The Egyptians took great care of their dead because of their religious beliefs. According to John Catoir, author of “World Religions: Beliefs Behind Today’s Headlines,” Egyptians believed that an afterlife involved a full human existence, not a mere spirit life, therefore the soul must join the body in heaven. It was hoped that by preserving their bodies from decay they would enhance the process of resurrection and provide themselves with a decent start in the new life. The priests who performed the mummification were thought of as acting in the role of Anubis, the god of the dead.
The organs, excluding the heart would be removed, and the mouth would be broke open. This allowed for the testimony and the weighing of the heart when attempting to gain entrance into the underworld (afterlife). According to Geoffroy Parrinder, author of “World Religions: from Ancient History to the Present,” the whole embalming of the body seems to have implied an imitation of what was done (in the legend to Osiris by Anubis in Abydos) so the dead person was thereby identified with Osiris: charms were usually placed within the wrappings of the mummy, and special importance was attached to the heart scarab which was placed on the chest.
Because of the Egyptians belief that the body and soul unite again in the underworld, their response to cremation would not be a positive one. Since the soul and the body meet up in heaven again, the body would be destroyed, making it impossible to meet up with the soul. In addition, the heart will not have an opportunity to be weighed and the mouth would not be able to testify. After a king died, Osiris would personally identify the king.
The motive behind the identification of the dead king with Osiris was to ensure the perpetuation of the king’s rule after death: by becoming Osiris the dead pharaoh would rule over the realm of the dead (Parrinder). According to Roveri Donadoni, author of “Egyptian Civilization: Religious Beliefs,” a dead Pharaoh lived in the heavens as a star and a new pharaoh came to power as a new incarnation of the divine power of Ra, the Sun God. The stars appeared as minor suns illuminating the night sky, each one the lasting impression of a former earthly pharaoh.
Rituals involved the everyday life of the typical Egyptian. According to Christopher Moreman, author of “Beyond the Threshold: Afterlife Beliefs and Experiences in World Religions,” ritual performance was necessary to ensure that the spirit of the dead would not be lost but would continue in association with the sun after an arduous journey through the underworld. ” Every day and several times within the day, the god was the object of ritual activity similar to that which would be accorded to an earthly prince (Donadoni).
Distinctive rites were naturally found in the special festivals of the pharaoh and of the gods (Parrinder). The king’s jubilee-festival, called the Sed, re-enacted ritually the unification of Egypt under Menes, and its climax was a dance performed by the king in a short kilt with an animal’s tail hanging behind it. A procession or ‘coming forth’ was usually a conspicuous feature of the festivals of the gods, whose statues were carried by priests to other sacred places in order to visit other deities or in order to enact a mythological episode connected with these places (Parrinder).