It’s still dark when Itennu gets up. He’s
a middle-ranking priest at the great temple to Amen-Re. He has
to be ready by dawn, when the assistant high priest gives him
his instructions for the day.
As the sun first appears, every priest chants the dawn hymn,
“Awake in peace, great god.” The most senior priest
unseals the sanctuary and says a ritual prayer four times
over the image of the god. This gives the god his soul, so
that he can take his physical earthly shape again.
The image is then carefully cleaned and rubbed with oil.
Incense is burned as its old clothes are removed and the image
is re-dressed in white, red, blue and green linen. The dressing
is completed with perfume, make-up and jewels.
Now that the god is dressed, it’s time for his breakfast.
This is a meal of bread, roast meat, fruit and vegetables.
Beer and wine are also laid out. Once the priests think the
god has eaten all he can handle, the food is removed. It goes
back to the kitchens, where Itennu distributes it to the temple
staff as part of their wages.
Water is now sprinkled over the sanctuary and the image.
The priests wave around more incense and put natron cleansing
salt and resin on the floor. They then leave, sealing the
sanctuary ahead of the pharaoh’s daily visit.
Now Itennu and the other priests practice their chanting
while they wait for the pharaoh. Once the visit is in progress,
Itennu takes the bull and leads it into the sanctuary. Here,
it will be presented to the pharaoh before being ritually
slaughtered as a sacrifice to the god.
Once the pharaoh has gone, Itennu and his fellow priests
sit down to a lunch of pea and lentil soup, accompanied by
fresh bread. Then it’s time for an afternoon nap –
chanting is surprisingly tiring work.
Nap over, it’s back to work. He has to officiate at
the funeral of a VIP. Because the man was an important courtier,
he may be buried in the highly prestigious Valley of the Kings.
Itennu boards the funeral barge carrying the coffin. It sails
across the Nile, is placed on a sled and is then pulled by
two oxen to its new home. Itennu supervises the funeral arrangements.
He then accompanies the coffin to the tomb, where he says
his final prayers. The coffin is then sealed by the masons.
Back at the temple, Itennu crosses the river again, this
time he is going to the “City of the Dead.” This
is the home of the Egyptian funeral industry. A member of
the royal family has died and custom dictates that a priest
must oversee the mummification of the body. By sunset it is
time to go back to the temple and straight to bed –
tomorrow will be another long day.
Where to Next:
A Day in the Life of a Pharaoh,
A Day in the Life - Introduction