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THE PRIESTHOOD OF ANCIENT EGYPT

The priesthood of Ancient Egypt has a far-reaching and deep history, rooted within the traditions of Ancient Egypt. Priests (and priestesses) were seen as stand-in's for Pharaoh; it was their job to keep Egyptian society in good order, and their mystical attributes take on a secondary role. The priesthood served as a mechanism to order society, to create a hierarchy, to preserve the culture for future generations.


A priest was generally chosen by either the king or attained his/her post by hereditary means. From this there grew a priestly hierarchy.


Priests were often rotated from position to position within the hierarchy. For example, a priest would serve in a temple for one month, three times a year. Rotation was often linked to stringent purity rituals.


Regardless of status, there were numerous taboos and traditions which circumscribed priestly life. A priest could not eat fish (a food ascribed to the peasants), or wear wool (nearly all animal products were considered unclean),  were generally circumcised (only common amongst males) and it was not uncommon for a priest to bathe three or four times a day in sacred pools. Shaving of body hair was common as a purification rite.


At the top of the hierarchy was the High Priest (the sem-priest), known as the "First Prophet of God". Old, and wise in years, the High Priest served as political advisor to Pharaoh and was also political leader for the temple's) he belonged to. The High Priest was in charge of overseeing magical rites and ceremonies.


Next, came many priests with specialized duties. These tasks included horology, astrology and healing.


Lay magicians came next. Through their use of magic, they provided a service to the community of counseling, magical arts, healing and ceremony. Lay magicians belonged to a large caste within the priesthood called "The House of Life".


Finally, there is the rank of Scribe, much prized in the priesthood. Scribes were in charge of writing magical texts, issuing royal decrees, keeping and recording the funerary rites (specifically within the Book of the Dead) and keeping records vital to the bureaucracy. To be a scribe was the highest honour.


The status of priestesses was considered equal to that of priests. Priestesses were mainly associated with music and dancing, although at Thebes, the  chief priestess of Amun bore the title of "god's wife".