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The offering formula

The "blessed dead" (those who passed the "weighing of the heart" in the halls of Maat) were thought to live eternally in a paradise with the gods. However, they did not like to be unprepared and so their tombs were equipped with clothing, games and furniture as well as food and drink. Offerings were presented to the images of gods in order to nourish and sustain them, and the Egyptians also believed that the deceased could derive sustenance from offerings presented to them. Offerings were brought into the chapel of the tomb and presented in front of the false door.

The simplest style of offering table was a reed mat with a loaf of bread on it. This became the symbol "htp" ("hotep" or "hetep") which represented either an altar or the offering itself and was used in words such as "hotep" - to be pleased or satisfied. Even when the reed mat was replaced by a stone offering table during the Old Kingdom the altar was often created in the shape of a reed mat and bread loaf or had the symbol carved on its design. The offering tables were carved with images of typical offerings, such as bread, beer, meat and ducks. If the family no longer made offerings at the table, it was thought that the images of the offerings would sustain the deceased. Reciting the "offering formula" could also substitute for a real offering. The "offering formula" was the principal inscription on the False Door from the Early dynastic period and was popular until the end of the Greco-Roman period. It was also applied to coffins, funerary stelae, paintings, jewellery and amulets.

The formula
The first of the standard elements is the phrase "Htp Di nsw" (hotep di nisu), which is translated as "A gift (offering) which the king gives". The offering was always described as being from the king even if it was destined for a common burial. This was because the King was the spokesman for each person with the gods, so every offering was made in his name.

Htp Di nsw a gift which the king gives

Next the formula confirms the name of the god who will receive the gift. The earliest examples (from the fourth dynastyonly refer to Anubis, but Osiris (sometimes in the form of Khentiamentiu) soon became a popular recipient of offerings. From the New Kingdom other gods such as Amun were occasionally named in the formula. The name of the god is often followed by one of his (or her) epithets. For example, "Osiris, Lord of Djedu" or "Anubis, who is on his mountain" (referring to the cliffs above the cemetery). The next phrase is "Di-f prt-hrw". "Di-f" is a future form of the verb "to give" and is translated as "so that he will give", while "prt-hrw" is translated as "a voice offering". The sign for the latter term includes the symbols for bread and beer even if they are not amongst the offerings, and the whole symbol represents any ritual offering. Di-f prt-hrw so that he will give a voice offering

This phrase confirms that speaking the offering formula will allow the deceased to gain access to the offerings listed after it. Offerings are often listed by abbreviation as they tended to be fairly standardized.

Common offerings

Finally, the formula notes the name of the deceased who will receive the offerings. The deceased is referred to as imAh(the revered one) and mA-hrw (true of voice, referring to the justified dead who have

passed the trials in the hall of Maat). From the Twelth Dynasty the epithet imAh was usually preceded by the phrase n-kA-n (for the ka of) n-ka-n-imAh for the ka of the revered ...


Htp di nsw (n) Asir nb Ddw nTr 'A nb AbDw di=f prt-hrw t Hnqt kA Apd shs mnht ht nb(t) nfr(t) wb(t) nht nTr im n kA imAh(y) ky An offering which the King gives (to) Osiris, Lord of Djedu, great God, Lord of Abydos, so that he may give a voice offering (in) bread, beer, ox, fowl, alabaster, linen, everything good and pure on which a god lives for the Ka of the revered one Key

Htp di nsw (n) Asir nb imn.t tA-nTr nb AbDw pr.t-hrw 1000 kA.w Apd.w h.t nb(.t) nfr(.t) wab(.t) n imAhj hr inpw tp(j) Dw=f smr imjrA aXn.tjw s-n-wsr.t mAa-xrw An offering that the king gives (to) Osiris, the Lord of the West of Ta-Netjer, the Lord of Abydos, 1000 voice offerings of bulls and birds and every good and pure thing, on behalf of the one who is venerable with Anubis, who is upon his mountain, the royal seal-bearer, the sole friend (of the king), the overseer of the royal audience room, Senuseret, true of voice.

