Tag Archives: deceased

Hair is Maternity in Ancient Egypt.


The nwn gesture has also a positive reading, because the hair sm3 has also a double value in Egyptian thinking. The hair sm3 is an element full of life force, which has to be delivered to the deceased for making easier the final resurrection.

To give the hair sm3 (rdi sm3) is a gesture that can be linked to the act of nursing; the mother’s milk is the first food, in the Egyptian funerary ambit the dead one in his rebirth is like a baby, so giving the hair sm3 contributes to this idea of the mummy as a new-born baby.

Funerary stele of Lady Taperet with an image of Nut in nwn gesture. XXII Dynasty. Musée du Louvre. Photo: www.nybooks.com

Funerary stele of Lady Taperet with an image of Nut in nwn gesture. XXII Dynasty. Musée du Louvre. Photo: http://www.nybooks.com

Internal side of the cover of the Coffin of Peftjauneith from Saqqara. Nut with raised arms and hair standing on end. Ptolemaic Period. Rijksmuseum of Leiden. Photo: www.rmo.nl

Internal side of the cover of the Coffin of Peftjauneith from Saqqara. Nut with raised arms and hair standing on end. Ptolemaic Period. Rijksmuseum of Leiden. Photo: http://www.rmo.nl

When the mourner makes the nwn gesture of throwing the hair onwards over her face she turns into the deceased’s mother, from whose belly he will be born. The mummy, assimilated to Osiris, is the Nut’s son and this goddess makes the nwn gesture inside the coffin, where happens the regeneration process. Nut bended and with her hair extended forwards gives birth her son Osiris, i. e. the dead one. For that reason we can find inside many coffin covers an image of Nut with raised arms and hair standing on end; it is the way the artist could represent her in that surface; but in reality she was bended forwards making the nwn gesture.

Professional Mourners in Ancient Egypt.


The other point would be to discern who were these two women shaking and/or pulling their hair? Women represented next to the coffin are described as wife, widow, servant…The Egyptian Opening of the Mouth ceremony was secret and made by expert priests in the practices, therefore the mourning ritual, also secret and as a part of the first one, should be performed by women who knew very well every step of the rite.

Close to the mummy the wife cries, while the two mourners in the role of Isis and Nephtys stand at both extremes. Detail from the Papyrus of Ani. XIX Dynasty. Photo: www.wikimedia.org

Close to the mummy the wife cries, while the two mourners in the role of Isis and Nephtys stand at both extremes. Detail from the Papyrus of Ani. XIX Dynasty. Photo: http://www.wikimedia.org

If we pay attention to Egyptian scenes of funerary processions, in many cases we can see the deceased’s wife crying on the coffin, while at both extremes stand two women identified as Isis and Nephtys. Although there are generic terms in Egyptian language for mourners, as iAkbyt, smwt or HAyt, the two mourners taking part in the rites for recovering the mummy are called Dryt, the two kites. They are the female figures standing at each extreme of the corpse, making the mourning ceremony impersonating Isis and Nephtys. The other mourning women or the deceased’s wife are never designed like that because the kite per excellence in Egyptian mythology was Isis and by extension, Nephtys. The role of those mourning women was too important and they could not be secular women, but official mourners who had the authority for getting into the “secret place”, where the corpse came back to life.

Isis and Nephtys are at both extremes of the mummy. Behind Roy's wife mourns her husband's death. Painting from the tomb of Roy in Dra Abu el-Naga. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

Isis and Nephtys are at both extremes of the mummy. Behind Roy’s wife mourns her husband’s death. Painting from the tomb of Roy in Dra Abu el-Naga. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

On the other hand these two women in the role of the goddesses are usually represented with clothing covering their hair, while the rest of mourners, also the wife, appear with the black mane visible. We could think that they were hiding a sacred element, through which they were able to bring the dead back to life. That makes us think that the mourning ritual was performed by someone who knew the secrets of the ceremony, a kind of priestess, who played the role of the deceased’s wife and sister-in-law, and who held the title of Drt.

The wife is kneeling and crying, Isis stands on the left and Nephtys on the right. Painting from the tomb of Samut in Assassif. XIX Dynasty. Photo: www.osirisnet.net

The wife is kneeling and crying, Isis stands on the left and Nephtys on the right. Painting from the tomb of Samut in Assassif. XIX Dynasty. Photo: http://www.osirisnet.net

Which features should they have these called souls of Buto? Obviously they should be initiated in the Osiris Mysteries, but we know from the Lamentations of Isis and Nephtys that one of the requirements for being a mourner in the role of Isis and Nephtys was not have been mother yet, so to have intact the power of conceiving. This idea is reinforced when in that same text Osiris is considered “the first-born who opens the body”. This was a way of being faithful to the myth and also a way of securing the resurrection of the dead, because the conceiving faculty of both Isis and Nephtys was intact[1].

About what other requirements they needed to have we do not know, but everything points to a pair of women who knew about that secret and sacred rite of mourning and performing with their hair in the deceased’s benefit. They had nothing to do with the common mourners of the cortège and nor with the dead’s wife, maybe even they had any kinship. Possibly they were professional mourners, knowing when to scream, when to recite some speeches and when and how to shake and/or pull their hair.


[1] Ph. Derchain also considered that they were two women without children (Derchain, 1975, p.73). In the myth of Osiris Isis has not yet given birth Horus. This one is born after his father’s death and his birth is the grant of the resurrection of Osiris. In the funerary ceremony the idea would be the same one: maternity happens after the decease.

The Mourning Ritual in the Opening of the Mouth Ceremony.


The fact of being a secret ceremony would explain why it is so rare to find images of the two mourners in the role of Isis and Nephtys carrying out the mourning ritual. The iconography shows them crying next to the mummy, but it is not usual to see what exactly they do.

on the right the mourner in nwn gesture towards the corpse. Scene from the tomb of Renni in el-Kab. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: www.osirisnet.net

On the right the mourner in nwn gesture towards the corpse. Scene from the tomb of Renni in el-Kab. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: http://www.osirisnet.net

Some of the most explicit images of what the mourners do with their hair over or in front of the mummy are the stele of Abkaou (XI Dynasty), the tomb of Renni in el-Kab (XVIII Dynasty), the funerary temple of Seti I in Dra Abu el-Naga (XIX Dynasty) or the tomb of Ramsés IX (XX Dynasty); being scenes included in the coffin we could also put in this group the representations of Isis and Nephtys pulling their frontal lock of hair in the coffin of Ramsés IV (XX Dynasty) and in the coffin of Nes-shu-tefnut (Ptolemaic period).

