During ancient Egyptian times, religion played an important role in society. It was used to explain all of the unknowns associated with the universe, as well as linked the people together. In this article, you will learn more about the role of the priests within ancient Egyptian society and culture.
In an effort to preserve old traditions, the priesthood played an intricate role in making sure hierarchies was maintained within society and the Egyptian culture thrived. They helped keep religious institutions alive and promoted the old traditions that made the social structure of Egypt work.
Different Levels of Priesthood
The life of an ancient Egyptian priest centered on daily duties that fluctuating depending on their rank within the hierarchy of priests. Their gender also played a role in how they fit into the fabric of the priesthood. The most powerful priest was called the high priest, or ‘sem priest’, who was also considered the ‘First Prophet of the God’. Holding the position was usually a man that was old and wise. The typical candidate would have served as a political advisor and religious leader to the pharaoh.
There were priests responsible for watching over the universe and making interpretations of its movements. They were the second most powerful members of the priesthood. There were some that measured the hours in the day , and were referred to as horologists. Others became knowledgeable in astrology, which was significant to Egyptian myths, medicine, and architecture. These priests were needed to determine the times that temples opened, crops were planted, and the level of the river Nile at which flooding was possible.
However, one of the most important and holy of jobs that a priest may have was to care for an oracle, which usually took the form of a statue. These priests were called ‘stolists’ and their job was to make sure they stayed as pure as possible. One of the things that a stolist would do is shave off all of their body hair. The lifestyle of staying pure was believed to extend to the afterlife. The stolists also had the duty of watching over the needs of the gods. They would make symbolic offers of food. Every night, the stolists would seal the temple.
The most common kind of priest during ancient Egyptian times was the ‘wab’ or ‘lector’. They were often in charge of funerals. In art works, they are the ones depicted as reciting prayers or carrying offerings for the dead. The majority of priests worked part time , sometimes for only one month in the year. When they completed their duties as priests, they would go back to their other jobs and lead a normal life.
All priests had to follow a set of strict rules , no matter what their position was. They were not allowed to eat fish (which was viewed as the food of peasants). They could not wear wool because most animal products were seen as unclean. In order to stay pure, it was not uncommon to see priests taking three to four baths on a daily basis. They would wash in sacred pools. The make priests were usually circumcised as well.