Names in Ancient Egypt

Names were chosen with care to represent an individual's personality, their devotion to a particular god or location, or to reflect the times in which they lived. The simplest names were nouns or adjectives, such as Neferet ("beautiful woman"), User ("strong") or Nedjem ("Sweet"). Others took the form of statements such as Ptahhotep, ("Ptah is satisfied"), Tutankhamun ("the living image of Amun"), or Hatshepsut ("foremost of noble ladies"). Some names ran in the family (Djau, a sixth dynasty vizier, had at least five brothers who shared his name). It was common to apply an epithet to help distinguish people with the same name, such as Aa ("great" or eldest) Hery-ib (the one in the middle) and Nedjes ("small" or youngest). Similarly, people often included the name of their father (the epithet Ir-en meant "of his body") or mother (the epithet Mes-en meant "born of"). Nicknames and abbreviations were also common in ancient Egypt. "Meryamun", "Merypath" and "Meryneith" were all abbreviated to "Mery" while "Nefertiti" was often shortened to Tiy. Nicknames such as Tahemet ("Queenie") were common while others (such as "Kyky" meaning monkey) seem to have been very personal. Ramesses' troops called him by the nickname Sese, "the vanquisher". The Egyptians believed that if you knew something's name, you had power over it. If you wrote the name of a dangerous animal or evil spirit on pottery and smashed it you were symbolically killing the evil. So called "execration texts" have been discovered all over Egypt particularly near burial areas. All Egyptians were given a secret name at birth by the gods which was never disclosed so that no-one could do them harm. A person's name could be changed under certain circumstances. For example Seti ("man of Seth") changed his name to "man of Osiris" in his temple to that god to avoid causing offence (as Osiris was murdered by Set). An excerpt from aNew Kingdom trial names the accused as Mesedsure ("Re hates him"), Bim-em-Wase ("evil in Thebes") and Pa-neck ("the serpent"). Clearly these were not their birth names; their names were corrupted because they were accused of a terrible crime, attempting to murder the Pharaoh Ramesses III. The king's son was also involved in the plot, and was re-named Pentware ("the fugitive") suggesting that he left Egypt to avoid being charged with attempted patricide. The pharaohs of Ancient Egypt did not restrict themselves to simple names. Most Pharaohs are known to us by their birth names but the kings lists use their throne names. For example, Ramesses the Great's birth name was Ra-messes Mery-Amun ("born of Re, beloved of Amun"), but the kings lists record his throne name User-Maat-Re Setep-en-Re ("the justice/truth of Re is powerful, Chosen by Re"). Until the Fourth Dynasty Pharaohs only really used one name, but by the Middle Kingdom they had five including the Nebty (Two Ladies) name, the Golden Horus Name, a Prenomen and Nomen (written in the cartouche) and a birth name (written in a serekh).

The Gods' Names

The gods names are listed according to their Egyptian spelling. For example, the god Amun is listed as "imn" following the standard transliteration of the signs. For further information on this practice, check out the tutorials on the mainHieroglyphs page, the pronunciation guide or Gardiners sign list. Click on the letter to view the hieroglyphs, or click on the god's name to visit their page.

' and A
Akr (Aker) Asr (Osiris) Ast (Isis) mHh (Am-heh) mmt (Ammit) ntit (Anat) ndjti (Andjety) App (Apep or Apothis)

i and y
ikn (Aken) imiut(Imiut) imntt (Amentet) imn (Amun) imn-r (Amum-Re) inhr (Anhur or Onuris) inhrt (Anhur) inhr (Anhur) inpw (Anubis) inp (Anubis) itn (Aten) itm (Atum) ptH (Ptah)

rnnt (Renenutet) rnnwtt (Renenutet) rnpt (Renpet) rshpu (Reshep)

bAst (Bast) bAstt (Bast) bAt (Bat) bAnbDd (Banebdjed) bs (Bes)

k and K(q)
KbHut (Kebeshet) Kdsh (Qadesh) kkw (Kuk) kkw-t (Kuaket)

s and S(sh)
shmt (Sekhmet) srqt (Serqet) SS-t (Sheshat) st (Set) swt (Set) sty (Set) stkh (Set) stjit (Satet) stt (Satet)

d and D(dj)
DHtwy (Thoth)

m g
mAHs (Maahes) mAHs (Maahes) mA't (Ma'at) mAAHAf (Maahaf) mn (Min) mnhyt (Menhet) mntj (Montu) mrtsgr (Meretseger) mrsgr (Meretseger) mshnt (Meskhenet) mwt (Mut) mwt (Mut)

t and T(tj)
tAyt (Tayet) tfnwt (Tefnut) tjnnt (Tjenenet)

gb (Geb)

h, and H
hatmHyt (Hatmehyt) hr (Horus) hwt-hr (Hathor)

w or u
wD-t (Wadjet) wpwAwt (Wepw

H'py (Hapi) H'py (Hapi) HsAt (Hesat) HsAt (Hesat)

nbthwt (Nephthys) nbthwt (Nephthys) nfrtm (Nefertum) nhbt (Nekhbet) nnt (Naunet) nn (Nun) nt (Neith) nt (Neith) nwt (Nut)

hnty-imntw (Khentiamentiu) hpri (Khepri) hrt (Kherty) hnm (Khnum) hnmu (Khnum) hnsw (Khonsu)