Isis and Nephtys making nwn m gesture. Sarcophagus of Royal Scribe Nes-shu-tefnut from Saqqara. Ptolemaic Period. Kunsthistorisches Museum in Wien. Photo: www.globalegyptianmuseum.org

Isis and Nephtys making nwn m gesture. Sarcophagus of Royal Scribe Nes-shu-tefnut from Saqqara. Ptolemaic Period. Kunsthistorisches Museum in Wien. Photo: http://www.globalegyptianmuseum.org

Even the Opening of the Mouth rite of the tomb of Rekhmire does not give us a defined idea of the performance these women did it is the most complete scene of the whole ceremony that ancient Egyptians have left to us, but it is not clear what these two women did, since the mourners appear with a passive gesture. However, thanks to the funerary literature, we know that already from the Old Kingdom they performed a mourning ceremony screaming, crying and shaking or pulling hair. So, Rekhmire wanted the resurrection rites to be reflected in his tomb, but the artist might have a sacred limit, because the divine secrets must be concealed as a sign of respect[1].

According to the sources we have seen all along this work we have proofs of the following:

  • The mourning rite was a part of the Opening of the Mouth ceremony.
  • The mourning rite could be made by two women in the role of Isis and Nephtys or just by one mourner in the role of Isis (as Osiris’ wife), reproducing a passage of the Myth of Osiris.
  • In this mourning ritual the hair of the mourner(s) was the main element.
  • This mourning ritual consisted not just of crying for the death of Osiris (the deceased), but of a gesture made with the hair.
  • This gesture could be to shake the hair forwards and cover the face with it (nwn) or to pull the frontal lock of hair (nwn m).
  • According to the iconography these two gestures were made over or in front of the corpse, so in the deceased’s direction.

There is no evidence in iconography, or in the funerary texts that both gestures were done together. It seems that in the mourning rite the mourner(s) did one or another. On what did the choice depend? We do not know.

At this point we wonder in which moment of the Opening of the Mouth ceremony did the mourners made the nwn or the nwn m gesture. Mostly the iconography shows the mourner(s) in the moment of the ox sacrifice, as we can see in the tomb of Rekhmire or in TTA4 and TT53.

Sacrifice of the ox with the presence of the mourner. Painting from the tomb of Rekhmire in Gourna. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

Sacrifice of the ox with the presence of the mourner. Painting from the tomb of Rekhmire in Gourna. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

Thanks to the funerary texts we know that slaughtering the ox and mourning were not made at the same time. The Pyramid Texts give us a clue of what was first: “…the souls of Buto rock for you; they beat their bodies and their arms for you, they pull their hair for you. They say to you: Oh, Osiris you have gone and come back, you were sleepy and have waked up, you were dead and you have revived…Stand up, look what your son has done for you…he has beaten for you the one who beated you as a bull, he has killed for you the one who killed you as a bull sm3[2] may the mourning stop in both palaces…you go up (Osiris) to the sky and you are like Wpw-W3wt[3]. Your son Horus leads you over the heaven’s ways…”[4].

Reading this passage it seems that we find the following sequence:

1. The souls of Buto are Isis and Nephtys, so the mourners shake and/or pull their hair. We are in full mourning ritual.

2. Horus gets into the drama. That means that Isis has already conceived him and he could then revenge his father’s death. In the funeral it might be the moment of the sacrifice of the ox, as scapegoat. It remembered the fight between Horus and Seth and the victory of the falcon god.

3. Once the animal has been slaughtered, so the death of Osiris revenged, the moan stops. In this moment the deceased receives the foreleg and the heart of the ox and the Udjat eye as a symbol of the final resurrection. The end of the mourning was the cut of the s3mt. And maybe then was also when the mourner(s) were shaved and a lock of hair, assimilated to the healed lunar eye, was offered.

4. The Osiris’ rebirth is a fact.

If the sacrifice of an ox was the revenge of Horus it seems logical to think that the gesture of shaking hair was done before it. One of the meanings of this gesture was to allude to the moment Isis, as a kite, set on Osiris’ phallus for conceiving Horus. Once the heir was there, someone could revenge the Osiris’ death; it was the moment of the fight between Horus and Seth, which ended with the death of this one and the resurrection of Osiris. So firstly the mourner(s) started the gesture nwn towards the mummy; as the hair covering the face could also be a way of remembering the chaos and darkness, which in the legend was the battle between Horus and Seth, in some moment of this mourning rite, when the two mourners (kites) were still making the nwn gesture, started the ox’ slaughter. Once the animal had died, the two mourners (Isis and Nephtys) would stop the nwn gesture.

Sacrifice of an ox in the funerary ceremony. Painting from the tomb of Menna in Gourna. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: www.osirisnet.net

Sacrifice of an ox in the funerary ceremony. Painting from the tomb of Menna in Gourna. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: http://www.osirisnet.net

Taking into consideration that the mourning ritual and the ox’ slaughter were a reproduction of a passage of the myth of Osiris, it seems quite logical to place them at the end of the Opening of the Mouth ceremony, after other practices as for instance the tekenu ceremony. This is the way it appears in the tomb of Rekhmire. The tomb of Menna (TT69) has also a scene of the Opening of the Mouth where the tekenu practice appears at the beginning.

Opening of the Mouth ceremony from the tomb of Menna in Gourna. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: www.osirisnet.net

Opening of the Mouth ceremony from the tomb of Menna in Gourna. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: http://www.osirisnet.net

But in the tomb of Renni in el-Kab (EK7) there is a different version. On the east wall we can see how one mourner is making the nwn gesture towards the mummy during the Opening of the mouth ceremony.

On the right the mourner with short hair is wrapping someone. Scene from the tomb of Renni in el-Kab. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: www.osirisnet.net

On the right the mourner with short hair is wrapping someone. Scene from the tomb of Renni in el-Kab. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: http://www.osirisnet.net

In the upper register a woman with no mane, so the mourner appears wrapping with a kind of clothing a masculine figure. Would it be the early stage of the tekenu rite? So it seems; because the following image shows the tekenu being transported on a sledge while behind him stands the Drt with short hair.

The tekenu on a sledge, behind we can see the mourner (Drt) with short hair. Scene from the tomb of Renni in el-Kab. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: www.osirisnet.net

The tekenu on a sledge, behind we can see the mourner (Drt) with short hair. Scene from the tomb of Renni in el-Kab. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: http://www.osirisnet.net

If so, then the mourning ritual with the hair would have been made before it. Why? Maybe these two practices made in the Opening of the Mouth ceremony had not an orthodox order or maybe the artists did not knew so much so they could represent the ritual as it was.


