offerings, or altar, was purified for the KA, or Double, of the deceased, and the service began. The formulae were recited by the Kher heb priest, who held in his hands a roll of papyrus, on which was written a copy of the service, and who directed the assistant priests; the ceremonies were performed chiefly by the SEM, Or SMER, priest, assisted by one or more ministrants. In the earliest times the ceremonies were probably performed over the mummy, but at a later period a statue of the deceased was substituted.


37:1 Mélanges d'Archéologie Égyptienne, tom. i., p. 45.

38:1 Monuments, plates 237, 243-248.

38:2 Aeg. Zeitschrift, Bd. xi., 1873, p. 29 ff.

38:3 Il Libro dei Funerali degli antichi Egiziani tradotto e commentato da E. S., Rome, 1881-90.

39:1 Der Grabpalast des Patuamenap, Leipzic, 1884-5.

39:2 Les Hypogées Royaux de Thèbes, by Bouriant, Loret, and Naville (Mémoires de la Mission au Caire, tom. ii., Div. i., Paris, 1886).



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