Despite numerous civilisations that came across the lands of Egypt, some of the ancient Pharaonic habits and rites are still living and performed by modern Egyptians. Some of these customs and traditions were prohibited by Islam and Christianity, yet they are still performed by a handful of Egyptians today.
1. Funerary and burial habits
The family of someone deceased in ancient Egypt used to carry the deceased’s coffin from their house to the grave site or the place of mummification. Special recitals from the ancient Book of the Dead accompanied all of the funerary rites.
The Book of the Dead is an ancient Egyptian funerary text consisting of a number of magic spells or model answers intended to assist a dead person’s journey through the underworld.
In Upper Egypt, some specific recitals are performed for the same reason, however, the way they are done is purely Islamic. Yet the whole funerary atmosphere is similar to that performed in Ancient Egypt.
Also, Egyptians kept the same idea of ancestors’ burial traditions, including temple-like buildings and burial chambers.
An excerpt from the Book of the Dead (photo: theguardian)
2. Breaking the pot:
If someone whose presence is unwelcome and has just left the place, it is very common to hear the expression, “Break a pot after him,” to stave off another visit.
This habit or expression is related to a Pharaonic belief in which a pot was broken to prevent the soul from returning back to some person’s deceased body.
Usually, this broken pot can be found in many tombs of ancient Egyptians.
In Ancient Egypt, people used to provide offerings to the poor as a way to seek mercy for someone’s deceased soul.
If the deceased was rich, the offerings were provided on a daily basis. If poor, the offerings were provided only on feasts and special occasions.
Until this moment, offerings to seek mercy for someone’s deceased soul are still provided, especially in Upper Egypt. It is just known as “Rahma” or mercy.
The most common offerings are food, especially baked ones, which are made with the same way and ingredients of thousands of years ago.
4. Visiting tombs:
This habit is linked to the Ancient Egyptian myth of Isis and Osiris, in which the goddess Isis used to visit her husband Osiris for the accomplishment of the divine restoration process.
Several religious feasts were related to Osiris’ tomb in Ancient Egypt, including an annual festival procession from Osiris’ main temple to the tomb site.
Visiting someone’s tomb on specific religious occasions or the anniversary of a death is a purely ancient Egyptian rite.
Events of the afterlife were depicted in tomb paintings (photo: kvmagruder)
Wailing is still present in many of Egypt’s southern regions.
The phenomenon was represented by several drawings found in ancient Egyptian temples and tombs.
Also, cutting clothes, placing mud on heads and wearing dark clothes are still very common ways of expressing mourning of a dead person, especially in Upper Egypt.
All these habits were derived from similar mourning rites performed during the ancient Egyptian era.
6. Seventh day birth celebrations:
Sebou (the seventh day celebration) is one of Egypt’s oldest rites.
The family of a new born baby gathers a week after the birth of a baby during which the celebration starts with the baby taking a bath and then getting dressed in a new outfit.
During the celebration, the mother steps over the baby seven times without touching it, while older women make loud noises to make the baby aware of sounds.
In Egyptian mythology, the new born baby’s sense of hearing starts to strengthen on the seventh day of his or her birth.This is why the new born baby is placed in a large sieve and loud noises are made near his or her ears.
Pestle and mortar: an ancient tool used to make noise at a new born baby’s ear at the sebou celebration (photo: touregypt)
7. Forty-day death ceremony:
This habit is purely related to the mummification process conducted by ancient Egyptians.
After the deceased’s body is placed on a table to collect the water coming out of it, the body was then dried out with salt.
The internal organs were also dried and sealed in jars to be buried along with the body.
This whole process typically took forty days just as it does today.
A mummification process performed by Anubis, the god of the dead (photo: deadandwrapped)