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Daily Offering Ritual in ancient Egyptian temples

In ancient Egypt, every day in every temple, specially designated persons performed a ritual focussed on making offerings of food, drink, clothing and ointment, to a divine being (deity, king, or blessed dead), made accessible in the form of images. Through this ritual, the ancient Egyptians sought to maintain the fabric and process of the universe. According to their own writings, the ancient Egyptians did not worship idols - they did not consider the images themselves to be divine forces; rather, the image provided a visible and tangible form in which the offerings and service of human beings could be channelled to the divine forces. In order to make an inanimate item into a possible channel for offerings, it had to be consecrated by the ritual of opening the mouth.

The two principal surviving sources for the words and actions of the daily offering ritual are:

  1. depictions with accompanying hieroglyphic inscriptions, in the temple for the cult of king Sety I at Abydos (1290-1279/8 BC)
  2. full record of the words in the hieratic script, without illustrations, on papyrus manuscripts referring to the cult of the god Amun and the goddess Mut at Karnak, East Thebes - these manuscripts date to the first part of the Twenty-second Dynasty (about 945-800 BC), and are preserved in the Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection, Berlin (nos.3014 and 3053 for the cult of Mut, and the better-preserved no.3055 for the cult of Amun)

From these and other sources, Moret compiled an outline of the course of the daily offering ritual (Moret 1902).

In the Amun ritual recorded on Papyrus Berlin 3055, the daily offering ritual comprises the following sections:

1. it begins with the burning of incense before going to the shrine

UC 30663 Bronze censer UC 30663, from the temples for the cult of sacred animals and birds at Saqqara.

2. the sealed shrine is then opened, by breaking the seal and untying the cord around the door-knobs

The manner of sealing cords is illustrated by UC 28075 a mud sealing on string, from a Roman Period burial at Hawara.

3. the person conducting the ritual bows in front of the image of the deity with two main gestures: (1) kissing the ground and (2) raising his arms while singing hymns

The sandstone stela UC 14231 depicts a man named Meh with his arms raised while singing a hymn to the sun-god Ra, given in hieroglyphs before him.
On limestone stela UC 14348 a man and his wife raise their arms in adoration of the god Osiris

4. offerings of incense and scented oil are made

On limestone stela UC 14403 a man offers scented oil to the god Thoth, in the form of a sacred ibis.

5. stages 2-4 are repeated, for an inner shrine or perhaps for a second time on the same day

6. central offering of the goddess personifying What is Right (expressed in the Egyptian language by the single word Maat)

A clay plaque from Buhen fort bears a depiction of king Amenhotep III offering What is Right.
The image of the goddess Maat, identified by the ostrich plume on her head.

7. the image is robed, with offering of four lengths of cloth, each with a different name

8. the image is offered scented oil and green (copper) and black (lead) eyepaint

On leather mummy-brace UC 13043 the king anoints the image of the god Amun with scented oil.

9. the person conducting the ritual withdraws from the shrine, sweeping away his footprints, and offering natron, incense and water

On limestone stela UC 14390 a man offers (in a condensed scene combining two actions) incense and water.
The wooden stela UC 14426 depicts a woman named Neskhons burning incense to the god Osiris.
The limestone stela UC 14427 shows a barber named Kha offering incense burning in a cup to the god Ptah.
The limestone stela UC 14362 shows various members of a family offering water over other offerings (this example is from the cult of offerings to the blessed dead, rather than to the gods).

Although there are some 66 episodes recorded in the Amun ritual manuscript (given in greater detail below), this would not have been enough to provide all the necessary information for every step and gesture. Additional details, such as the preparation of material for the ritual, appear in a later version known from two fragmentary copies preserved at the temple of Sobek at Tebtunis (Rosati 1998).

In every shrine, the offering of food and drink must have played a large part in daily activity, but this is marginal to the surviving manuscript versions.


The daily offering ritual for the cult of Amun at Karnak, as recorded in manuscript Papyrus Berlin 3055

Title of manuscript

Beginning of the formulae of offerings to the god made at the temple of Amun-Ra king of the gods in the course of every day by the principal pure-priest who is in his day of service


1. Formula for lighting the fire

2. Formula for taking the censer

3. Formula for placing the offering-cup on the censer

4. Formula for placing the incense on the flame

5. Formula for proceeding to the sacred place

6. Another formula

Opening the shrine

7. Formula for breaking the seal-tie

8. Formula for breaking the clay seal

9. Formula for untying the seal-cord

Facing the image - hymns to the deity

10. Formula for opening the face (= introducing light to the face of the image)

11. Formula for seeing the deity

12. Formula for kissing the earth

13. Formula for placing oneself on one's stomach

14. Formula for placing oneself on one's stomach and stretching out

15. Formula for kissing the earth, face down

16. Another formula

17. Another formula

18. Formula for adoring Amun

19. Another adoration of Amun

Ointment and incense

20. Formula for the oil -festival-perfume' with honey

21. Formula for incense


22. Formula for entering the temple

23. Formula for entering the sanctuary of the deity

24. Another formula

25. Formula for going to the stairway

Facing the image

26. Formula for opening the face in festivity (= introducing light to the face of the image)

27. Formula for opening the face (= introducing light to the face of the image) (= no.10)

28. Formula for seeing the deity (= no.11)

29. Formula for kissing the earth (= no.12)

30. Formula for placing oneself on one's stomach (= no.13)

31. Formula for placing oneself on one's stomach and stretching out (= no.14)

32. Formula for kissing the earth, face down (= no.15)

33. Another formula (= no.16)

34. Another formula (= no.17)


35. Formula for incense

36. Another formula

Hymns to the deity

37. Adoration of Amun

38. Another

39. Another

40. Another adoration of Amun

41. Another adoration of Amun at dawn

The offering of the goddess personifying What is Right Maat)

42. Formula for the offering of Maat


43. Formula for incense for the Nine Gods (= the other deities in the same temple)

Robing the deity

44. Formula for placing one's hands on the deity

45. Formula for placing one's hands on the box for performing the purification

46. Formula for the four purifications of the four nemset-vessels of water

47. Formula for the four purifications of the four red vessels of water

48. Performing the purification with incense

49. Formula for the white cloth

50. Formula for donning the cloth

51. Formula for donning the plant-fresh cloth

52. Formula for donning the cloth of red-soaked linen

53. Formula for donning the idemi-cloth

Adorning the deity with scented oil and eye-paint

54. Formula for the offering of oil

55. Formula for the offering of oil for the daily offerings

56. Formula for offering the copper eye-paint

57. Formula for offering the lead eye-paint

Closing the ritual

58. Formula for spreading the sand

59. Formula for smin-natron at circuiting four times

60. Formula for the cup of natron

61. Formula for the cup of incense

62. Performing the purifications

63. Formula for smin-natron (= abbreviated version of no.59)

64. Formula for the cup of water

65. Formula for incense (= version of no.21/48)

66. Formula for censing with antyu (= myrrh?)


Additional formulae in other sources for the daily offering ritual

Among the formulae omitted in the ritual for Amun on Berlin 3055 (Moret 1902, 229-246), the versions in the temple of Sety I at Abydos include the following at the robing and anointing of the image:

Formula for tying the nemes-headcloth on the body

Formula for the was-sceptre, crook, flail, armlets, and anklets

Fastening the Double Plume crown on the head

Formula for placing the necklace (?) and counterpoise

Formula for tying the broad collar and rectangular pectoral


Further reading


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