Statuary- The Gods Reside Herein: Opening of the mouth, offerings and altars

Anubis altar 1In Egyptian religious practices, the Gods were said to reside in the statue, the opening of the mouth ceremony was performed on the statues, so that the statue may be animated by the Ka of the God that would reside within, the statue is thus “awakened”,

“If a statue had the opening of the Mouth ritual performed on it, then it would actually become the person or deity that it represented, its senses awakened so that it could see, hear and speak” (Egyptian Paganism:p 30)

The statues were dressed in cloth, anointed and offerings of incense, food, wine, flowers, bread, meat, beer, herbs, linen, natron, milk, grain, vegetables , fowl and water would be made to the god. Statues act as fetishes and houses for the gods and spirits, and therefore need to be maintained, fed and offered to on a regular basis

I offer incense, alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages, chocolate, sweets, candles, and flowers as well as many other things that are filled with powerful energies. Once an offering is made, it is transformed by the god it was offered to, and a reversion of the offering is made:

“Following the rite, the food that has been offered should be consumed, distributed to those it will nourish, or returned to nature as soon as possible. Floral offerings may remain throughout the day, but should be taken elsewhere at nightfall” (The Sacred magic of Ancient Egypt: p 162).

In addition to the above-mentioned offerings I also dedicate jewellery to deities, for instance, the two necklaces I wear most of the time are dedicated to Anubis and Hekate, and when I wear them, I’m “wearing the Deity at my heart” in the same way that Thoth “wears” Ma’at on his heart.

The gods come to us in the forms we can best understand them, but I don’t feel that my statuary limits them, as I see my gods everywhere, not just in the faces of the statues, I see them within Nature. I see Anubis as every dog, as I see Hekate. Some pagans omit the use of statuary and use candles instead to represent the light of the gods, some use objects and totemic representations as well.

Altars act as spaces where all manner of ceremony may be conducted including spellwork, ritual, and meditation. My ancestral altar acts as a space of commemoration, and necromancy. Altars are not necessary for the practice of magic, and when one is on the move or in a small, limited space, it may be difficult to keep and maintain an altar. If one is able to keep an altar it should be maintained, cleansed and treated as a sacred object, as it acts as a battery of all the magic that has been practiced on it.

Further reading and links of interest:

Moon and shadow: About Paganism The Face of the Goddess and Altars, Sacred space and Special tools. 

Fuck Yeah Altars

Sarah Anne Lawless- Ancestral Altars & Rituals

All blog content is Copyright © 2012 of Nightshade

12 thoughts on “Statuary- The Gods Reside Herein: Opening of the mouth, offerings and altars

  1. I have never, once, done the opening of the mouth ceremony. I don’t think I will, either. I don’t feel it’s necessary for my practice. I can hear Sekhmet just fine without having her reside in the resin prison I have as representation for her. Besides, it seems like a lot of work. 🙂

    • The important thing is to know you hear her; it doesn’t matter the method- in my ever-so-humble opinion. I love your reference to dedicating jewelry to the gods, and you wear them over your heart. That’s a lovely sentiment I might ‘borrow’. 😉

      • Frootbat, I agree, any method one uses to communicate with the gods has validity, so long as it works for the individual. OtM is by no means the only method use to “hear” my gods, but it is an important ceremony to me nonetheless. I often just make a cuppa, and talk :), OtM is for more formal ritual.

        I’ve always said that the gods are within everything, that their spirit, is within animals, trees, the grass, the wind the stars, all that you need to talk to them is an open mind, and the courage to make the first step. OtM though becomes a more formalised greeting and acknowledgement, that the God is present though invocation, in order to partake in offering.

        I think it was in the book “Egyptian Paganism” that I found the idea of wearing them by our hearts as one of the tomb inscriptions was about Thoth wearing Ma’at, his wife, over his heart, and that priestesses of Ma’at would likely have done the same. It is a really lovely sentiment.

      • I think its wonderful that different pagans post in their blogs methods they use in all aspects of their spiritual path. The Egyptian seems foreign to me, but what you share is more compelling and beautiful. Keep sharing…I’ll keep reading. 😉

    • Aubs, I too have felt, and heard my gods without the opening of the mouth ceremony. I don’t feel OtM is necessary to hear the gods, in fact I don’t think it is “necessary”* at all. I may not have been all to clear in my post but I’ll try clarify what I meant.

