Egyptian Funerary Practices Essay

Egyptian Funerary Practices Ancient Egyptian civilization was based on religion. Their belief in the rebirth after death became their driving force behind their funeral practices. Death was simply a temporary interruption, rather than an end to life, and that eternal life could be ensured by means of worship to the gods, preservation of the physical form thru mummification, substantial ceremonies and detailed burial policies and procedures.

Even though many today have varying views of an afterlife, many of the funerary practices that originated in Egypt can be seen in present day funeral services. The Egyptians believed that the human soul used the first night after death to travel into the afterlife. The body, which the Egyptians believed was an essential element to the afterlife, had to be mummified to preserve it for eternity. Today, we may not be preserving the body for an afterlife, but we do preserve the body for the family and friends to have the one last moment with that person.

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We are on call 24 hours a day to ensure that they are taken care of as quickly as possible and that as much can be done as possible to preserve the body. Just as we do today, they took great care of their dead to ensure the Ba, or the soul of the individual had a place to be able to return to. The mummification process took 72 days to perform properly. The brain is removed, evisceration of the internal organs through an abdominal incision, the body soaked in a natron solution for 20 days followed by a 20 day tanning or drying period.

The last step was to wrap the body with bandages, some 1200 yards of material used. This process was extremely important to Egyptians. There were strict rules surrounding the Necropolis, or the room or temple in which the preparation took place. The priest oversaw the process, and along with his embalming team, each of these steps was done properly and with great care. Today, we obviously do not invest the time that the Egyptians did, but we still put in a great amount of care into preparing a body.

We set facial features to ensure the person looks at peace, we remove all blood from the body arterially to ensure preservation and we scrub the body clean to ensure the body is sanitized, and dress the person appropriately for the visitation and funeral. Even though we today do not invest the time, the amount of care given is still present. The temples, pyramids, tombs, and religious artifacts left behind all tell us that the Ancient Egyptians believed in the resurrection of the dead. Their belief in immortality was the fundamental driving force behind their religion. The formulae which were declared to have been recited during the performance of ceremonies were written down and copied for scores of generations, and every pious, well-to-do Egyptian made arrangements that what had been done and said on behalf of Osiris should be done and said for him outside and inside his tomb after his death. ” (Liturgy of Funeral Offerings, pg. 2) This illustrates just how important the ceremony and the process was to the Egyptians. Their belief in the afterlife and the importance of the ceremonial steps taken to get them there caused them great concern with their own funerals.

Today, everyone has an idea of what they would like to do for their own funeral as well. We may follow in the same patterns as our family heritage has done for generations with either a traditional funeral or cremation, or we may have a newer alternative in mind for our self. Even though we may not be preparing for an afterlife, we still have an idea of what we expect and want for ourselves and with the ability to pre-plan and pre-fund our own funerals, we have the ability to give insight. Among the Egyptians of the Dynastic Period the presentation of offerings to the dead was regarded as one of the chief duties in life of a religious man. ”(Liturgy of Funerary Offerings, pg. 4). Egyptians believed that the offerings left at the burial tomb would assist or help their family or friends survive in the Other World. The belief lived with them for thousands of years. “The Egyptians loved life so much they tried to take it with them to the grave and beyond. ”(Egypt:Land of the Pharaohs, pg. 12).

In our times, we too have a tradition of burying our dead with affectionate items that the person enjoyed or reminded us of that person. It may not have been food or war chest items to protect and serve us in an afterlife, but an old hat, a cane, golf clubs or a shotgun. An item that tells a story and gives us memories of the person that we burying. The Egyptians did this out of love for their family and we do the same. Over the passage of time there are many things that differ from the practices of the Ancient Egyptians from the practices of today.

We do not remove organs, lay the body out to dry for weeks at a time, hire professional mourners or carry sustenance to the gravesite. But the more you study and read about this time period and reflect on their practices, the more and more practices you see that we have in common. We have laws and procedures dealing with dead, licensed directors overseeing the preservation process, elaborate ceremonies celebrating the ones that have left and dignified resting places for their burials. Even though there are thousands of years in between the two societies, many of the basic processes are still in place.


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