ancient egypt: history and culture
Ancient Egyptian institutions: The House of Morning
   The baptism of the king
   The House of Morning
     A room for the morning toilet
     The religious dimension
       Divine service
       Opening of the Mouth ceremonies
       Economic aspects

Main menu Main Index and Search Page History List of Dynasties Cultural chronology Mythology Aspects of Life in Ancient Egypt Glossary of ancient Egyptian terms Herodotus on the pharaohs Ancient Egyptian texts Apologia and Bibliography

  For best results save the whole webpage (pictures included) onto your hard disk, open the page with Word 97 or higher, edit if necessary and print.
  Printing using the browser's print function is not recommended.


The House of Morning

    The king, despite being considered the son of Re, stand-in for Horus and being for his subjects, to all intents and purposes, as divine as any god, was a human being and as such had to be prepared for his role of ruler of the world when he was enthroned and subsequently daily for his meeting with the gods. These preparations were rituals of purification, robing and adornment performed in places such as the House of Morning, pr-dwA.t,[1], toilet chambers like the wDAAdet,[2][3], the robing room in the palace, DbA.t,[4] and others, their respective popularity varying over the centuries.

The baptism of the king

Baptism of the pharaoh Seth and Horus purifying Ramses III, Medinet Habu.[5]

    It was Gardiner who used the term baptism for the ritual purification of the (pagan) pharaoh, based on the fact that the Greek baptizo means cleansing through water.[6]
    In the divine realm the king was purified by the gods, the representation in Medinet Habu showing Horus and Seth pouring the holy waters in the shape of the ankh and was symbols representing life and dominion, over Ramses III. The spell accompanying the scene is:
I have purified you with life, stability and dominion, your purification is the purification of Thoth and vice-versa.
Second court of the temple of Medinet Habu [5]
    In real life it was priests rather than the gods themselves who performed the purification ceremony using water from the temple pool. It has been suggested that they wore masks of Horus and Thoth or Seth doing so.[9] The priests themselves had to undergo cleansing of the body too, either by taking a dip in the temple pool or by having water poured over them in the temple's House of Morning, and washing the mouth with a natron solution. Only when they were ritually clean, could they prepare the place where the ritual of purifying the king was to be performed by sweeping the floor, sprinkling it with water and spreading fresh sand. Fumigation was also employed at times.[10]
    Gardiner, in contrast to Blackman [7] who connected this ceremony with the early morning purification of the king in the House of Morning before he began divine services, thought that the ritual was not performed in the temple on a daily basis, but was part of coronations and Heb-Seds only.[8]
    With the deepening of the Osirian cult such lustration rituals, originally in honour of the sun god Re, were–by the New Kingdom–believed to further rebirth, and came to be performed in the Opening of the Mouth ceremonies [9] with which the deceased regained the ability to use their bodies in their quest to gain eternal life and statues were awakened.[11] They may also have influenced the daily temple ritual, where in a robing and purification ceremony a single priest presented "speech offerings" by recitation.[12]

The House of Morning

The House of Books at Edfu     The House of Morning was apparently especially important during the Old Kingdom when high functionaries like viziers and chief justices were involved with it.[13][14] The vizier Ptahshepses who was also the son-in-law of the fifth dynasty king Niuserre enumerated his titles:
Local Prince, Only Friend, Ruler of Nekheb, Guardian of the Diadem, Privy to the Secret of the House of Morning, Beloved One of his Lord, Chief Justice, Vizier, Overseer of the Royal Works, Servant of the Throne, Lector-Priest, Privy of the Secret Sacred Writings of the God's Words...
Mastaba of Ptahshepses at Abusir.[15]

Ground plan of the Horus temple at Edfu
Ptolemaic Period
The House of Morning was accessed from the pronaos.

