Opening of the Mouth Ceremony

The Opening of the mouth ceremony (or ritual) was an ancient Egyptian ritual described in funerary texts such as the Pyramid Texts.

Funerary Magic 

The ritual involved the symbolic animation of a statue or mummy by magically opening its mouth so that it could breathe and speak. There is evidence of this ritual from the Old Kingdom to the Roman Period. Special tools were used to perform the ceremony, such as a ritual adze, an arm shaped ritual censer, a spooned blade known as a peseshkaf, a serpent-head blade, and a variety of other amulets. A calf’s leg was also held up to the lips painted on the coffin.

The ancient Egyptians believed that in order for a person’s soul to survive in the afterlife it would need to have food and water. A special ritual called the ‘Opening of the Mouth’ was performed so that the person who died could eat and drink again in the afterlife.

The ceremony involved up to 75 “episodes” and, in its most complete version, included the following stages:

  • Episodes 1-9 Preliminary rites
  • Episodes 10-22 Animation of the statue
  • Episodes 23-42 Meat offerings aligned with upper Egypt
  • Episodes 43-46 Meat offerings aligned with lower Egypt
  • Episodes 47-71 Funerary meal
  • Episodes 72-75 Closing rites

The Book of the Dead also contains a spell for this process, which the deceased may use on themselves:

My mouth is opened by Ptah,
My mouth’s bonds are loosed by my city-god.
Thoth has come fully equipped with spells,
He looses the bonds of Seth from my mouth.
Atum has given me my hands,
They are placed as guardians.
My mouth is given to me,
My mouth is opened by Ptah,
With that chisel of metal
With which he opened the mouth of the gods.
I am Sekhmet-Wadjet who dwells in the west of heaven,
I am Sahyt among the souls of On.

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Anubis & the Opening of the Mouth Ceremony

The most crucial role played by Anubis, aside from the embalming, is in the ceremony of the Opening of the Mouth, in which an officiant representing Anubis touches the mouth of a statue of the deceased with an iron adze to render it a suitable habitation for the ka, or spirit, of the deceased. This is represented as restoring to the deceased the power to breathe, eat and speak. The ka statue thus empowered provides a focal point for interaction with the living and in general acts as an idealized stand-in for the deceased. The ceremony, which is similar to those which rendered the cult statues of the Gods suitable for use by them, is the key moment of the resurrection as such, for it makes a new life possible in the other world, and it may underlie the identification of the deceased’s lips with Anubis in spell 42 of the Book of the Dead, as well as the other corporeal identifications previously mentioned. The ritual of the Opening of the Mouth is present already in the Pyramid Texts (utterances 20-22) and remains constant, albeit growing more elaborate, for the rest of Egyptian history. The instrument used in the Opening of the Mouth ceremony is referred to in spell 816 of the Coffin Texts as having been broken loose from the sky by Anubis, possibly a reference to the meteoritic origin of much Egyptian iron. [Anubis is initially thought of as a sky dweller. In utterance 577 it is said that “Anubis who claims hearts … claims Osiris the king from the Gods who are on earth for the Gods who are in the sky.” In utterance 699, the king’s ascension takes place by Anubis taking his arm, and in spell 908 of the Coffin Texts Anubis is said to dwell “in the middle sky”, descending from there to assist Osiris.]

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Associated LOST Characters

ANUBIS

OSIRIS










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1×01 – Pilot, Part 1

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