Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Opening of the Mouth Performed by the Gods

            One other point can be made regarding the Opening of the Mouth. Flint “Pesh-en-Kefs” have been found in predynastic graves[1] and some Old Kingdom burials have been found to contain the various instruments used in the Opening of the Mouth[2]. If the Opening of the Mouth ceremonies had been carried out before the interment of the deceased, then placing these items in the burial would be superfluous. The assumption could be made that the Opening of the Mouth could be performed for the deceased after the burial. From several texts it would seem that the gods could be convinced to perform this ceremony if it had not been performed for the deceased before his burial. For instance, in Chapter XXXb of the Book of the Dead:

“Behold, thou shalt make a scarab of green stone with its rim(?) plated with gold and placed within the heart of a person, it will perform for him the Opening of the Mouth…”[3].

And in the Papyrus of Ani is found:

“The scribe Ani triumphant saith: May the god Ptah open my mouth, may the god of my city loose the swathings, even the swathings that are over my mouth. Moreover, may Thoth, being filled and furnished with charms, come and loose the bandages of Set that fetter my mouth; and may the god Tem hurl them at those who would fetter (me) with them, then drive them back. May my mouth be unclosed by Shu with his iron knife wherewith he opened the mouth of the gods”[4].

In Spell 690 of the Coffin Texts we read, “I will enter into the place where is that august [god] who is in […]; he will open my eyes for me [that I may see with them], he will split open my mouth…”[5].

            Thus it would seem that the deceased could magically have the Opening of the Mouth performed for him in the underworld. The obvious contradiction that if the Opening of the Mouth was not performed at the time of burial then the deceased could not utter the spells which would assure its being opened in the underworld, was ignored by the Egyptians in much the same way that they ignored the fact that some of the people who were interred with copies of the Book of the Dead were illiterate.

[1] Budge, Book of Opening the Mouth, vol. I, p. vii.

[2] William C. Hayes, The Scepter of Egypt, (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1978), vol. I, pp. 117 – 118.

[3] Budge, Book of the Dead, 1967, p. 15.

[4] E. A. W. Budge, The Book of the Dead (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1923), pp. 133 – 134.

[5] Robert O. Faulkner, The Ancient Egyptian Coffin Texts, Vol. I, (Warminster: Aris & Phillips Ltd., 1977),  p. 255.

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