[1] S. Mayassis, 1957, p. 40.

[2] The bull sm3 is a bull for sacrifice that was assimilated to Set (Wb IV, 123, 17). It is interesting to notice the same phonetic as the word for hair sm3, which we know was related to darkness and chaos.

[3] The One who opens the Ways.

[4] Pyr., 1004-1010; 1972-1978

Hair, Mourners and Secret in Ancient Egypt.


Egyptian funerary texts and iconography mention the mourners in the role of Isis and Nephtys as making a mourning ritual with their hair for the benefit of the deceased. According to the sources, this rite was a part of the practises which formed the Opening of the Mouth for the mummy’s rebirth.

There is evidence of the Opening of the Mouth rite from texts of the Old Kingdom (inscription in mastaba of Metjen and in the Pyramid Texts). The Coffin Texts of the Middle Kingdom continue demonstrating the existence of this rite. In this period of the Egyptian history maybe can we envisage already one graphic proof in the stele of Abkaou (stele C15) from Abydos. In it the sculptor represented the rites of the Osiris festivity[1], where the myth was reproduced.  The two mourners shake their hair over the corpse; between them we can see the hieroglyphs of the adze and the sledge. What does it mean?

Detail of the stele of Abkaou in the Louvre Museum. XI Dynasty. Photo: www.commons.wikimedia.org

Detail of the stele of Abkaou in the Louvre Museum. XI Dynasty. Photo: http://www.commons.wikimedia.org

The sledge is the phoneme tm; it can be a negative verb[2], but it also is the term for “to complete”, “be completed”, in the sense of uniting the different parts of the body[3], mainly in relation to the mummy limbs[4]. The adze could be the verb nwi “to be in charge of”[5]. So, we could read the inscription as “in charge of completing” in the sense of restoring the corpse of the deceased. That would not be crazy if we think that in the legend Anubis was the one who embalmed the body, but with the assistance of Isis and Nephtys.

However, looking at the entire register of the stele there is no trace of inscription in the other images. So, why do we have to consider these three hieroglyphs as an inscription?

Detail of the register with the Osiris festivities. Stele d'Abkaou. Musée du Louvre. XI Dynasty. Photo: www.commons.wikimedia.org

Detail of the register with the Osiris festivities. Stele d’Abkaou. Musée du Louvre. XI Dynasty. Photo: http://www.commons.wikimedia.org

The tekenu on a sledge. Detail from the tomb of Montuherkhepeshef in Gourna. XVIII Dynasty. Image: www.excavacionegipto.com

The tekenu on a sledge. Detail from the tomb of Montuherkhepeshef in Gourna. XVIII Dynasty. Image: http://www.excavacionegipto.com

If we consider them just as the pure objects that they represent, we notice that the adze is one of the main tools in the Opening of the Mouth ceremony in the New Kingdom iconography; on its behalf the sledge is one of the means for transporting the human victim/tekenu, whose ritual we have seen was also part of the Opening Mouth ceremony in New Kingdom.

One possible theory could be that in the stele of Abkaou the sculptor was representing the Opening of the Mouth ceremony and the morning ritual in a shorten version, as it was done later in the New Kingdom, when artist included in the same scene mourners, priests, corpse and ritual tools. And we could as well think not just of a short version, but a codified way of representing a hidden ritual in the attempt of protecting the information of a confidential rite.

Opening of the Mouth ceremony. The image shows the two mourners, the priests and the table with all the tools utilised, included the foreleg of an ox. Painting from the tomb of Khonsu in Gourna. XIX Dynasty. Photo: www.osirisnet.net

Opening of the Mouth ceremony. The image shows the two mourners, the priests and the table with all the utilised tools, included the foreleg of an ox. Painting from the tomb of Khonsu in Gourna. XIX Dynasty. Photo: http://www.osirisnet.net

The renovating rites for the mummy’s rebirth might be secret. All along this work we have read some funerary texts making allusion to this concept of “hidden” in everything surrounding Osiris’ death and resurrection. For instance, in the tomb of Ramsés IX the inscription accompanying the scene of the women pulling their frontal locks of hair says: “…they are mourning over the secret place of Osiris…they are screaming and crying over the secret place of the ceremony …they move away SnDt[6], their two arms with their two arms, their secret is in their fingers…”[7]. In the same line we have the coffin of Ramses IV, decorated with both mages of Isis and Nephtys pulling their frontal lock of hair and whose inscription says:  “…the two goddesses who are in this secret place…they hide the secrets of the divine land… They move their faces during the moan; they mourn over the secret corpse Both goddesses are holding their locks swt”.

It seems that in ancient Egyptian belief, the mystery of death and resurrection was not accessible to all people; because of that in the Book of the Dead we read in relation to the Osiris’ resurrection. “… it is a secret of the Duat and a religious mystery in the deceased’s Kingdom …it is a mystery, that cannot be know, to take care of the blessed heart, give him movement, take away the bandage from his eyes, open his face…Read that with no one seeing it, apart from your truly friend and the lector priest[8].

The death itself was for the dead an initiation to the Hereafter’s mysteries[9]. Only the priests knew the secret of the Osiris death and resurrection, and to keep this secrecy was crucial for the universal harmony[10], possibly for that reason the “night of Isis” hid the mysteries of resurrection[11]. Even Isis sometimes received the name of “The Mysterious One”, since she “has been everything she has been, everything she is and everything she will be, and her veil, no mortal has never took off[12].

The Theban Books of Breathing, dating from Ptolemaic period was a funerary text recited just before closing the cover of the coffin [13] and the woman in the role of Isis gave a speech for reviving Osiris and help his soul go up to the sky as lunar disc: “That is something that needs to be hidden. Do not let anyone read it. It is useful for one in the necropolis. He will live again successfully millions of times”[14].

The chapter 17 of the Book of the Dead mentions the moment Osiris recovers his virility thanks to Isis, and she stresses the secret nature of her action: “I am Isis, you found me when I had my hair disordered over my face, and my crown was dishevelled. I have conceived as Isis, I have procreated as Nephtys. Isis dispels my bothers (?). My crown is dishevelled; Isis has been over her secret, she has stood up and has cleaned her hair”

The Magical Papyrus Salt 825 contains a text about the rite for the conservation of life and it informs the reader that the “House of Life” is hidden, unknown and invisible; it is a “secret book…contains life and death. Do not reveal it, the one who reveals it will die suddenly or will be murdered[15].

