Requirements of Professional Mourners in Ancient Egypt.

Among the Ancient Egypt gods, Isis and Nephtys occupied a very important role. It is an ancient Egypt fact, that the two professional mourners in the role of Isis and Nephtys did a mourning rite during the funeral for granting the dead’s resurrection. All along our work we have been writing about those two women, who were essential in the funerary ceremony of Ancient Egypt, but what do we really know about them?

Isis and Nephtys at both ends of the coffin, as kites and as women. Ancient Egypt

Isis and Nephtys at both ends of the coffin, as kites and as women.

Ancient Egyptian art shows the two professional mourners always at both ends of the corpse in the cortege to the tomb; they are identified as Isis and Nephtys or as “kites (according to the legend of Osiris Isis adopted the shape of a kite for giving him back the breath and his virility), but the inscriptions do not clarify much more about them.
There is an important ancient Egypt document, which could help us in understanding better the requirements of these two representatives of Isis and Nephtys for “working” as official mourners in ancient Egyptian funerals: The Songs of Isis and Nephtys (Brisith Museum Papyrus No. 10188) is a manuscript containing “songs” recited (or sung, since the texts says that they played a tambour) by those two women in the Festivities of Osiris, concretely during their mourning for the dead Osiris.

Before the speeches, the texts indicates the requirements of those two professional mourners:

  • Not to have been mother yet.
  • Their body hair removed (shaven).
  • Their head hair with a band head or with a cloth.
  • Their names as Isis and Nephtys inscribed in their shoulders, that is, they had to be identified.

Although they are named as “the two sisters”, this kinship comes from the ancient Egypt mythology, since Isis and Nephtys were sisters and sisters of Osiris. However, nothing in the text indicates that those two professional mourners had to have any kind of relationship, nor with the dead.

Isis and Nephtys with their hair covered by a white cloth and with a red band. Scene from the tomb of Siptah. XIX Dynasty. Ancient Egypt. Photo The Theban Mapping Project.

Isis and Nephtys with their hair covered by a white cloth and with a red band. Scene from the tomb of Siptah. XIX Dynasty. Photo: The Theban Mapping Project.

Did they have a kinship with the mummy? According to some ancient Egyptian iconography the dead’s wife was usually crying next to the corpse, while the two professional mourners or “kites” stood at both ends of it. So, a priori, no one of them had to be the dead’s wife.