Egyptian Death Rituals Ancient Egyptian Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

The Stress and Coping Model

The stress and coping model as a perspective on the human mind concerns the connection between the mind and body. This model assumes that stress in the mind can have a physiological effect. Significant stress, for example, could have significant physical health effects. A person who is under constant stress, for example, might exhibit a lack of overall physical health or the recurrence of a specific health condition. Furthermore, these conditions may be difficult to recover from, since the influencing factor is non-physical.

Although the study of the interaction between psychological process and the nervous and immune systems in the body is a relatively new field of investigation, increasing evidence has solidified the acceptance of this connection as a valid field of study and a viable diagnosis for the basis of certain conditions.

As in the cognitive-behavioral model, the stress and coping model also includes three assumptions: 1) Both objective stressful events and subjective reports of stress can result in immune changes; 2) objective stressful events are more likely to impact the immune system than subjective reports; and 3) the nature of the stressful events themselves is related to the type of immune condition they create.

External events that cause stress, also known as stressors, could include traumatic experiences, aversive physical environments, chronic role strain, and daily hassles. Such stressors could result in an individual experiencing stress. A distinction can also be drawn between stressors and strains, in terms of strains being chronic, while stressors are acute and will generally pass in time.

When taken in terms of the ancient Egyptians, one might consider that, environmentally, the life of the civilization was relatively stress free. The flooding of the Nile, for example, was a yearly event, with little extreme change inbetween. The weather was also relatively stable, with few extremes in temperature. There was therefore little in terms of environmental stressors.

Today, the death of a family member or loved ones is regarded as one of the greatest stressors in life. This might also be assumed for the ancient Egyptians, whose lives were otherwise relatively uneventful and even prosperous. Hence, seen from the stress and coping perspective, death was the greatest stressor the ancient Egyptians had to cope with during their lifetimes. Hence, the elaborate rituals they engaged in upon this event might be regarded as a way to cope with this most extreme of stressors.

As such, the death rituals of the ancient Egyptians were heavily intertwined with their worship of the gods. According to Sumner (2010), one of the most common practices in ancient Egypt was the worship of the sun-god, known as Re, Ra, or RE-Horakhty. This god had very specific ties to the Pharaoh and was worshiped publicly. The god Osiris and goddess Isis were also worshiped publicly.

In addition to the gods, the Pharaoh also had specific ties to the people he ruled. When the King died, he continued to serve Egypt in terms of controlling the harvest and offering a vehicle for all his people to join him in the afterlife. This is part of the way in which the Egyptian people made sense of the national trauma of the death of a King.

Another way in which the Egyptians handled the major stressor of death is by means of their specifically held beliefs regarding the afterlife and the nature of the human soul. As mentioned above, death was regarded as a gateway to an even better life than the one they enjoyed on earth (Van den Dungen, 2011). After death, purification takes place, after which the spirit state is initiated. When this occurs, a two-way communication was made possible between the spirit and material worlds. The deceased could leave the tomb but also return to it to create a platform of interaction with his or her family. In this way, the spirit was enabled to benefit from the spirit's invisible powers and freedom of movement. In this way, magic was accumulated and passed on to future generations. This helped both family members and the deceased to cope with the stress of death by means of a belief in the magic of continued contact after death.

In terms of the soul, the ancient Egyptians held the belief that each person had a soul, or ba. In addition, each person also had a ka, which was an invisible twin of the deceased person. This ka was released after death. The ba would then visit family and friends after the death of the person, while the ka traveled between the body of the dead person and the underworld. Mummification was practiced so that the ba and ka could recognize the body when returning to it. This was a primary requirement of living on forever. The promise of eternal life and the process of mummification was therefore integral to the promise of eternal life. Hence, even the poor were mummified and buried with what were considered the essential needs of the afterlife.

The ka was also known as the "akh" (Ancient Civilizations History, 2010). Interestingly, embalming and mummification were initially the sole domain of the pharaohs. Later, however, it became accessible to all social groups in ancient Egypt.

One might therefore say that the burial of the deceased with essential requirements such as a lit of spells, food, and eating utensils, jewelry and furniture, created a platform to cope with the stress that death might create in the ancient mind and in the minds of the family members and friends of the deceased (EZ Law Blog, 2011). Hence the stress created by death could be regarded as strongly integrated with the psychological family systems model.

The Family Systems Model

This model assumes the necessity of the family in terms of coping with stress and with life in general. Indeed, even for older adults, the family system remains an important coping mechanism in terms of meeting basic social needs and coping with major life events. Death, divorce, marriage, birth, retirement, illness, injury, or other sorts of misfortune are all occurrences that are generally met within the family context, and for which family members meet to lend support.

The same might be assumed to be true for the average ancient Egyptian, especially in the context of death. Indeed, it has been seen above that the soul or ba of the dead person was expected to visit family members after death. Hence, the family and friendship ties remain intact even after death. This could lead to the assumption that family life and support were very important to the ancient Egyptians. The attachment of this importance to family life could also be assumed to be at the basis of many of the elaborate funeral rituals after the death of a person. In additional to mummification, for example, there were a significant number of elaborate rituals that were performed. One of these was the funeral procession (EZLaw Blog, 2011).

After a person has been dead for 70 days, there was an elaborate funeral procession towards the tomb of the mummified person. At the head of the procession were musicians, after which a sledge pulled by oxen followed. Mourners followed, accompanied by priests, some of whom wore animal masks to impersonate the gods. The go Anubis, for example, was impersonated by a jackal mask.

After the mourners, servants and slaves followed with items to be buried with the mummy. This would include the furniture, clothing, jewelry and cosmetics that the deceased would require for the afterlife. Food items were also brought for ritual sacrifices. When the procession reached the tomb, the opening of the mouth ceremony could begin.

This ceremony was one of the most important of the death rituals, as it was meant to revive the senses of the mummy so that it could begin its life in the next world by eating, drinking, and speaking. Basically, this ceremony involved a number of steps, beginning by holding the mummy in its coffin in a standing position, facing south. This was the task of the priest impersonating the jackal headed Anubis. During this, a close family member would burn incense. The coffin would be decorated with flowers and sometimes cosmetics, while another priest chanted spells. After this, death sacrifices and ritual purifications would be conducted.

After these preparations, the actual opening of the mouth ritual is performed. A priest would touch the mouth, eyes, ears, and nose of the coffin with an adze. This was then believed to awaken the attached senses for the afterlife. When this has been done, the deceased would be able to accept the food sacrifices that have been prepared. When these ceremonies are complete, the coffin and mummy are placed in a sarcophagus and sealed in the tomb. This then ended with a feast and celebration in honor of the deceased, who was no able to start his or her journey into what was believed to be a glorious afterlife.

In terms of the family attachment, these rituals serve…

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