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Category: Cakes

Le Rituel de l’Embaumement

“He believed that he would feed upon the celestial and imperishable food whereon the gods lived, but at the same time he spared no effort or expense to provide for his tomb being supplied at stated intervals throughout the year with perishable food in the shape of offerings of oxen, feathered fowl, cakes, bread, and the like.

He mummified his dead and swathed them in linen bandages, and then by the performance of magical ceremonies and by the recital of words of power sought to give back to their members the strength to eat, and drink, and talk, and think, and move at will.

Indeed, all the evidence now forthcoming seems to prove that he never succeeded in bringing himself to think that the gods could do without his help, or that the pictures or representations of the scenes which took place in the life, and death, and burial, and resurrection of Osiris, upon which he relied so implicitly, could possibly fail to be as efficacious as the actual power of the god himself.

The examination of mummies has shown us with tolerable clearness what methods were adopted in preparing bodies for bandaging and final ornamentation, and the means adopted for disposing of the more corruptible portions of the body are well known from classical and other writers.

But for an account of the manner in which the body was bandaged, and a list of the unguents and other materials employed in the process, and the words of power which were spoken as each bandage was laid in its place, we must have, recourse to a very interesting papyrus which has been edited and translated by M. Maspero under the title of Le Rituel de l’Embaumement. (In Mémoire sur quelques Papyrus du Louvre, Paris, 1875).

The first part of the papyrus, which probably gave instructions for the evisceration of the body, is wanting, and only the section which refers to the bandaging is at all perfect.

The text opens with an address to the deceased in which it is said, “The perfume of Arabia hath been brought to thee to make perfect thy smell through the scent of the god.”

“Here are brought to thee liquids which have come forth from Râ, to make perfect . . . thy smell in the Hall [of Judgment].

O sweet-smelling soul of the great god, thou dost contain such a sweet odour that thy face shall neither change nor perish. . . .

Thy members shall become young in Arabia, and thy soul shall appear over thy body in Ta-neter (i.e., the ‘divine land’).”

 After this the priest or mummifier was to take a vase of liquid which contained ten perfumes, and to smear therewith the body from head to foot twice, taking especial care to anoint the head thoroughly. He was then to say, “Osiris (i.e., the deceased), thou hast received the perfume which shall make thy members perfect.”

“Thou receivest the source [of life] and thou takest the form of the great Disk (i.e., Aten), which uniteth itself unto thee to give enduring form to thy members; thou shalt unite with Osiris in the great Hall.”

E.A. Wallis Budge, Egyptian Magic, London, 1901. P. 184-6.

Fear of Oblivion

“On the insides of the wooden coffins of the XIIth dynasty, about B.C. 2500, are painted whole series of objects which, in still earlier times, were actually placed in the tombs with the mummy; but little by little men ceased to provide the numerous articles connected with the sepulture of the dead which the old ritual prescribed, and they trusted to the texts and formulæ which they painted on the coffin to turn pictures into substances, and besides the pillow they placed little else in the tomb.

About a thousand years later, when the religious texts which formed the Book of the Dead were written upon papyri instead of coffins, a large number of illustrations or vignettes were added to them; to many of these special importance was attached, and the following are worthy of note.

It will be remembered that the CXXVth Chapter of the Book of the Dead contains the so-called “Negative Confession” which is recited in the Hall of Maâti, and a number of names of gods and beings, the knowledge of which is most important for the welfare of the deceased.

At the end of the Chapter we find the following statement:—

“This chapter shall be said by the deceased after he hath been cleansed and purified, and when he is arrayed in apparel, and is shod with white leather sandals, and his eyes have been painted with antimony, and his body hath been anointed with ânti unguent, and when he hath made offerings of oxen, and birds, and incense, and cakes, and ale, and garden herbs.

And behold, thou shalt paint a picture of what shall happen in the Hall of Maâti upon a new tile moulded from earth, upon which neither a pig nor any other animal hath trodden. And if thou writest upon it this chapter the deceased shall flourish; and his children shall flourish; and his name shall never fall into oblivion; and bread, and cakes, and sweetmeats, and wine, and meat shall be given unto him at the altar of the great god; and he shall not be turned back at any door in the underworld; and he shall be brought in along with the Kings of the North and South; and he shall be in the following of Osiris always and for ever.”

E.A. Wallis Budge, Egyptian Magic, London, 1901. Pp. 108-9.

Budgeting for the Afterlife

“And in the CLXXXIXth Chapter he prays that he may not be obliged to drink filthy water or be defiled in any way by it. The rich man, even, was not certain that the appointed offerings of meat and drink could or would be made in his tomb in perpetuity: what then was the poor man to do to save his ka from the ignominy of eating filth and drinking dirty water?

To get out of this difficulty the model of an altar in stone was made, and models of cakes, vases of water, fruit, meat, etc., were placed upon it; in cases where this was not possible figures of the offerings were sculptured upon the stone itself; in others, where even the expense of an altar could not be borne by the relatives of the dead, an altar with offerings painted upon it was placed in the tomb, and as long as it existed through the prayers recited, the ka did not lack food.

Sometimes neither altar, nor model nor picture of an altar was placed in the tomb, and the prayer that sepulchral meals might be given to the deceased by the gods, which was inscribed upon some article of funeral furniture, was the only provision made for the wants of the ka; but every time any one who passed by the tomb recited that prayer, and coupled with it the name of the man who was buried in it, his ka was provided with a fresh supply of meat and drink offerings, for the models or pictures of them in the inscription straightway became veritable substances.”

E.A. Wallis Budge, Egyptian Magic, London, 1901. Pp. 106-7.


“FROM what has been said above it is clear that the Egyptian believed it possible to vivify by means of formulæ and words of power any figure made in the form of a man or animal, and to make it work either on behalf of or against his fellow man.

Besides this, he believed greatly in the efficacy of representations or pictures of the gods, and of divine beings and things, provided that words of power properly recited by properly appointed people were recited over them. If this fact be borne in mind a great many difficulties in understanding religious texts disappear, and many apparently childish facts are seen to have an important meaning.

If we look into the tombs of the early period we see painted on the walls numbers of scenes in which the deceased is represented making offerings to the gods and performing religious ceremonies, as well as numbers of others in which he is directing the work of his estate and ruling his household.

It was not altogether the result of pride that such pictures were painted on the walls of tombs, for at the bottom of his heart the Egyptian hoped and believed that they were in reality representations of what he would do in the next world, and he trusted that the words of his prayers would turn pictures into realities, and drawings into substances.

The wealthy Egyptian left behind him the means for making the offerings which his ka, or double, needed, and was able to provide for the maintenance of his tomb and of the ka chapel and of the priest or priests who ministered to it.

It was an article of faith among all classes that unless the ka was properly fed it would be driven to wander about and pick up filth and anything else of that nature which it found in its path, as we may see from the LIInd Chapter of the Book of the Dead, in which the deceased says, “That which is an abomination unto me, that which is an abomination unto me let me not eat. That which is an abomination unto me, that which is an abomination unto me is filth; let me not eat of it instead of the cakes [which are offered unto] the Doubles (kau). Let it not light upon my body; let me not be obliged to take it into my hands; and let me not be obliged to walk thereon in my sandals.”

E.A. Wallis Budge, Egyptian Magic, London, 1901. Pp. 104-6.

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