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AE Religious Prohibitions
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Nefertum
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 08, 2009 10:12 am    Post subject: AE Religious Prohibitions Reply with quote

The title is stupid, I know, but I couldn't think of a better way of phrasing it.

I'm puzzled about the various things priests in AE were prohibited from doing, wearing, or eating ... if you can forgive the obvious anachronism, what was "kosher" amd what was not.

One of the common things I see is that priests were prohibited from wearing certain things ... woolen clothing, leather sandals, and so forth. IIRC, this is mentioned in Herodotus, and a number of other places. The common explanation seems to be somthing like priests were forbidden to wear clothing which had an animal source.

While I'm willing to admit that may be a valid belief, yet I can't happen to be troubled whenever I see a depiction of a sem-priest in his sacerdotal clothing, which includes the leopard skin wrapped around his body. At least to me the two, the belief that priests could not wear any animal-derived clothing and the multitude of images of sem-priests, seem to be at odds with one another.

Was the leopard considered to be not an animal in AE? Or was the pelt for some reason exempt from this prohibition? Or were sem-priests somehow not considered "real" priests? Those are just some of the questions which come to my mind when I look at the images in light of the belief.

Was the king exempt from this prohibition? If the king is also a priest, is he then not a priest or not performing priestly functions (although the images appear to depict him doing so) when he is depicted with a leopard skin, or when he is wearing a bull's tail attached to the back of his kilt?

The pictures seem to be saying something other than what the literature says, and I have a hard time bringing them into some sort of agreement. Can anyone offer any thoughts, evidence, refutations one way or the other? Which is right -- what I read, or what I see? Or are they both right in some way I haven't considered?
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neseret
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 08, 2009 11:39 am    Post subject: Re: AE Religious Prohibitions Reply with quote

Nefertum wrote:
The title is stupid, I know, but I couldn't think of a better way of phrasing it.

I'm puzzled about the various things priests in AE were prohibited from doing, wearing, or eating ... if you can forgive the obvious anachronism, what was "kosher" amd what was not.

One of the common things I see is that priests were prohibited from wearing certain things ... woolen clothing, leather sandals, and so forth. IIRC, this is mentioned in Herodotus, and a number of other places. The common explanation seems to be somthing like priests were forbidden to wear clothing which had an animal source.


I think the prohibition for priests are based upon the idea, which is also true today in many major religions, that only certain animals are unclean, and only to certain people. The implication from Herodotus was that sheep wool was unclean, and the burial of Unknown Man E, wrapped in a sheep skin, seems to bear this out. All other indications of this burial shows this individual was denied the usual and purified rites of burial, and was considered an "unclean" individual at time of death.

However, I think you may have confused what Herodotus has said. His statement was:

They wear linen robes, freshly washed...the priest wear only linen clothing and papryus sandals; it is not permitted them to wear other clothing or sandals.... (Herodotus, Histories, 2.37.2-3)

The last comment is what is referred to as an emphatic statement: here, Herodotus has explained what the priests wore, and then makes the emphatic that this is all they were allowed to wear as priests. One cannot jump to the conclusion that this means everything not linen or papyrus was therefore unclean - it's just that white linen and papyrus sandals were the uniform of a priest considered ritually pure and dressed.

We know that priests and even the king, who was the highest priest of every cult in the land, often wore ritual robles may of leopard skin in the form of the iwn-mutef priest and as a sem priest in the funereal context. In fact actual (2) and faux leopard skin robes were found in Tutankhamun's tomb.
Helck (1984) theorised the leopard skin, worn by sem priest and the vizier in ancient Egypt, are institutionalised versions of ancient shamans of ancient primitive hunting societies. As such, the wearing of a leopard skin is likely a holdover from the predynastic period, and we know it is first shown in an institutional basis associated with the king on the Narmer Palette. So, there was likely no prohibition about wearing of animal skins in ancient Egypt. We also know that certain people, such as magicians, such as Bes and Beset priests/priestesses, are often shown wearing lion skins and manes as part of their magical repertoire, as shown below:



When one actual studies the requirements of ritual purity for priests in ancient Egypt, one finds only that bathing was required, removal of body hair, and that a clean set of robes, usually of white linen, are the only stated requirements. Sandals, usually white, are also stated as a form of clothing of some priestly functions (Gee 1998: 303).

