Religion and Ritual in Ancient Egypt

“Clues to the proper understanding of Egyptian mysteries are contained in the Book of the Dead Spell 148, which instructs, “This [papyrus] roll is a real secret. Nobody is to know it ever. It is not to be told to anyone, no one is to see it, no ear is to hear it… except him [the possessor of the papyrus] and his teacher.”

In an inscription on a statue of the Ramesside Period, we see the same relationship of “secret” to knowledge. The official who commissioned the statue claimed to be “one who was discreet, reticent, with access to knowledge, open of ears, skilled in what is secret.”

Religion and Ritual in Ancient Egypt, by Emily Teeter
Religion and Ritual in Ancient Egypt, by Emily Teeter

In these texts, the idea of “secret” or “mystery” does not mean unknowable; rather, it means specialized knowledge that may be restricted to certain types of priests through levels of literacy and knowledge. These sorts of texts emphasize the Egyptian’s appreciation of knowledge as power, making it plausible that references in Egyptian texts to “initiation” refer to specialized training rather than to a mystical transformation.”

Religion and Ritual in Ancient Egypt, by Emily Teeter

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