Opening of the Mouth ceremony at the door of the tomb. Painitgn from the tomb of Khonsu in Gourna. XIX Dynasty. Photo: www.osirisnet.net

Opening of the Mouth ceremony at the door of the tomb. Painting from the tomb of Khonsu in Gourna. XIX Dynasty. Photo: http://www.osirisnet.net

Everything points to the idea that in ancient Egypt the resurrection process is something that only concerns to the deceased and the team helping him in his recovery and that it is not something accessible for everybody. That would explain then why there is no much iconographical evidence of the Opening of the Mouth ceremony; it comes mainly from New Kingdom on (tomb decoration or papyri) and it is not explicit at all. On the other hand these scenes showing the priests and mourner with the mummy in front of the tomb would not be real. If the ritual for the resurrection was something secret, the Opening of the Mouth ceremony could not be made in open air. All practices for helping the mummy to come back to life should be made inside the tomb or inside a special building in the necropolis. So the images of the mourners crying close to the corpse while the priests are officiating would be the artistic solution to allude to the rite without revealing details.


[1] Gayet, 1886, pl. LIV.

[2] Wb V, 302, 5.

[3] Wb V, 303.

[4] Wb V, 305, 1.

[5] Wb II, p. 220

[6] Fear (?).

[7] Piankoff, 1942, pp. 1-11; 1944, pp. 1-62; 1946, pp. 1-50.

[8] LdM, 148.

[9] S. Mayassis, 1957, p. 218.

[10] S. Mayassis, 1957, p. 42.

[11] Sinesio, Epist., XIII,v.s. 89; S. Mayassis, 1957, p. 65.

[12] Plutarco, De Iside et Osiride, 9.

[13] J.Cl. Goyon, 1972, p. 217.

[14] Book of Breathing I, 1.

[15] Ph. Derchain, 1964, p. 139.

[16] S. Mayassis, 1957, p. 40.

Hair, Mourners and Light in Ancient Egypt.


The finality of the rites during the funerals in ancient Egypt was the deceased’s rebirth. In the mourning ritual accomplished during the Opening of the Mouth ceremony by the two women in the role of Isis and Nephtys, the dead returned to the womb for coming back to life as a new born; he was also the incarnation of Osiris, so the dead husband who needed stimulation for recovering the vital faculties (mobility, breath, eyesight, hearing, virility). The dead needed the eye irt eye irtfor reviving; the eye in Egyptian belief had a regeneration meaning from the moment it created the mankind (rmT Mankind rmT) from the teardrops (rmit teardrops rmit). So, the eye and its tears had the capacity of producing life. On the other hand we cannot omit the semantic relationship between the Egyptian word for eye irt and the verb for “make” iri[1]. For some the hieroglyph of irt could be an image of the solar disc inside the mouth as a symbol of the verb iri[2].

The sem priest is making the Opening of the Mouth ceremony on the dead's image, in front of him the make-up for Udjat eye as final offering. Painting from the tomb of Inerkha in Deir el-Medina. XIX Dynasty. Photo: www.osirisnet.net

The sem priest is making the Opening of the Mouth ceremony on the dead’s image, in front of him the make-up for Udjat eye as final offering. Painting from the tomb of Inerkha in Deir el-Medina. XIX Dynasty. Photo: http://www.osirisnet.net

But the eye needed by the deceased is the lunar eye Udjat, the symbol of light (life) in the darkness of the night (death). The light symbolises rebirth and nature and life depend on the received light[3]; much light means much life, while shadow means the contrary. The Udjat eye as the full moon is the light in the middle of the darkness and it is also the health and strength in the death[4]. The Udjat eye illuminates in the middle of the shadows as a manifestation of life.

In the Egyptian language the concept of lunar eye and light is closely linked to femininity. Not only because irt or wDAt are feminine words (ended in –t), there are many terms and expressions which support this idea: Axt is the « bright eye » of the sun god or Horus[5] ; iAbt is the « left eye », so the moon[6] ; HDt  is the « white of the eye » ; sSmt can be a designation for the « lunar eye »[7] ; iAbt.f iaH m grh means «  his left eye is the moon during the night »[8].

It is also interesting to notice that nearly all terms about hair we have seen taking part of the mourning ritual in ancient Egypt are feminine: Samt, Hnskt, wprty, lock swt. The exception is: hair sma (and/or Hair Sni ) . These two words we have seen that they are related to the idea of chaos and disorder, and when they entail the concept of resurrection they symbolize vegetation, water, breath of life or conception, but never moon/light.

Two different ways of representing Isis and Nephtys assisting the deceased: as the two kites (tomb of Sennedjem) and as women (tomb of Nakhtamon). XIX Dynasty. Photos: www.osirisnet.net

Two different ways of representing Isis and Nephtys assisting the deceased: as the two kites (tomb of Sennedjem) and as women (tomb of Nakhtamon). XIX Dynasty. Photos: http://www.osirisnet.net

The feminine principle was then basic in the ancient Egypt resurrection, it is necessary for giving birth and that makes the figure of Isis essential in the Osiris rebirth. Consequently, in Egyptian funerals the two kites or two Drty made their mourning ritual as impersonations of Isis and Nepthys, but also as women. And maybe that is why their hair with its lunar connexion was such an important element in the deceased’s reanimation.


[1] W. B. Kristensen, 1992, p. 13.

[2] J.E. Cirlot, 1991, p. 339

[3] J. Chevalier et A. Gheerbrandt, 1969, p. 154.

[4] W. B. Kristensen, 1992, p. 15.

[5] 3xt, with the cow determinative is a way of referring to Hathor, whose relationship with the full moon and the rebirth we have already seen. Wb I, 17, 3

[6] Wb I, 30.

[7] The translation of sSm is “guide”, and the moon is the guide in the night sky.

[8] R. el Sayed, 1987, pp. 62-67.

Hair, Mourners and Opening of the Mouth in Ancient Egypt.


We have seen throughout this work that the mourners’ hair (locks, mane, dishevelled, plaits) played a very important role in the funerary ceremony of ancient Egypt. We have also seen that sometimes those different aspects of the hair had just a symbolic meaning from a resurrection point of view (as for instance the two ringlets wprty). We also know now that there were two types of mourners: those ones being in a group in the procession accompanying the corpse and the two women impersonating Isis and Nephtys and in charge of the deceased’s rebirth.

