What took place at a funeral?

The ancient Egyptian funeral procedure involved various rituals. Firstly, after a 70 day period, the mummy was retrieved from the embalmers. The mummy would be carried in a litter, a sort of pedestal, in a funeral procession down to its tomb. Priests would read different articles from the Book of the Dead. The Egyptians were big on cleanliness so beautiful smelling incense was burnt. For wealthy Egyptians, not only did friends, family and priests join their funeral, but professional mourners would be payed to beat their breasts, pour ash upon their heads and tear their clothes off at the funeral, all the while crying and mourning. It was an extremely important day for the Egyptians because death, for them, meant life for eternity. It was a very spiritual ceremony.

Once the mourning procession ended, the Opening of the Mouth ceremony would begin. There are more than a hundred variations of performing the ceremony.
Opening of the Mouth Ceremony - Courtesy of Creative Commons

The Opening of the Mouth was an important ceremony as it allowed the ka (soul) to re-enter the mummy's body so it could gain life in the afterlife. This ritual would be performed by two priests. One of the priests would wear a mask which was the head of a jackal, the god Anubis. The mummy would be risen to a upright position. Whilst one priest would recite magical spells from the Book of the Dead, a less ranked priest would purify the coffin with incense and water. Then, an adze, which is a tool similar to an axe with an arched blade at right angles to the handle, was raised twice to the lips of the mummy. Once that had been done a fork-like tool would touch the mummy's eyes, mouth, feet, nose, lips, ears and arms allowing the dead to "breathe" and "speak".According to the Egyptians, this also allowed the deceased to use his senses in the afterlife. After that an ox is slaughtered and its foreleg is offered to the face of the mummy. The purpose of this was so the sexual abilities of the deceased were revitalised.

After the mummy's senses were revitalised and the ritual was completed a meal was served. Egyptians believed that because of the ritual that had been performed earlier, the mummy would be able to eat the food that was left for it in his tomb. The Egyptians felt that death was not a cause for sadness; but a new beginning - rather, a cause to be happy because the deceased would move to a better life in the afterlife. However, sadness was still present when someone died. A loved one was lost forever but then again he/she found life for eternity. The Egyptians wore false beards, however those who didn't shaved their beards in the time of mourning.

Modern Comparison

Funerals today are still taken very seriously. Unlike the Egyptians we do not have to hire professional mourners to show that the dead is important. Instead, we mourn ourselves at the time of someone's death. In Judaism, the friends and family of the deceased wear black. However, unlike many religions Jewish people do not bring flowers to the funeral. The purpose of this is to avoid the ceremony to resemble other non-Jewish funerals. Viewing the deceased is not a Jewish custom, because it is disrespectful to look at a person when they cannot look back at you, this will also be the last memory of the person. The deceased would be clothed in white linen without any pockets, this is proof that when we leave this world we take nothing, and that God judges us on our deeds. This is similar to the Egyptians, as they too only allow the genuine people to pass through the afterlife. As well, some of the customs that follow the funeral are based on superstition. For example, some Jewish people cover their mirrors in the house of mourning, others use a different route home from the cemetery and a whole list of other customs follow.

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