After all, for many cults, priestly duties were not necessarily lifelong occupations (though this changed over time). Almost all males, and later, females, were charged with serving some priestly function within their local cult, usually on a rotating basis (Roth 1987 and 1991).

Reference:

Gee, J. L. 1998. The Requirements of Ritual Purity in Ancient Egypt. Ph.D. Dissertation (Unpublished). New Haven:Yale University.

Helck, W. 1984. Schamane und Zauberer. In I. d'Égyptologie, Ed., Mélanges Adolphe Gutbub: 103-108. Montpellier: Publication de la Recherche - Université de Montpellier.

Roth, A. M. 1987. The Organization and Functioning of the Royal Mortuary Cults of the Old Kingdom in Egypt. In McGuire Gibson and Robert D. Biggs, ed., The Organization of Power. Aspects of Bureaucracy in the Ancient Near East: 133-140. Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization (SAOC) 46. Chicago: The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

_________. 1991. Egyptian Phyles in the Old Kingdom. The Evolution of a System of Social Organization. Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization (SAOC) 48. Chicago: The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

HTH.
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chillie
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 08, 2009 4:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with Neseret: some things were prohibited to some priests based on whom they served.
As far as the king, he was supposed to be the highest priest of the land and he had to offer to the gods every day. But some things that apply to the priests won't apply to the king. For example, most priests held other jobs, and rotated in and out of the temples in by the seasons. So, while serving, they were supposed to abstain from sex. Obviously, this would not work for the king, because it's also his duty to be fertile and have many children.
Just a lil tip, tho. While many people, myself included, have a copy of Herodotus, and it is helpful in some ways, there is a HEFTY amount of nonsense and cultural misunderstanding in his writings about Egypt, so be wary!

Does anyone know if pork was prohibited? I'm thinking that it was, but I have no idea why and nothing to support that! Idea
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 08, 2009 6:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

chillie wrote:
So, while serving, they were supposed to abstain from sex.

Can I ask where you got that from?

chillie wrote:
Does anyone know if pork was prohibited?
I'm thinking that it was, but I have no idea why and nothing to support that!

Do porks thrive in desert areas? Idea
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 08, 2009 6:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Segereh wrote:
Do porks thrive in desert areas?

To answer my own question: apparently they appeared in the Delta at first,
later on (not sure when exactly) pork apparently invaded Upper Egypt.
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chillie
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 08, 2009 7:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Segerah i am a bit lost... I'm asking about pigs =). Do you know if pigs were considered unclean?
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 08, 2009 8:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

or do you consider them unclean... as in eww... pork has invaded my meatball!!! we don't eat it either in my house. Did they?
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 08, 2009 11:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

chillie wrote:
Segerah i am a bit lost... I'm asking about pigs =). Do you know if pigs were considered unclean?


I know you're question was addressed to Segerah, but I can answer that pork was one of the common sources of protein for many average people. Evidence suggests pigs were kept throughout dynastic history. There was no prohibition against pork for people in general, but I'm not sure off the top of my head if priests were prohibited from eating it at certain times.
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chillie
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2009 12:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

i just spoke to an egyptian friend of my mothers and she says that pork was a common source of protein for the poor but rich egyptians ate beef rather than pork and that pork WAS considered unclean or at least unfit for the upper classes. She said that even today, pigs are commonly kept in middle egypt, even with islamic law, but are eaten from necessity rather than desire. She also said that many diseases were associated with pork. She didn't mention any religious bans against pork, however, so I'm surmising from her info that it was more a class thing rather than a religious one. It makes sense, b/c pork does carry a large amount of disease and pigs will eat ANYTHING, making them appear unclean.
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Bastet.Anubis
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2009 4:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

When I was in Egypt, no matter what city I was in, there was no pork. It was always chicken and sometimes beef. Our guide said pork was rarely eaten for all the same reasons listed above.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2009 5:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What chillie wrote sparked my memory and I'd have to agree, at least to an extent. The wealthy class did eat a lot more red meat, typically beef. Pork was common more among the common class.