The two priests and one mourner (the wife according to the inscription) in the Opening of the Mouth of Roy. Painting from the tomb of Roy in Dra Abu el-Naga. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

The two priests and one mourner (the wife according to the inscription) in the Opening of the Mouth of Roy. Painting from the tomb of Roy in Dra Abu el-Naga. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

According to the sources the hair of these two mourning women was important from many points of view: symbolic, mythic and ritual. From the Egyptian iconography and texts we can discern a mourning rite in which the two women made a gesture with their hair or lock of hair over the mummy with a regenerating goal, and we can also guess a practice of shaving or cutting hair to the two mourners that happened in some moment at the end of the funerals when the deceased’s rebirth was a fact.

After the embalming of the corpse, the cortège walked to the necropolis, once there took place the main Egyptian rite for the benefit of the dead: the Opening of the Mouth ceremony, which consisted in a group of gestures for transmitting vitality to the mummy (this way the deceased recovered the ability of breathing, seeing, hearing…), and the two representatives of Isis and Nephtys took part in that process. Many sources reflect this ritual, but usually they are not too explicit. It is mostly represented in a shorten way, with the lector priest and/or the sem priest holding the utensils used for the ritual (mainly the adze and the stone vessels) and officiating on the mummy, meanwhile two mourners or sometimes just one, cry close to the dead. In some cases the scene has a more divine nuance and the one officiating is Anubis, while Isis and Nephtys stay at both extremes of the corpse.

Anubis, Isis and Nephtys in the Opening of the Mouth rite. Painting from the tomb of Nakhtamon in Deir el-Medina. XIX Dynasty. Photo: www.osirisnet.net

Anubis, Isis and Nephtys in the Opening of the Mouth rite. Painting from the tomb of Nakhtamon in Deir el-Medina. XIX Dynasty. Photo: http://www.osirisnet.net

The most explicit document about the Opening of the Mouth ceremony that ancient Egyptians have left to us is the representation in the south wall on the tomb of Rekhmire. In a composition of fifty three scenes the artist showed the rite step by step.

Opening of the Mouth ceremony from the tomb of Rekhmire in Gourna. XVIII Dynasty. Image: www.digitalegypt.ucl.uk

Opening of the Mouth ceremony from the tomb of Rekhmire in Gourna. XVIII Dynasty. Image: http://www.digitalegypt.ucl.uk

The broad outline which Rekhmire offers would be:

1. The mummy or deceased’s statue (as it is the case in Rekhmire’s tomb) is put on a mound symbolising the primeval hill.
2. The mummy/statue is purified with water, natron and incense.
3. The sem priest transmits the vital energy rememorizing the ancient Egyptian tradition of the sacrifice and rebirth of the tekenu. The sem priest imitated the ancient victim curled up and wrapped in a clothing, he came up from it and had a small dialogue with the lector priest:

Sem priest: “I saved the eye from his mouth, I healed his leg”

Lector priest: “I have placed your eye, through which you revive”[1].

4. The sem priest makes the first gestures of Opening the Mouth with the little finger.
5. The mesentiu (labourers) work on the statue (polishing and carving) as a creational gesture[2].
6. Sacrifice of the ox of Upper Egypt for restoring the vitality of the deceased. The sem priest offers the animal’s heart and foreleg to the mummy/statue. One of the mourners (the big Dyeret) is present:

Sem priest: “to stretch the arms towards the bull ng of Upper Egypt”

Slaughterer: “get up over him, cut its foreleg and remove its heart”

The big Drt says at his ear: “Your lips have done that against you. Will your mouth open?”

Sacrifice of the ox with the presence of the mourner. Painting from the tomb of Rekhmire in Gourna. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

Sacrifice of the ox with the presence of the mourner. Painting from the tomb of Rekhmire in Gourna. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

This part of the ceremony is very important for us, not just because of the presence of one of the mourners, but also because it seems to remind the conflict between Horus and Seth. According to J. C. Goyon the sequence would stage when these two gods fought and Isis became a kite, landed on a tree and cried to Seth, who denounced unconsciously his crime: “Cry over you. Your own mouth has said it. Your ability has judged you. What else?[3]

The idea is the same one as in the tekenu ceremony we have seen in the tomb of Mentuherkhepeshef: killing a victim and offering the foreleg and the heart… but what about the hair?

Funerary scene of the tomb of Montuherkhepeshef in Dra Abu el-Naga. XVIII Dynasty.

Funerary scene of the tomb of Montuherkhepeshef in Dra Abu el-Naga. XVIII Dynasty.

Maybe we should relate the lock of hair of the tomb of Mentuherkhepeshef with the presence of the mourner in the tomb of Rekhmire; and think that a mourner’s piece of hair was cut and offered join with the foreleg and the heart.

7. After the sacrifice the sem priest makes more gestures of opening the mouth to the mummy/statue with the utensils, and in one case with the ox’s foreleg. The finality was to keep in touch the whole of the head with those magical tools (the nTrt adze and the wr-HkAw).
8. The mummy/statue is given to the rpat, who represented the heir[4], and the mesentiu work again on it.
9. New gestures of opening the mouth to the deceased are made. After that, there is an offer of 3bt stones[5].
10. Sacrifice of the ox of Lower Egypt. Here again we have the presence of one mourner, the small Dyeret, and once more the animal’s foreleg and heart are offered to the dead one.
11. After the sacrifice the priest opens again ritually the deceased’s mouth.
12. Funerary offerings and the final resurrection is a fact (the sem priest pays his respects to the new soul who lives in the Hereafter).

According to Rekhmire’s tomb, the two mourners impersonating Isis and Nephtys took part in the Opening of the Mouth ceremony. TTA4 and TT53 have both scenes of sacrifice of an ox with the presence of one mourner. But it is also true that in some other cases there is no trace of mourning women in this rite, as we can see in the tomb of Menna[6]

Opening of the Mouth ceremony from the tomb of Menna in Gourna. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: www.osirisnet.net

Opening of the Mouth ceremony from the tomb of Menna in Gourna. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: http://www.osirisnet.net

Anyway, sources proof that the two mourners in the role of Isis and Nephtys made an important role in that ritual for the deceased’s resurrection. They were members of the group of personalities who took care of the rebirth of the corpse and who reproduced the myth of Osiris.

The Opening of the Mouth ceremony was a group of practices for giving the life back to the deceased assimilated to Osiris. The priests and the two mourners recreated the chapter of the legend where Horus avenges his father’s death at the hands of Seth. In the rite it is the moment of the animal sacrifice, the ox, as scapegoat, with the presence of the sem priest, the slaughterer and the two mourners. The animal’s foreleg and heart are offered to the dead one, but also a piece/lock of hair. At this point we must remember chapter 667 of the Coffin Texts, where the healing of the hair sm3 happens at the same time of the offering of the foreleg and the giving of breath. And the final resurrection happens when the lunar eye is reconstituted and offered as Udjat eye to the deceased. E. Otto assimilated the lunar eye with the foreleg and/or the heart of the animal victim[7]; for others the moon can also be a knife, a leg or a lock of hair[8].

