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Ancient Egyptian offering formula

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Title: Ancient Egyptian offering formula  
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Subject: Ancient Egyptian religion, Horus, Osiris, Egyptian hieroglyphs, Ancient Egyptian philosophy
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Ancient Egyptian offering formula

The offering formula shown on a funerary stela. On this particular stela, the formula begins on the first line and reads from right to left

The Ancient Egyptian offering formula, generally referred to as the ḥtp-dỉ-nsw formula by Egyptologists, was written in ancient Egypt as an offering for the deceased. The offering formula was believed to allow the deceased to partake in offerings presented to the major deities in the name of the king, or in offerings presented directly to the deceased by family members.[1] All ancient Egyptian offering formulas share the same basic structure, but there is a great deal of variety in which deities and offerings are mentioned, and which epithets and titles are used. Below is an example of a typical offering formula:

ḥtp dỉ nsw wsỉr nb ḏdw, nṯr ꜥꜣ, nb ꜣbḏw
dỉ=f prt-ḫrw t ḥnqt, kꜣw ꜣpdw, šs mnḥt ḫt nbt nfrt wꜥbt ꜥnḫt nṯr ỉm
n kꜣ n ỉmꜣḫy s-n-wsrt, mꜣꜥ-ḫrw
"An offering given by the king (to) Osiris, the lord of Busiris, the great god, the lord of Abydos."
"That he may give a voice-offering of bread, beer, oxen, birds, alabaster, clothing, and every good and pure thing upon which a god lives."
"For the ka of the revered Senwosret, True of Voice."

The offering formula is usually found carved or painted onto funerary stelae, false doors, coffins, and sometimes other funerary objects. Each person would, of course, have their own name and titles put into the formula. The offering formula was not a royal prerogative like some of the other religious texts such as the Litany of Re, and was used by anyone who could afford to have one made.[1]

Structure of the offering formula

The offering formula always begins with the phrase:

ḥtp dỉ nsw

This phrase comes from Old Egyptian, and probably means "an offering given by the king." Because the king was seen as an intermediary between the people of Egypt and the gods, the offering was made through him.[1]

Next the formula names a god of the dead and several of his epithets, usually Osiris, Anubis, or (rarely) Geb or another deity. The following phrase is a typical invocation of Osiris:

wsỉr nb ḏdw, nṯr ꜥꜣ, nb ꜣbḏw

which means "Osiris, the lord of Busiris, the great god, the lord of Abydos." There was apparently no set rule about what epithets were used, however "Lord of Busiris," "Great God," and "Lord of Abydos" were very common. Also frequent were:

nb ỉmnt nb nḥḥ

meaning "Lord of the West, Lord of Eternity"
Anubis is seen less frequently than Osiris, and usually read,

ỉnpw, ḫnty sḥ nṯr tpy ḏw=f

meaning "Anubis, he who is in front of his divine booth, he who is on his mountain."

After the list of deities and their titles, the formula proceeds with a list of the ḫrt-prw, or "invocation offerings." The list is always preceded by the phrase:


dỉ=f prt-ḫrw        or      dỉ=sn prt-ḫrw

which means "He (or they, in the second example) give(s) invocation offerings." After this phrase, the list of offerings follows; for example:

dỉ=f prt-ḫrw t ḥnqt, kꜣw ꜣpdw, šs mnḥt ḫt nbt nfrt wꜥbt ꜥnḫt nṯr ỉm

meaning "He gives invocation offerings of bread, beer, oxen, birds, alabaster, clothing, and every good and pure thing upon which a god lives." Sometimes the text at the end of the list is replaced with the phrase:

ḫt nbt nfrt wꜥbt ddt pt qmꜣ(t) tꜣ ỉnnt ḥꜥp(ỉ) ꜥnḫt nṯr ỉm

Meaning "Every good and pure thing that the sky gives, the earth creates, the inundation brings, on which the god lives."[2]

The last part of the offering formula lists the name and titles of the recipient of the invocation offerings. For example:

n kꜣ n ỉmꜣḫy s-n-wsrt, mꜣꜥ-ḫrw

which means "for the ka of the revered Senwosret, True of Voice."

See also


  1. ^ a b c
  2. ^

External links

  • O'Brien, Alexandra A., "Death in Ancient Egypt".
  • Telford, Mark Patrick, "Death And The Afterlife".
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