      OtM, is traditionally used in order to awaken the god in Kemetic ritual. It is an important ceremony to me, for slightly different reasons. I do feel that the gods can willingly enter a statue whenever they want, They don’t have to, They are gods after all. When I perform the OtM, I am “awakening” the statue, by making it pure and clean, just like a piece of jewellery from a family member contains, something of them in it, if only their DNA, and energy, the statue does the same. Anubis may reside in the Statue if he wishes, just as he may reside in me if he wishes, which is why I perform a full anointing and cleansing of myself before invocation. The awakening of the statue therefore is a type of invocation, where the particular deity may decide to reside for the duration of the formal offering. It is not to say the deity HAS to sit in the statue, but they can and will if they want to 🙂

      OtM is not as hard work as people make it out to be either, a simple anointing and offering of food is all that is required. “I offer that which opens the mouth”. I also don’t do this every day, but in more formalised ritual. I do feel the gods can and do reside in the statues,not because we tell them to in the OtM, but because they want to. Their Ka may rest for a moment in an anointed, purified vessel, much like in Drawing Down.

      I talk to my gods all the time, statue, necklace or not, it is the formalisation of that which is important to me, OtM for me is making a formal greeting, which acknowledges that part of the spirit, the Ka, of the God, is in the statue, in me, around me. Part of my greeting is “May the love and spirit of Hekate and Anpu be within and around me as I journey through this day/the dreamworld”

      I hope that cleared things up a bit. I would never suggest that it is necessary for everyone who worships Egyptians gods to do the OtM, it is merely an important part of my system which draws heavily on Kemetic recon rituals:)

      Of course we all practice our paths differenty, and what I do may be alien to some, make no sense, even to other hard polytheists.

      *necessary as in “without it my gods will thump me on the head, or I won’t be able to hear them. Important as in holding special significance for me

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  3. Hello! I stumbled upon your blog looking for a Buddhist ceremony (my parents are Chinese and we’re practicing Buddhists), similar to “opening of the mouth.” In Buddhist/Daoist traditions, we call the blessing of the statue as “Opening of the Eyes to the Light.” However, what goes on the altar/how the altar is set up, would strictly follow Daoist and Buddhist symbolism, as well as Feng Shui (for example, in the Japanese tradition, altars to be set in the bedroom, if at all, have to be inside a closet–the doors are opened only when sacred practice is being done, with the idea that one wouldn’t sleep, spit, or undress in front of a high guest, much less the Buddha). Cheers!

    • Hello! Thank you for your comment!

      I have come across the notion of keeping an altar hidden in cupboards before and I have always found it interesting and beautiful, but at the same time difficult in my own life circumstances, being that I have ever only had enough closet space for my clothing.

      That being said, since having moved into a different home, my main altar and ancestral altar are no longer in my bedroom, even though my main altar can be spied from my bed, but none the less is kept hidden from the views of people I do not invite into my main living space.

      In many witchcraft traditions, it is common to be naked in front of the shrines and altars, for instance in Wiccan Liturgy such as a the Charge of the Goddess, we are asked to be naked in our rites as a sign of freedom. Of course I am not Wiccan, but I still practice many rituals particularly when they are with my Lady Hathor in the nude, and depending on the gods and spirits I am courting (and the season), I will be in varying states of dress and undress.

      My ancestral altar is an altar also devoted to the Lwa and the other Ghede of the Vodou Religion and thus when I am making propititations and offerings at that altar I am always clothed as a sign of respect for the Lwa and the difference in practice.

      I have always found it fascinating to learn about other cultures and religions and how they may differ in keeping an altar, and I thank you kindly for sharing this information!

      Many Blessings!

  4. Oh, BTW, the similarities struck me–food offered to the Buddhas and gods are also shared with loved ones and animals. In Buddhist practice, water offered to the Buddhas is transformed into “Holy nectar/sweet dew,” and is said to be beneficial for those who drink it.

    • Thank you for sharing this! This is actually a hot topic of debate within the pagan community and last year it made the rounds about whether or not offerings are to be consumed or not after they have been made.

      I have always thought that depending on within which culture one is making the offerings it is respectful to carry on in those traditions and practices.

      Personally I have always favoured traditions where sharing the offering with loved ones and others was the practice, as sharing the food in and of itself is holy, sacred and incredibly beautiful. Compassion is something very important to me, and something many Westerners could learn a thing or two about, and sharing in what sustains and nourishes both body and soul is certainly an act of compassion.

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