“The Hand to the Mouth”. Suckling the Dead in Ancient Egypt.

Funerary practice in the mastaba of Qar with lector priest, embalmer and mourner Drt; the scene is closed by two images of an ox. V-VI Dynasty. Giza. Image: W.K. Sympson.

Funerary practice in the mastaba of Qar with lector priest, embalmer and mourner Drt. V-VI Dynasty. Giza. Image: W.K. Sympson.

The assiduousness of the icon in the icnongraphy of Ancient Eypt of the mother bringing closer her breast with the aid of her hand to her baby’s mouth seems to be plenty of sense in the ancient Egyptian belief related to the new life. For that reason it does not seem too crazy to think that the expression “Djat Ra” (“the hand to the mouth”) from the tomb of Qar was related somehow to the dead’s resurrection. Let’s also remember that this gesture “Djat Ra” was closely related to the Opening of the Mouth ceremony and the resurrection of Qar’s corpse.

how-to-breastfeed-your-babyThat quotidian gesture of bringing the breast to the baby’s mouth is, in fact, a very basic way of opening the baby’s mouth, for allowing him to nurse. The first tip given to mothers at the beginning of the breastfeeding is to open well the baby’s mouth and to point the nipple to the middle part of the baby’s palate.

Isis nursing Horus. Ptolemaic Period. Ancient Egypt. Photo Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York

Isis nursing Horus. Ptolemaic Period. Ancient Egypt. Photo Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York

In the context of Ancient Egypt this idea would fit in the following way:

1) The deceased, assimilated to Osiris, became a new born and needed to nurse his mother Nut’s breast milk. This way he started his new life in the Hereafter.

2) The image of Horus as a child suckling at Isis’ breast also granted the dead’s resurrection, since Horus was the avenger who eliminated the evil (Seth) and recovered the Udjat eye as a symbol of the final resurrection.

The expression “Djat Ra”  (“the hand to the mouth”)  included in the Opening of the Mouth ceremony would be a way of indicating that in some moment of that ancient Egyptian rite the dead’s mouth would symbolically be opened as a new born who needs to suckle.

The question is:

Did the professional mourner a symbolic nursing during the Opening of the Mouth ceremony for symbolizing the nursing of the dead (as a new baby) and of Horus (as the restorer of the order)?

Or was it something symbolically evoked during the official mourning rite of ancient Egyptian funerals while the mourner dishevelled her hair?
…any suggestion?