Tag Archives: mourning in Ancient Egypt

The Ancient Egyptian Mourning Ritual, existed also in Amarna?


During the reign of Akhenaten many things changed in Ancient Egypt. The new Pharaoh modified the artistic canon, his residence, the religion, the cult…but what happened with the death?

Akhenaten, Nefertiti and their three Daughters. Altes Museum in Berlin. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo. Ancient Egypt

Akhenaten, Nefertiti and their three Daughters. Altes Museum in Berlin. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo

Those ancient Egyptian people from Amarna…did not die? Yes, they did, there was a cemetery. There were also mummies and coffins.

People continued being buried into tombs; and the walls of those tombs were decorated with reliefs. That is, there was a funerary art and a funerary architecture. A mortuary practice existed.

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Requirements of Professional Mourners in Ancient Egypt.


Among the Ancient Egypt gods, Isis and Nephtys occupied a very important role.

It is an ancient Egypt fact, that the two professional mourners in the role of Isis and Nephtys did a mourning rite during the funeral for granting the dead’s resurrection.

All along our work we have been writing about those two women, who were essential in the funerary ceremony of Ancient Egypt, but what do we really know about them?

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

Ancient Egyptian art shows the two professional mourners always at both ends of the corpse in the cortege to the tomb; they are identified as Isis and Nephtys or as “kites” (according to the legend of Osiris Isis adopted the shape of a kite for giving him back the breath and his virility), but the inscriptions do not clarify much more about them.
There is an important ancient Egypt document, which could help us in understanding better the requirements of these two representatives of Isis and Nephtys for “working” as official mourners in ancient Egyptian funerals: The Songs of Isis and Nephtys (Brisith Museum Papyrus No. 10188)…

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Hair was essential in Aztec Mourning like in Ancient Egypt.


Mourning is a extended practice in funerals of many cultures all over the world. Not just in Ancient Egypt, but also in some other African cultures, in the ancient Assyria or in Archaic Greece.

Recently I wrote a short text about mourning in Ancient Egypt for www.mexicolore.co.uk, an on-line platform for the diffusion of Aztec culture. My contribution was just a small text included in an article about the mourning among the Aztecs.

Aztec ritual weeping; Florentine Codex, Book 1.

 Aztec ritual weeping; Florentine Codex, Book 1. Photo: http://www.mexicolore.co.uk

 

American cultures prove, not only that crying for the dead in funerals is a practice inherent to human being, but also that hair is an essential element during the “ritual weeping”.

According to Katherine Ashenburg, Aztecs (central Mexico) had also, as in Ancient Egypt, professional mourners for crying for to dead kings and noblemen and for those who died in war.  Those Aztecs professional mourners did, together with the widows and the children of the deceased ones, a public lament, in which they cried and showed their long and disheveled hair as a proof of their sadness. In addition, during 80 days the widow (s) entered in a period of real dirty, since they could not wash themselves, nor their bodies, nor their hair…After that a ritual washing happened for concluding the mourning.

Native woman from Michoacan

Native woman from Michoacan plaiting her hair.

On the other hand, it is said that native women from Michoacan (in the south of Mexico) plaited her hair for catching in it pain and sadness.

Summing up, also in American cultures women’s hair was a very important element related to the mourning practices, as it was in the ancient Egyptian culture.

 

Egyptian Words for “Lock of Hair” related to the Mourning Rite.


Detail of Papyrus of Ani. The lock of hair of Ani. XVIII Dynasty. British Museum. Ancient Egypt.

Detail of Papyrus of Ani. The lock of hair of Ani. XVIII Dynasty. British Museum. Photo: www.britishmuseum.org

Ancient Egyptians had different ways to refer to the action of disheveling hair. That happens because the Egyptian was a very rich language and had many centuries of history.

In this same line, we find that Egyptians also had various terms for designating “lock of hair“.

Egyptian word for "lock of hair".

Egyptian word for “lock of hair”.

The most common, that we have been reading and watching all over this blog is the word “swt” or “syt”.It was a very generic word for referring to a portion of head hair. This term seems to appear in the New Kingdom and according to the iconography it was chosen by scribes mainly for naming the pulled lock of hair related to the mourning practices.

Detail of the sarcophagus of Djedhor with Isis pulling her front lock of hair. Ptolemaic Period. Louvre Museum. Ancient Egypt

Detail of the sarcophagus of Djedhor with Isis pulling her front lock of hair. Ptolemaic Period. Louvre Museum. Photo: www.cartelfr.louvre.fr

Egyptian word for "lock of hair"

Egyptian word for “lock of hair”

The word “samt” has in Egytian a double value. In fact it is a controversial term. For some scholars it should be translated just as “sadness” or “lament“, but somne other scholar, due to the hair determinative and taking into consideration the context this word appears in, consider that it could be translated as “lock of hair“.

All along this blog we have seen how the word “samt” is closely related to the mourning rite and concretely to the mourning practice of cutting a piece-lock of hair of the professional mourners at the end of the funerary ceremony. So, one of the translations of  “s3mt” could be exactly this one: “lock of hair of a profesional mourner”.

Another very interesting Egyptian word for “lock of hair” is “nebed“.Lock of Hair nbd. Ancient Egypt It also appears in the New Kingdom and it seems to refer concretly to “plaited lock of hair“. It is very interesting to  notice the  between “nebed” and “nebedj”. Lock of Hair nbD. The bad. Ancient EgyptThis last word exists in Ancient Egypt from the Old Kingdom and its translation was “the bad“, in fact with the hair determinative it could also have the enemy determinative. There also was the proper noun of “Nebedj“, which was a way of naming Seth, the enemy of Osiris (and also Apophis,the enemy of Re).Lock of Hair nbD. Seth and Apophis. Ancient Egypt

We wonder if the word nebed for “lock or plait of hair” could come from the former Egyptian term nebedj, which was related to Seth, to he bad, to the enemy of Osiris. This is a dimension which links pefectly with the mourning practices with the hair of the professional mourners destinated to the resurrection of the dead. So, maybe nebedj was another Egyptian word for “lock of hair” again related to the mourning rite.