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burning incense, western horizon, temple precinct, material sense

Egyptian Temples, part V: Daily Rituals

Author: Mirjam

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Preparations for the Awakening of the God began already before dawn. The temple workers were busy baking fresh bread, preparing other offerings like meat and vegetables, even flowers, and arrange everything carefully on platters. The offerings had to satisfy not only the god and make him bring his blessings in return, but also every other god that had a shrine in the temple, and lastly it was consumed by the priesthood and workers themselves.



Libations of water drawn from the well on the temple precinct, emanating from Nun, was also being prepared, for everything that would come near the god had to be purified with the water, natron and burning incense.



When the purification had been performed, the procession carrying the offerings entered the temple and laid down the offerings in front of the not yet opened doors of the naos. A chorus sang:



"Awake....in peace!

May your awakening be peaceful!"




At this point the King or the High Priest entered the dimly lit sanctuary, lighting his way with a candle. He broke the seal of the bolted double doors to the naos, assuring the god that he came in a state of purity and was not pursued by enemies. At the same instant as the sun rose above the Western horizon and its rays found their way in through the temple, the god's face was unveiled. This assured that the god woke up in harmony to the rhythm of the cosmos.



"Revelation of the Face!

Adoration of the Face:

Rise over the earth

Just as you emerge from Nun!

May your rays illuminate the earth!

Long live the gods who exhort his beauty:

(they are) like (your) sons in the East."





Then there was time for prayers and contemplation. The food that was served before the god was taken away when the god was thought to have satisfied himself, which he did not in a material sense of the word, but on an esoteric level. Lastly a libation was poured and some more incense was burned.



After the meal the god's toilet was seen to. The clothes from the day before was taken away and several purifications were performed with incense and water before fresh ones were put on. Cloths in four different colors; white, green, red and blue were used. There are text sources stating that the white color protected the god against his enemies, the blue one hid his face, the green cloth gave him bodily health and the red one protected him. At the end of the ritual the King or High Priest took some ointment on his little finger and touched the god's forehead with it. Thus revitalized, the god was again locked inside the naos and the King or High Priest backed out of the sanctuary, wiping away his footprints with a broom.



The remaining two rituals at midday and at sunset were simpler; the doors to the naos was not opened and the only ceremony that was performed was the burning of incense and the pouring of libations. And so it went, day after day, except for the Festival Days:




Processions


On certain festival days the god was Going Forth, that is to say, carried out of the temple on his bark, still hidden in a shrine or veiled from the eyes of the common people. The bark was carried on the back of priests and shaded with great ostrich feathers or woven palm fiber. Incense was burned and all around it the priests walked, keeping the people aside as they went along. People shook sistrums and displayed great joy for these occasions were the cause of much celebrations. In front of the bark scrolls with sacred text were carried, out of which sometimes a recital priest read aloud. Along the processional path there was often both permanent and temporary erected shrines where they would stop and make libations or other offerings.



At these occasions people could have the chance to ask the god a question and if they were lucky the god would answer by nodding or shaking his head. this is believed was done by the priests tipping the bark in the desired direction. There is also a statue of Anubis with a jointed jaw, which is believed have been maneuvered by threads to make it appear as if the god was actually giving an answer. The ancient Egyptians were very superstitious and such oracular responses were taken for the truth and the veritable word of the gods.


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