Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Beginning of the Opening of the Mouth

The Opening of the Mouth, in its most elaborate form, first appeared in the Eighteenth Dynasty. At this time, the ceremonies may have lasted as long as four days , and it was performed in a chamber at the entrance to the tomb or on a spot outside the tomb, which had been made ceremonially pure . Participants in the ceremonies include the Lector (Kher-Heb) priest, the Sem priest, the Am-Khent priest, the Smer (who was probably a friend of the deceased), the Sa-Mer.f (who was either the son of the deceased or a chosen representative of the son), two women (one of whom represented the goddess Isis and the other of whom represented Nephthys), the Menhu (or slaughterer), as well as a group of people called the Heru-Shesu (the “Followers of Horus”) .

The Opening of the Mouth began with the placing of a statue of the deceased upon a heap of sand (which may have symbolized the primeval hill upon which the creator god appeared) that had been made ceremonially pure by the sprinkling of water. It seems to have been important for the statue to face south, although the significance of this is unknown .

The Kher-Heb priest, whose major function in the Opening of the Mouth was to read the ritual texts and to instruct the Sem priest on the proper actions to take, now ordered the Sem to don the “kniw” garment (which covered the Sem’s shoulders, breast and upper back) and to take a censer of burning incense and walk around the statue four times saying “Thou art pure O Osiris” .

The Sem next took four small “nemeset” vases filled with water and walked around the statue four times, emptying one vase of water upon the statue each time. The first time he did this he said, “Thou art pure. Thou art pure. Thy purifications are the purifications of Horus , and the purifications of Horus are thy purifications”. While emptying the second vase of water, the Sem priest repeated the same words except that Set was invoked, rather than Horus. The third and fourth vases were emptied in the name of Thoth and Geb respectively .

The Sem next took four “Dshrt” vases and repeated the same ritual that he had performed with the “nemeset” vases, after which he walked around the statue four times with a vase containing “Incense of the South” dissolved in the water. The Sem then circled the statue four more times with “Incense of the North” in his vase this time .

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