Carrying the leg and the heart for the deceased. Painting from the tomb of Menna in Gourna. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: www.osirisnet.net

Carrying the leg and the heart for the deceased. Painting from the tomb of Menna in Gourna. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: http://www.osirisnet.net

Throughout this work we have seen the relationship in Egyptian belief between the hair and the lunar eye and how there is a clear coincidence between cutting mourner’s hair (cutting the s3mt or shaving the mourners) and giving the Udjat eye to the dead one. It is also interesting to notice the use in the Opening of the Mouth ceremony of the flint knife peseshkef, considered by scholars as a very ancient tool for cutting the umbilical cord.

Knife peseshkef made of flint and coming from a tomb in Giza. VI Dynasty. Kunsthistorisches Museum of Wien. Photo: www.globalegyptianmuseum.org)

Knife peseshkef made of flint and coming from a tomb in Giza. VI Dynasty. Kunsthistorisches Museum of Wien. Photo: http://www.globalegyptianmuseum.org

The sacrifice of the ox represented the victory of Horus over Seth, it was also the moment of restoring the Udjat eye and, according to the funerary texts, shaving the mourners and/or cutting the s3mt. And New Kingdom iconography shows the mourners taking part in the Opening of Mouth ceremony and with no mane of hair after the rite.

But, do we really know why were these two women there, what did they really do or why their presence during the Opening of the Mouth is not so evident in iconography?


[1] E.Otto, 1960, p. 71.

[2] This step would be made when the ceremony was made on a statue. In ancient Egypt the sculptor was called sankh, which meant “to make live”.

[3] J.C.Goyon, 1972, p. 121.

[4] It means “prince” (Wb II, 415, 15).

[5] Some scholars consider they symbolize the milk teeth.

[6] TT69

[7] E. Otto, 1950, p. 171.

[8] Ph. Derchain, 1962, p.20.

Hair offering in Ancient Egypt. Archaeological remains.


Iconography and texts point to an Egyptian funerary custom of shaving or cutting a piece of hair to the two mourners in the role of Isis and Nephtys. But, does the archaeology say something to us? The answer is yes. There is archaeological information from different moments of the Egyptian history proving the existence of hair offering to the dead.

  • In the tomb of king Djer in Abydos (I Dynasty), a piece of hair and a false fringe were found by Petrie. He considered that they could be from the queen. Nowadays these remains are in Pitt Rivers Museum of Oxford[1]. In a common sepulchre in Abydos, dating possibly from the III Dynasty, many locks of hair were found, some of them were plaited and some were tangled up[2].

    Hair remains from the tomb of King Djer. I Dynasty. Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. Photo: www.prm.ox.ac.uk

    Hair remains from the tomb of King Djer. I Dynasty. Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. Photo: http://www.prm.ox.ac.uk

  • In a “pan-grave” from the Middle Kingdom near Balabish[3], at the south of Abydos, was found a burial with a masculine mummy, close to the body were laying out some plaits of hair, which apparently did not belong to the mummy[4], so they should be a ritual offering.
  • In the tomb of Tutankhamon was found inside a small anthropoid sarcophagus a plait of hair belonging to the Queen Tiye. According to A. Rowe, that would a queen’s relic, who was divinised, so that plait was considered a goddess’ hair[5]. Due that Queen Tiye was dead when Tutankhamon was buried, it seems much more logical to think of a familiar relic[6].
  • From Deir el-Bahari is a group of tombs from XVII, XVIII and XIX Dynasties.  Maspero assures there were locks of hair wrapped and put between legs, arms and around the necks of each mummy[7].
  • In a tomb of Deir el-Medina were found locks of hair inside a basket[8].
  • In the tomb of Queen Ahmose- Meritamun (XVIII Dynasty) H. E.Winlock found three baskets with human locks of hair and plaits of hair inside them.
    Inner coffin of Ahmose-Meritamun. XVIII Dynasty. Cairo Museum. Photo: www.wikimedia.org

    Inner coffin of Ahmose-Meritamun. XVIII Dynasty. Cairo Museum. Photo: http://www.wikimedia.org

    They were found with some other toilette objects. For that reason, Winlock considered that this hair was maybe for the Mertiamon’s hairdressing in the Hereafter[9]. This hypothesis sounds logical.

  • In many houses from Amarna were found clay balls with hair inside. They cold maybe be utilised for some kind of domestic magic[10].
  • In el-Kahun, Petrie found in 1890 in a tomb dating from the XX Dynasty two clay balls with locks of hair inside[11].
  • From Deir el-Bahari is a mummy dating from XXI Dynasty of a young girl, between her two legs were put locks of hair of 40 cm long[12].
  • In Gurob Tomb 605 at both feet of a female mummy was a squared case, which contained locks of hair. In some other tombs were also found hair remains[13].
  • Finally, we have to mention the Douch necropolis, in el-Kharga[14] and dating from I-V  centuries. In ten tombs were found deposits with globular clay vases with cut hair wrapped in clothing packs inside[15]; these vases were sometimes on the ground and sometimes inside a kind of whole in the walls of the funerary chambers . According to scholars the hair inside did not belong to the deceased ones, since these ones still had their own hair, but offerings.
The two Drty (two kites), offering nw vases to the four pools. Relief from the tomb of Pahery in el-Kab. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: www.osirisnet.net

The two Drty (two kites), offering nw vases to the four pools. Relief from the tomb of Pahery in el-Kab. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: http://www.osirisnet.net

All these archaeological remains make us think of those images of the twomourners called Drt with short hair at the end of the Opening of the Mouth ceremony and also of those texts mentioning the shaving of the mourners and the cut of the s3mt.


[1] Petrie and M. Flinders, 1902, p. 5, Pl. IV, fig. 7.

[2] Maspero, 1912, p. 170.

[3] It was in the group B 213, near the cultivable area.

[4] Wainwright, 1920, p. 11.

[5] Rowe, 1941, p. 624.

[6] Nachtergael, 1980, p. 243.

[7] Maspero, 1893, p. 274.

[8] Wagner et allii, 1984-1985, p. 188. They are in Musée du Louvre (Département des Antiquités Égyptiennes, Inv. Nº E 18851).

[9] Winlock, 1932, p. 34, Pl. XXXII y XXXIII.

