Tag Archives: mourning rite

Ancient Egypt Resurrection. The Penis of Tutankhamun.


In Ancient Egypt, virility was an essential faculty for granting the dead’s resurrection.

Stele Abkaou.XI Dynasty. Ancient Egypt

Mourners over the corpse. Detail of the stele of Akbaou. XI Dynasty. Musée du Louvre

All along my work I have been showing that, among the many practices in Ancient Egypt for reviving the corpse, there was one made by the professional mourners in the role of Isis and Nephthys. These two women shook their hair forwards the mummy for symbolising the mythical moment, in which Isis stimulated her husband Osiris and gave him back his virility.

Mummy of Tutankhamun. Ancient Egypt.

Mummy of Tutankhamun. Photo:The History Blog

In this sphere I would like to remind an aspect of the Tutankhamun’s mummy: his penis. This pharaoh was mummified with his erect penis, although it was broken from the body after the discovery. Obviously to embalm the corpse of this ancient Egyptian king with an erection was not unjustified. According to Salima Ikram, “it was a deliberate attempt to make the king appear as Osiris in as literal a way as possible. The erect penis evokes Osiris’ regenerative powers”. Yes, it evokes the regenerative power, but first of all it is the best proof of a male living body.

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Had in Ancient Egypt the Goddess Nephthys a Lower Status?


There is a scene of the Book of the Dead from the tomb of Ay, in which are depicted on the solar boat the gods of the Heliopolitan cosmogony and the Myth of Osiris (apart from Seth): Re-Horakhty, Atoum, Shu, Tefnut, Geb, Nut, Osiris, Isis, Horus…and out of the boat Nephtys stands alone apart from her fellows. Why?

Scene of the Book of the Dead from the tomb of Ay. XVIII Dynasty. Ancient Egypt.

Scene of the Book of the Dead from the tomb of Ay. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: www.osirisnet.net

Isis and Nephtys were usually represented together. They were a perfect divine team in Ancient Egypt for the favour of the Osiris’ resurrection. They were always depicted both collaborating together for the corpse’s resurrection.

However, Nephthys had in some way a secondary role and maybe not the same prestige as her sister Isis.

Firstly, Isis was the wife of Osiris, the dead god, so she supported the main responsability in the regeneration of her husband’s body. Isis, although assisted by Nephthys, was the one who made the ancient Egyptian mourning ritual on the mummy of Osiris for restoring his vital faculties.

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Re and Geb also place Isis and Nephtys at both ends of the Egyptian mummy.


We know that goddess Nut places Isis and Nephtys in some Egyptian coffins of the XII Dynasty. That goddess, as mother of these two mourners, decided to put Isis at the feet and Nephtys at the head of the mummy.

But that was not always like that in the Egyptian belief.

Some other coffins from XII dynasty and also found in Middle Egypt show that some other gods of the Heliopolitan cosmogony were also involved in that decision.

Feet end of inner coffin of Gua from el-Bersha. XII Dynasty. Ancient Egypt

Feet end of inner coffin of Gua from el-Bersha. XII Dynasty. Photo: www.britishmuseum.org

The inner coffin of Gua, from el-Bersha, presents inscriptions at both extremes of the box. At the feet end we read “Words said by Geb, I have put Isis at your feet in order she weeps you“. At the head end the hieroglyphs show that again Nut is the responsible of placing Nephtys there.

Head end of the coffin of Nakhti from Asyut. XII Dynasty. Ancient Egypt

Head end of the coffin of Nakhti from Asyut. XII Dynasty. Photo: www.cartelfr.louvre.fr

 

 

The coffin of Nakhti from Asyut is different. At the head end of the box we read: “Words said by Ra, I have put Isis at your head in order she weps you and she mourns“.

Feet end of the coffin of Nakhti from Asyut. XII Dynasty. Ancient Egypt

Feet end of the coffin of Nakhti from Asyut. XII Dynasty. Photo: www.cartelfr.louvre.fr

At the feet end we read: “Words said by Ra, I have put Nephtys at your feet in order she weps you and she mourns“.

In the coffin of Nakhti we find two things. On one hand Isis is at the head, while Nephtys is at the feet; the opposite of the expected location. On the other hand, the one who decides that location is Ra, the main god of the Heliopolitan cosmogony.

 

 

The coffin of Sebekhetepi from Beni Hassan has no trace of Isis andNephtys at both ends of the box. Instead of that, Sebekhetepi is in front of Anubis and The Great God Lord of the Sky, which is usually an epithet of Re.

These three coffins date from the XII Dynasty and come from Middle Egypt. The information we get from the inscriptions demonstrates that nothing about this subject was still fixed in the period of the Egyptian history.

Some reflections come to my mind:

  • The Egyptian mourning rite for helping in the dad resurrection was still too unknown and also the role of these two women as representatives of Isis and Nephtys. So what they did or where the were was not so clear for Egyptian  artists.
  • The mourning rite had a deep osiriac origin and was not yet well stablished in Egyptian decoration.
  • The mourning rite and its osiriac origin needed the Heliopolitan cosmogony for helping in that stablishment. Maybe Egyptian priests during the Middle Kingdom were atill looking for the way of combining these two traditions in the Egyptian coffins.