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The Daily Temple Rituals


The Cult Statue
The Egyptian temple was thought of as the de facto home of the god. God or goddess, wether Amun, Horus, Isis or Sekhmet, was seen as having taken up residence in the cult statue. The statue itself was not the deity but was imbued with the presence of the deity.
The cult statue was kept in the darkest room, the sanctuary, enclosed in a shrine (naos) built of granite or wood, with double doors which were sealed to protect the purity of the sacred space within. By means of daily ritual, the cult statue was prepared to receive the deity, and when this had been attained, the statue 'became' the god himself, it represented the actual deity.
The daily rituals were three.
The most important one was performed at sunrise, then there was one at midday and one when the sun went down again.


The Morning Service
Before dawn the temple precinct was filled with priesthood and other temple servants who were busily preparing offerings of food, drinks and flowers as well as other kinds of offerings which could differ depending to which deity they were intended for. It was all arranged neatly on platters to be pleasing to the eyes, not only for the main god of the temple but also to all other manifestations of deity that existed in shrines elsewhere on the temple premises.



Ritual Purity
Ritual purity was of utmost importance. Everything and everyone which was to come into the presence of the god had to be purified, i.e. washed with natron and water from the Sacred Lake, of which there existed one on every temple ground. Natron as well as incense and water for libations played an important part of the rituals. These things were also prepared alongside of the offerings.
Before the sun rose a procession of priests carrying the offerings entered the temple. A text states:



This is the gate by which one enters the temple,
carrying everything that makes up the divine repast...
The vegetables are brought in in the hands of the bearers
(as well as) all the flowers of the fields...
A priest is before you reading the book

Meanwhile the offerings were set out, incense and light were burned and priests & priestesses sang, chanted, and sistrums were played. This was done in a room outside of the sanctum, as it was only Pharaoh or his deputy high priest ( or someone he had appointed in his turn) who were allowed to enter the actual presence of the deity.


Awakening the God
The High Priest now entered the sanctuary and broke the seal to the shrine and opened the doors, i.e. he 'opened the doors to the horizon'. Thus the god was now woken up by singing and chanting;


Awake... in peace
May your awakening be peaceful!


At the same instant as the sun reached above the horizon, the face of the god was unveiled, showing the rebirth of the sun as incarnated in the cult statue:


Revelation of the Face.
Adoration of the Face:
Rise over the earth
Just as you emerge from Nun!
May your rays illuminate the earth!
Long live the gods who exhort his beauty:
(they are) like (your) sons in the East!


Serving the God
Then the god was washed, anointed with oils, perfumed, makeup was applied, the clothes from the day before was removed and the god was purified and dressed in clean clothing of four different kinds. In some texts it is said that white cloth was for safeguarding against enemies, blue cloth was for hiding the face of the god, the green one was for giving him bodily health and the red was for protection.
The ritual was concluded with the high priest anointing the forehead of the cult statue with fragrant oil. This meant that the statue had once again been imbued with the presence of the deity. After incense had been burnt and a new pouring of a libation offering had been done, the high priest closed and sealed the doors of the naos, backed out of the sanctuary, sweeping away his footprints so that no trace was left.
Finally the offerings of food and drink was presented. These food offerings were left for a while before the god in order to be 'absorbed', later it was taken away and presented to the lesser deities in the temple. In some places the loaves of bread would remain before the naos until the next morning.



Midday and Evening Rituals
At midday and at sundown a somewhat shorter ritual took place. The doors to the shrine was not opened and the only acts performed were those of libations and burning of incense.
In this way the god's presence in the temple was assured, and the temples were therefore regarded as the home of the god. As long as the god was kept pleased and well cared for, he would stay and protect the Two Lands. The worst thing which could happen was that the gods were forgotten, that would mean hard times for Egypt.

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