I don't know that a modern person's culture would make for a suitable comparison. The ancient Egyptians and modern Egyptians are vastly different in a myriad of ways. I'd be surprised if many modern Egyptians ate pork, however, because I understand the consumption of pork is strictly forbidden in Islam, the same as in Judaism. Of course, I suppose this would depend on if the family practiced their religion in the first place.

But back to the ancient Egyptians. I checked one of my references and it stated pork was enjoyed by all classes "...although for some social and religious groups, this was forbidden" (David 2003: 365).

I checked another source, which cautioned against information presented by Classical authors such as Herodotus and Josephus. Aristagoras of Miletus wrote that pork was prohibited for priests. The author sensibly notes that some plants and animals may have been prohibited for consumption but each "...was proscribed somewhere in Egypt, but not all at the same time: dietary restrictions were in fact tied to the religion of the individual nomes" (Sauneron 2000: 38 ).

This is probably the most logical way to view the situation, given that the dynastic period spanned more than 3,000 years. What was proscribed at one point and in one place may have changed over time, so a certain level of inconsistency ought to be expected.

Christianity always provides a good example. I was raised in a Roman Catholic family, and my mom told me when she was little her family never ate meat on Fridays. Evidently this used to be a common prohibition. Nowadays, however, most Roman Catholics refrain from eating meat on Fridays only during the period of Lent. LOL I have not practiced the Catholic faith my entire adult life, but for some reason, when Lent rolls around every year, I continue to refrain from eating meat on Fridays. Old habits die hard.
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neseret
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2009 1:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

kmt_sesh wrote:
But back to the ancient Egyptians. I checked one of my references and it stated pork was enjoyed by all classes "...although for some social and religious groups, this was forbidden" (David 2003: 365).

I checked another source, which cautioned against information presented by Classical authors such as Herodotus and Josephus. Aristagoras of Miletus wrote that pork was prohibited for priests. The author sensibly notes that some plants and animals may have been prohibited for consumption but each "...was proscribed somewhere in Egypt, but not all at the same time: dietary restrictions were in fact tied to the religion of the individual nomes" (Sauneron 2000: 38 ).

This is probably the most logical way to view the situation, given that the dynastic period spanned more than 3,000 years. What was proscribed at one point and in one place may have changed over time, so a certain level of inconsistency ought to be expected.


Actually, there's little evidence that the consumption of pork was ever universally proscribed during the course of Egyptian history. Rather, it seems that Herodotus overstated something that never existed - for the priestly and all other classes consumed pork in Egypt, and during all time periods.

Rather, pork avoidance may have been a seasonal or religious avoidance at one specific period - but otherwise allowed at all other periods, not unlike the Egyptian avoidance of fish, which had religious connotations only at certain times, and for religious reasons. In this work,

Brewer, D. E., D. B. Redford, et al. 1994. Domestic Plants and Animals: The Egyptian Origins. Warminster: Aris and Philips.

the theory of "pork proscription" in ancient Egypt was thoroughly investigated and rebutted. Archaeologically, the authors could find no evidence of it, and the fact was that pork consumption was widespread throughout ancient Egypt at all times and at all levels of society. Here's what the authors noted:

From a cultural and economic point of view the development of a taboo on pork in Ancient Egypt seems illogical, but might be explained as an outgrowth of groups descended from pastoralists. Pigs were useless to ancient pastoralists; they could not be easily herded and their bones were too soft for most tools. An intolerance of the species would, therefore, seem appropriate as it would not fit into the mobile lifestyle. If cattle pastoralists did settle in the Nile Valley in early Neolithic times these rules of avoidance would have remained intact. Thus, the same explanations used to support cattle cults in Egypt could also serve to support arguments for pork avoidance.

On the basis of archaeological remains, Herodotus' statements that the Ancient Egyptians refrained from eating pork is unfounded. Although pigs are featured in a few tombs, their bones have never been found in a tomb nor is pork featured in temple offerings. That some restrictions against pork existed, does consequently seem likely. As with fish, restrictions on pork might have been limited to certain classes or to certain periods of the year. Ruffer, one of the early authorities on food and diet in Ancient Egypt, cites as proof of the acceptance of pork examples of slate cosmetic palettes carved in the silhouette of a pig and dated to the Archaic and early Old Kingdom. He argues that had the pig been considered repulsive and an animal to be avoided, no Egyptian woman would wish to use paint from a palette in the shape of such a creature.