    The later overseers of the Houses of Morning may not have been as exalted as those of the third millennium BCE, but as late as the Ptolemaic Period rooms were assigned as Houses of Morning in the temples. In the Horus temple of Edfu the House of Morning was an insignificant affair: a small room built into the wall dividing the forecourt and the pronaos. It has been suggested that in the Hut Aten it may have been a small window where the king was purified.[16]

A room for the morning toilet

    The House of Morning may originally simply have been the room where the kings of Heliopolis (and others) performed their morning toilet. Houses of Morning seem to have retained some of their mundane qualities. In the Middle Kingdom Tale of Sinuhe the returning protagonist is taken to the House of Morning, in the translation below Chamber of Adornment, of a prince to freshen up:
Then said His Majesty: "Nay, but he shall not fear, he shall not dread. For he shall be a Companion among the magistrates, he shall be set in the midst of the nobles. Get you gone to the Chamber of Adornment to wait upon him." So when I was gone forth from the Hall of Audience, the Royal Children giving me their hands, we went together to the Great Portals, and I was placed in the house of a Royal Son.
The Tale of Sinuhe [17]

The religious dimension

Divine service

    In the temples the Morning House and the Room of Robing were the places where the king readied himself to meet the god. This he was capable of and entitled to thanks to the ka nsw.t, the King's ka. an epithet of which was " foremost of the Robing Room, foremost of the House of Morning". These rooms separated the profane from the sacred, and the King's ka controlled them.[18]
The ka of the King who lives, Lord of the Two Lands, foremost of the Room of Robing, foremost of the House of Morning.
Temple of Amun, Karnak [19]
    The king shed his profane self and entered the spiritual world in the House of Morning, but as generally he could not officiate in person, his place was taken by priests who underwent the same cleansing rituals.[10]


    Kings everywhere have always liked to claim divine rights and made a show of the gods' approbation. When the Kushite Piye conquered Egypt, he ascended the Egyptian throne. First he sought recognition by Ptah at Memphis where the purification was performed in the House of Morning, in the following translation Dewat-chamber:
His majesty proceeded to the House of [Ptah], his purification was performed in the Dewat-chamber, and every custom that is practised upon a king was fulfilled upon him.
The Piankhi Stela [20]
Shortly afterwards he entered the Re temple at Heliopolis. The rituals included cleansing, robing, and adorning:
He came and proceeded to the house of Re, and entered into the temple with great praise. The chief ritual priest praised the god, that rebels might be repelled from the king. The Dewat-chamber was visited, that the sedeb-garment might be fastened on; he was purified with incense and libations; garlands for the pyramidion-house were presented to him, and flowers were brought for him.
The Piankhi Stela [21]
The sedeb-garment he wore was apparently a kind of cloak Putting it on seems to have been part of the Meroitic investiture rites.[22]

Opening of the Mouth ceremonies

    The Opening of the Mouth ceremony enabling a being to defend himself in the beyond was also performed in the House of Morning.[23][24]

Economic aspects

    As was the case with every Egyptian institution, this one too had its bureaucracy which needed feeding. It may not have been quite as greedy as other government and temple departments, being quite small, yet it managed at times to cause dissatisfaction among those supposed to pay for it. The mayor of Elephantine Meri-Iunu, unhappy with the way his taxes were collected, wrote a letter during the reign of Ramses IX:
The scribe Pa-tjau-em-di-Amun from the House of Morning of Amen has arrived. He came to Elephantine to request the grain allotted to the House of Morning of Amen. He said: "Deliver 100 sacks of barley," he said to me, although there were no fields among them (yielding that much). He said to me: "They (i.e. the sacks of barley) are requested from you because of a field of kha-ne-ta [26] on the island of Kom-Ombo," thus they spoke to me, although I do not cultivate a field of kha-ne-ta on the island of Kom-Ombo. May Amen endure, may the ruler endure - if one finds a field of kha-ne-ta and I cultivate it on the island of Kom-Ombo, then the grain may be taken from me. This is a field of citizens who carry gold to the Pharaoh's treasury, and the citizens make it green, in order to deliver its gold to the treasury of the Pharaoh, l.p.h., but I have never got near any field there ever.
Letter from Meri-Iunu to Men-maat-Re-nakhtu[25]

