Ancient Egyptian Religion: Death & Funerals

Death was viewed as just another step in life, where the deceased gathered in the next world. This stage of the living/dying process was thought to be the time in ones being where they would achieve the most. Within the ancient Egyptian religion, followers believed that everyone possessed a total of three souls: “ka,” “ba” and “akh.” To reap the benefits of all three souls, it is thought that the body must remain intact throughout all three phases of life and death. This was a very important aspect of the ancient Egyptian culture. Since much emphasis was placed on the afterlife, their funeral practices were also rather influential because they believed that death was essentially another rebirth.


After the passing of an individual within ancient Egypt times, the priests were called upon the body to recite a few prayers. This was their last chance to attempt to bring the person “back to life.” If this was attempt was unsuccessful, then the body was washed and purified. This process took place in an ibu, which was a special area set for this purpose. The body was then transported to what was called the wabet, which is what they used to refer to the workplace of the embalmer.


On the left side of the body, an incision was made where all of the organs were then removed from the individual. These organs were placed in storage containers, which were called canopic jars. The body was then filled with naton, which was a form of salt. This process lasted for a total of 40 days. At the end of the 40 days, the insides of the body were packed with sawdust, linen, resin and more of the salt. Bandages were then wrapped around the body. In between these layers, pieces of jewelry, as well as amulets were placed.


Many different levels of embalmers accomplished the process of embalming. There was also a Chief Embalmer on the premises. One of their responsibilities was placing the portrait mask over the head of the deceased. At this time, he wore the mask of a jackal, which was indicative of Anubis (God of the Dead). After the mask was placed, the wrapped body, which can to be known as the mummy, was then delivered to a coffin.


The mummification process took a total of 70 days to be fully complete, where afterwards, the mummy was transferred to a coffin, which was heavily decorated. The ancient Egyptians believed that in the next life, you will need to prepare for all of the things you will use. This is why when a mummy was buried, surrounding their coffin were the things they wished to bring with them to the afterlife. This included food, games and other personal items. Cared statues and furniture were also placed beside the mummy.


It was the priest, who completed the final ritual of this mummification process. It was called the “Opening of the Mouth.” A ceremony was held, which was supposed to infuse the body with magic. It was the belief that the body would receive the gift of speech and ability to eat again, as well as use their body to the fullest in the afterlife. After the completion of this ritual, the mummy was placed into a sarcophagus, which was an ornamented stone coffin. When this was accomplished, the tomb was then sealed.