Another indication of a permissive attitude towards pigs in the priestly class are the ceramic figures made in their form and found inside the sacred compound of Osiris at Abydos (ca. Dynasty IV). Furthermore, according to some traditions the god Min, a widely accepted deity of fertility, was born of a white sow. There is also the possibility that Min might be linked to a region near Meidum known during the Dynasty IV as the "Domain of the White Sow."
(Brewer, Redford, et al. 1994: 97)

HTH.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2009 6:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

kmt_sesh wrote:

Christianity always provides a good example.

Well, not necessarily good.

kmt_sesh wrote:
I was raised in a Roman Catholic family, and my mom told me when she was little her family never ate meat on Fridays. Evidently this used to be a common prohibition. Nowadays, however, most Roman Catholics refrain from eating meat on Fridays only during the period of Lent.


Red meat was prohibited to Catholics on Fridays. Fish were OK, hence all the Friday fish fries, at least around here.

Then God changed his mind and apparently decided to help out the beef industry. So eating meat on Fridays is no longer a mortal sin (unless you do it in Lent), or unless you haven't heard of - or have decided not to follow - Vatican II.

Several years ago, at a Lenten, Friday, post-astronomical-meeting dinner in a restaurant, I ordered a cheeseburger. When it arrived, a friend of mine, observing its presence, warned me that eating it would be a sin. I looked at him, thankfully reminded of the injunction, and replied "I know".



And then I ate it.



So far, so good.

Bob
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 2:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

so if min was thought to be born from a pig, does that mean that the pig was a sacred animal to him, and not eaten during his festivals?

is he the only example of pigs having something to do with a god? i havnt noticed a god that takes the form of a pig? wait, im remembering.....isnt something to do with seth? isnt he a hybrid of a jackel and a pig?
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 11, 2009 6:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

kylejustin wrote:
so if min was thought to be born from a pig, does that mean that the pig was a sacred animal to him, and not eaten during his festivals?


Quite possibly. However, like lettuce was also sacred to Min, there was no prohibition against eating it - except possibly at certain times, such as sacred festivals - or (for all we know), as such festivals perhaps it was consumed in mass quantities (to borrow a line from the old "Coneheads" comedy sketch).

The idea that certain foods could not be consumed seems a bit fluid in Egyptian custom. Certain fish were thought to be "bad" because they consumed the 14th piece of Osiris, which prevented him from being totally resurrected by Isis when she reassembled the pieces of Osiris, and there were total prohibitions against catching and consuming these fish, particularly in the Oxyrynchus district of Egypt. However, in other areas of the country, these same fish were consumed with no prohibitions whatsoever (Brewer 2000: 535).

kylejustin wrote:
is he the only example of pigs having something to do with a god? i havnt noticed a god that takes the form of a pig? wait, im remembering.....isnt something to do with seth? isnt he a hybrid of a jackel and a pig?


As te Velde noted in his work on Sutekh/Seth, the term /SA/ is closely connected with the deity, as a term for 'fate, destiny, lifetime.' Yet, another meaning of /SA/ is "hog, pig". te Velde holds that Sutkeh/Seth is first and foremost a destiny/fate deity, but as a pun upon this term (/SA/), the pig was assigned as a "sacred animal" to Sutekh/Seth as a matter of folklore (te Velde 1977: 21-23).

But there is no direct myth, as there is with Min, which identified the deity Seth/Sutekh as a pig or hog. In the Contendings of Seth and Horus, Sutekh appears before Horus as a black pig, but this is interpreted along the lines of the pun, as noted above, for what Horus is encountering is his fate/destiny /SA/ in connection with his uncle (te Velde 1977: 47).

Reference:

Brewer, D. 2000. Fish. In D. Redford, ed., The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, 1: 532-535. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Quaegebeur, J. 1975. Le Dieu Égyptien Shaï: Dans le Religion et l'Onomastique. Orientalia Louvaniensia Analecta 2. Leuven: University Press.

te Velde, H. 1977. Seth, God of Confusion. A Study of His Role in Egyptian Mythology and Religion. G. E. van Baaren-Pape, transl. Probleme der Ägyptologie 6. W. Helck. Leiden: Brill.

HTH.
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