[1] translit. pr-dwA.t, Wb 5, 425.10-14
[2] Ghalioungui 1983, p.48
[3] translit. wDA Wb 1, 402.16
[4] translit. DbA.t Wb 5, 561.2-7
[5] Murnane 1980, p.26
[6] Gardiner 1950, p.6
[7] Blackman, "House of Morning" in JEA 5, 1918
[8] Bergquist 1973, p.19
[9] Gabriel 2002, p.184
[10] Pinch 1995, p.77
[11] Journal of the Society of Oriental Research, Society of Oriental Research. 1921 Page 53
[12] Guglielmi & Buroh 1997, p.103
[13] Feucht 1995, p.204
[14] Kanawati 2003
[15] Verner 2002, p.162
[16] JEA 1976, p.92
[17] Gardiner 1916, p.175
[18] Rummel 2003, Part 1, p.151
[19] Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae website: Altägyptisches Wörterbuch, Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften => Historisch-rhetorische Ko"nigstexte (19.Dynastie) => Karnak => Tempel des Amun => Hypostyl (Aussen)/Nordwand => Tor-Ostflügel => Triumphszene und Topographische Listen
[20] Breasted 1906, Part Four, § 866
[21] Breasted 1906, Part Four, § 871
[22] Török 1997, p.288
[23] Erhart Gräfe, "Morgenhaus", Lexikon der Ägyptologie 4:205
[24] Hodel-Hoenes 2000, p.168
[25] Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae website: Altägyptisches Wörterbuch, Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften => Briefe => Briefe des Neuen Reiches und der Dritten Zwischenzeit => Verwaltung/Alltag => Briefe diverser Herkunft => pValencay I => Brief des Meri-Iunu an Men-maat-Re-nachtu
[26] kha-ne-ta (translit. xA-n-tA) or kha-ta, is either a measure of area amounting to 10 arouras (about 2.7 hectares), or a type of field. According to one of Heqanakhte's letters a
... 4/4 fields (i.e. 10 arouras) will yield 100 sacks of Lower Egyptian barley.
The kha-ne-ta in Meri-Iunu's letter seems to refer to the size of the field.
Birgitta Bergquist, Herakles on Thasos: the archaeological, literary and epigraphic evidence for his sanctuary, status and cult reconsidered, University of Uppsala; Distributed by Almqvist & Wiksell, Stockholm, 1973
James Henry Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Chicago 1906
Erika Feucht, Das Kind im Alten Ägypten: die Stellung des Kindes in Familie und Gesellschaft nach altägyptischen Texten und Darstellungen, Campus, 1995
Richard A. Gabriel, Gods of our fathers: the memory of Egypt in Judaism and Christianity, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002
Alan H. Gardiner Notes on the Story of Sinuhe, Librairie Honore' Champion, Paris, 1916
Alan H. Gardiner, "The Baptism of Pharaoh" in The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, vol 36, The Egypt Exploration Society 1950
Paul Ghalioungui, The physicians of Pharaonic Egypt, Volume 10 of Sonderschrift of the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut. Abteilung Kairo, Al-Ahram Center for Scientific Translations, 1983
W. Guglielmi, K. Buroh, "Die Einganssprüche des täglichen Tempelrituals nach Papyrus Berlin 3055" in Herman te Velde, Jacobus van Dijk, Essays on ancient Egypt in honour of Herman te Velde, Styx Publications 1997
Sigrid Hodel-Hoenes, Life and death in ancient Egypt: scenes from private tombs in new kingdom Thebes, Cornell University Press, 2000
Naguib Kanawati, Conspiracies in the Egyptian palace: Unis to Pepy I, Routledge, 2003
William J. Murnane, United with Eternity, Oriental Institute, University of Chicago 1980
Geraldine Pinch, Magic in ancient Egypt, University of Texas Press, 1995
Ute Rummel, Pfeiler seiner Mutter-Beistand seines Vaters,Dissertation University of Hamburg, 2003
László Török, The kingdom of Kush: handbook of the Napatan-Meriotic civilization, Part 1, Brill 1997
Miroslav Verner, Abusir: realm of Osiris, American University in Cairo Press, 2002
Egypt Exploration Fund, The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 1976, Volume 62

- -Index of topics
-Main index and search page
Offsite links   (Opening in a new window)
These are just suggestions for further reading. I do not assume any responsibility for the content of these sites


Feedback: please report broken links, mistakes - factual or otherwise, etc. to me. thanks.


© November 2009


CSE xhtml validated