[10] Peet and Woolley, 1923, p. 66.

[11] Crompton, 1916, p. 128. They are in the Manchester Museum.

[12] Daressy, 1907, p. 34.

[13]Bell, 1985, pp. 61-86, Pl. II.

[14] Dunand, Heim, Henein, Lichtenberg, 1992; Wagner et allii, 1984-1985, pp. 175- 202.

[15] The tombs are: T3, T4, T5, T7, T9, T11, T12, T53, T58, T66.

The Egyptian word s3mt. “Hair”, “Mourning” or both?


We have read in many chapters of the Coffin Texts that the s3mt was cut -although not destroyed (CT 334) – and offered, and that seems to happen when the mourners were shaved. But, do we know exactly what the s3mt was?

Pharaoh Snofru. Funerary stela from Cairo Museum. IV Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín

Pharaoh Snofru. Funerary stela from Cairo Museum. IV Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín

The Egyptian word s3mt had different meanings[1]. According to A. Erman and H. Grapow, it meant “sadness” [2]; but s3mt could also be “moan” [3] or “mourning” [4]. Some scholars have translated s3mt as “lock of hair” [5]. Some consider that it could describe “not cut hair” as a sign of mourning[6] or “careless hair” [7]. William A. Ward took as basis chapter 1131 and affirmed that the expression Hdq s3mt meant “cut the dishevelled hair” and for giving this meaning to s3mt he referred to the Prophecy of Neferty[8].

The text relates how the wise man Neferty tells Pharaoh Snofru (IV Dynasty) about the future (First Intermediate Period), as a chaotic time when all rules (natural and cultural) get reversed. Among all the disasters happening to Egypt (the country will be attacked by Asiatics, the sun will not shine, the Nile will dry, and there will be wars…) Neferty says:

“…nobody will cry for the death,

Nobody will fast during for the death,

A man’s hearth will be concerned just about himself,

Today will[9] not be any s3mt carried out,

Neferty

 

 

The heart will be completely away from it…”

W. Helck translated “…today none will dress hairstyle for death” but M. Lichtheim considered that Neferty was saying that the mourning was not done and for G. Lefrebvre Neferty’s words said “…there will not be mourning ceremonies…”[10] Before that Neferty told how none would cry nor fast for the death, that is, would nobody do the orthodox funerary practices; that means that s3mt could be considered as an Egyptian word for the mourning as a funerary custom. So, for us it makes more sense to translate as: “…today will not be the s3mt carried out…” and it would match perfectly with the chaotic image Neferty is describing.

Group of mourning women. Unfinished painting from the tomb of Userhat in Gourna. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

Group of mourning women. Unfinished painting from the tomb of Userhat in Gourna. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

Thanks to some stelas found in Serapeum we know that during the embalming of Apis there was mourning ceremony called s3mt: “… I was among the miserable, being in moan, being in mourningSerapeum-s3mt[11].

The word s3mt could refer to an spect of the mourner's hair or just to the mourning itself.

The word s3mt could refer to an spect of the mourner’s hair or just to the mourning itself.

Everything points to the Egyptian word s3mt as a funerary custom related to hair and mourning, but nothing indicates that it could refer to a special hairstyle. Would it be maybe the two mourners’ hair manipulated during funerals for the deceased’s benefit?


[1] In the Old Kingdom s3mt is documented  as a personal name (P.Kaplony, 1966, p. 68)

[2] Wb IV, 18, 10.

[3] D. Meeks, 1977-1979, p.306, nº 78.3295.

[4] D. Meeks, 1977-1979, p.304, nº 77.3349. Another way of writing s3mt wass3mt-ojo

[5] R.O. Faulkner, 1962, p. 210.

[6] D. Meeks, 1977-1979, p. 239, nº 79.2409.

[7] D. Meeks, 1977-1979, p. 304, nº 77.3349.

[8] W. Helck, 1970

[9] nn sDm.f implies future.

[10] G. Lefebvre, 1988, pp. 101-102.

[11] W. Jansen, 1994, p. 35; J. Vercoutter, 1962, pp. 37-38.

The Hair sm3 and the Healing of the lunar Eye in Ancient Egypt. Part II: The damaged Eye of Horus.


The god Thoth. Relief from the ptolemaic temple in Deir el-Medina. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

The god Thoth. Relief from the ptolemaic temple in Deir el-Medina. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

We find already in the Old Kingdom the belief of Thoth being the god who healed the injured eye of Horus with sputum:

He has come with that one that spits the hair (sm3), for his hair (sm3), which is sick at the beginning of each month and sick[1] at the beginning of middle month[2].

This passage belongs to a chapter of the Pyramid Texts which mentions two lunar festivities (3bd[3] and smdt(?)[4]); they are Helioplitan celebrations with some rituals for the reconstruction of the lunar eye, to give it back the health[5]. These festivities appear also in the Coffin Texts when the deceased has to be transformed into Thoth:

“…this N. is the one who makes the rite ibd (the second day of the month) and he is the one who controls the rite nt (fifteenth day of the month).The plait of hair of Horus is on the hand of this N. in the Thoth’s entourage…“ [6] (important to remember that chapters 167 and 674 mention mourner’s hair sm3 joint with two lunar festivities: snwt and dnit).

Egyptians considered equal the lunar eye and hair sm3, and we will see that many times. After spitting at the hair sm3, chapter 133 says how the deceased gets up triumphant, it seems that after healing the eye, he could rebirth again. In chapter 164 again the act of spitting at the hair sm3 is a healing action, here the god spits first over the shoulder. According to P. Barguet the passage relates the healing of the Osiris’ injured shoulder and hair sm3, that is, the lunar eye[7] ; the chapter mention mutilations that have happened in the myth of Osiris and that have been solved after the battle.

In chapter 610 the healing is over the hair sm3 of Atum and also over Hdd. In Egyptian mythology the moon, that is, the Udjat eye, is one of the eyes of Atum, the other one was the sun. Hdd is a name coming from the verb hd, which means “attack”[8]. It is a 2-lit. verb with second radical geminated in perfect passive participle. So, the meaning of hdd could be “attacked”, “the one who has been attacked”. This way, Hdd would be personifications of the attacked eye of Horus, hence the need of refreshing it for its cure. But it is also interesting to notice how in chapter 667 the healing of the hair sm3 is at the same level of offering a leg and giving breath, both gestures for giving life.

