According to Baly there are two distinct elements in the Opening of the Mouth. Baly claims that the purification ceremonies, the dressing of the statue and the opening of the mouth with the instruments are all Semitic in nature while the sleeping of the Sem and the slaughter of the animals is Hamitic, or African, in origin.
While Baly’s theory is interesting, the evidence for it is hardly conclusive. The major problem in this regard is the evidence for the Semitic origin of parts of the Opening of the Mouth. This evidence has been set forth by Blackman, who based his evidence on the comparison of a Babylonian ceremony, also called the Opening of the Mouth, to the Egyptian ceremony outlined in this paper. Blackman’s evidence may be summarized as follows:
- The statues used in both ceremonies were frequently purified with incense and water
- In both countries the statue is dressed and anointed with unguents
- At the end of the ceremonies in both countries the statue was borne away by nine courtiers
- The lips of the statue were washed during the course of the ceremonies in both countries
- The placing of the bandlets about the eyes and mouth of the statue in the Egyptian ritual has been compared to the placing of red, white and blue wools about the neck of the statue in the Babylonian rite
- The meal at the end of the Opening of the Mouth has been compared to the constant presentation of food and drink to the statue in the Babylonian ritual
While this evidence will admit the possibility that the Babylonian and Egyptian rituals have a common ancestor at some point in the far past (as Blackman theorizes), it will not admit the possibility that the Babylonian ritual was directly derived from the Egyptian ritual (as Langdon speculates). One problem with Langdon’s theory is that the evidence could, in places, be explained by simple coincidence. For instance, the use of water and incense in purification rituals is a common feature in many religions throughout the world and their use in both the Babylonian and Egyptian rituals does not prove a thing.
Another problem with Langdon’s theory becomes apparent when the difference between the two ceremonies is examined. In the Egyptian ceremony, the statue is placed facing south; in the Babylonian ceremony the statue is placed facing east. In the Egyptian ceremony, the statue is placed on a small heap of sand at the beginning of the rituals while in the Babylonian ceremony it is placed on a mat.The most important difference between the two rituals is in their basic purposes. The Egyptian ceremony is designed to re-unite the soul of the deceased with his body (or with a statue representing that body) and to provide the deceased with the ability to eat, drink and breathe in the afterlife. The Babylonian ritual seems to be a dedicatory ceremony performed upon a newly carved or restored statue.