Finally, we find a very visual moment in all that process of healing the damaged lunar eye. We have translated chapter 335 as the action of raising the hair from the Udjat eye. P. Barguet considered that m was an equivalence preposition, so for him the text was saying that the hair Sny was the same Udjat eye. But if we take preposition m as “from”, the passage makes more sense. It would be describing the gesture of moving the hair away from the lunar eye for healing it, and also from the face for allowing seeing the light after the darkness.

Falcons have an excelent vision. In the image a Lanner Falcon. Photo: www.ibc.lynxeds.com

Falcons have an excelent vision. In the image a Lanner Falcon. Photo: http://www.ibc.lynxeds.com

In Ancient Egypt (as many cultures) the eye, as the vision organ, symbolizes the light and its disappearance or mutilation is a synonym of darkness. The sacrifice of the eye and its following recovery supposes a regenerating act, in the same level of creation after the chaos. Restitution of vision means access to light after the darkness of the death.

We have already seen in chapter 533 how the face of Hathor gets visible and clear after separating the two lateral ringlets, opening them as if they were curtains the deceased can see the full moon. When moving the hair Sny away from the face allows healing the eye and makes the Udjat eye visible, the healthy eye, that is, the full moon. On the other hand, we know that hair Sny is similar to hair sm3, the same hair that did not allow to see the brightness and could be a symbol of darkness and shadows[9]. The one who moves the hair away from the eye is Thoth because, according to the Egyptian legend, he is the lunar god who heals the lunar eye after the fight against Seth.

The connection between the hair and the eye of Horus is clear, but if Thoth spits over the hair sm3 for healing the eye, this one cannot be the Udjat eye (the healthy one), but the damaged eye of Horus, which in Egyptian was nknkt[10] or nkkt[11] and who needs a cure for becoming the Udjat eye.destacada 24de junio Once again we find the hair with a negative nuance; we have seen previously that the hair sm3 was a symbol of the chaos, the primeval waters, it was the Nun that dominated the world before the final creation. H. Kees considered that the hair sm3 in the context that concern us could be the damage suffered by the lunar eye[12], which makes the darkness of the night; in the same way that the hair sm3 over the faces of the mourners covers their eyes and they cannot see. So, to split over the hair sm3 would eliminate that damage, in the same way that to move the hair away from the face means to see the light.

The god Seth. Relief from a block in the Open Air Musuem of Karnak. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

The god Seth. Relief from a block in the Open Air Musuem of Karnak. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

The hair sm3 would then symbolize in Egyptian belief the disorder dominating during the fight between Horus and Seth. This combat is full of sense, since, as says J.E. Cirlot, the fight is the “primeval sacrifice”[13]; it is the combat between two apposite forces, and it contributes to stimulate the vital energy, whose result is the victory of the order over the chaos. This victory means the world creation, and the winner goes out from it as a hero with an extra power. In the Egyptian funerary context that meant the resurrection of the deceased, the access to the light to his new life.


[1] The word nqm, parallel to “sick”, in reality designates a “bad property of the hair”(Wb II, 344, 3).

[2] Pyr., 521.

[3] Wb I, 65, 10.

[4] Wb IV, 147, 1.

[5] S. Ratié, 1984, p. 179.

[6] iw dnt irt ¡r Hr(y)-a n N pn m smswt DHwty CT  IV, 277.

[7] P. Barguet, 1986, p. 377, n. 10.

[8] Wb II, 504, 15.

[9] According H. Kees, Sni and  sm3 have both the same relationship with the lunar legend (H. Kees, 1925, p. 8).

[10] Wb II, 347, 6.

[11] Wb II, 347, 9.

[12] H. Kees, 1925, p. 8.

[13] J. E. Cirlot, 1991, p. 282.

The Hair sm3 and the Healing of the lunar Eye in Ancient Egypt. Part I: Chapters in Coffin Texts.


We have seen how the reading of the Coffin Texts shows many different aspects of hair related to renovating practices or regenerating symbols. The main symbol of renovation, resurrection and regeneration in Egyptian religion was the Udjat eye. The eye of Horus, injured during the fight against Seth, was identified with the moon, and the process of the increasing from crescent to full moon was assimilated with the combat between both gods.

Eye of Horus, the falcon god. Detail from an image of Horus in the tomb of Roy in Dra Abu el-Naga. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

Eye of Horus, the falcon god. Detail from an image of Horus in the tomb of Roy in Dra Abu el-Naga. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

The full moon was the evidence of final victory of Horus over Osiris’s murderer, which finished with the resurrection of Osiris as king of the Hereafter.

Many chapters of the Coffin Texts mention the hair sm3 in an Osiris context of healing. Let’s have a look of each and deduce some ideas:

  • Chapter 133:

“Those ones who are in their temples they blink and make the Great One. The Great One belongs to me; the eye of the Great One belongs to me. I have spitted[1] over the hair sm3 of Sw[2] for his healing.

chapter 133

 Everything has been given to me, I feel triumphant, and I stand up triumphant. I have created all my family, for whom I have spoken. I am Re, the sun’s father”

  • Chapter 164:

“…I treat the great god because of his harm

Which one is the suffering of the great god?

It is his head, his shoulder and his leg.

I came for spitting in his shoulder, for refreshing the hair sm3

chapter 164

And for healing the two legs of the great god…”

  • Chapter 610:

« … This N. has spitted over the hair sm3 of Atum, he has refreshed Hdd[3]

chapter 610

 Shu and Thoth, beloved, being together behind the great god, Shu and the hair sm3…this N, has spitted (over) the hair sm3, this N has refreshed his vertebra. It is a medicine inside the body of this N…[4] »

  • Chapter 667:

« …He has spitted (over) the hair sm3

chapter 667

He carries a leg and he gives breath to who does not have. This N has brought his ba soul; his has taken his power and magic ».

  • Chapter 335:

“…I have recovered the eye after it was damaged the night of the combat between the Two Fellows[5]. I have raised the hair from the Udjat eye when he was furious

chapter 335

Who raises the hair from the Udjat eye? Who is the Udjat eye in his moment of anger?

It is the right eye of Re and Thoth is the one who raises the hair from it… »

chapter335thoth

 We find a common denominator: the hair, mainly sm3, but in one case also Sni, is linked somehow to the Udjat eye, it gets involved in fight and suffers damage; in the mythic sphere this hair is treated and healed with a spit.

 


[1] iw sDm.n.f is a narrative tense and it stress a very important fact of the story.

[2] According to Barguet, it is the city of Seth in the Heracleopolitan nome (P. Barguet, 1986, p. 256, n. 6)

[3] “The attacked one”, eye of Horus?

[4] Healing properties of saliva.

[5] Horus and Seth.