Pr-nq, House of Life: a little known institution in the current culture of those who are interested in ancient Egypt. Yet, as we shall see, it was a foundation of great importance for the elaboration of the various facets of Egypt’s religious and magical culture.
The Wb translates the term as “teaching site for scribes” while Meeks reports “archives; library; scriptorium “. These three meanings summarize the main functions of the institution. According to existing documents, the House of Life already exists in the Old Kingdom in the 6th dynasty and lasts until the end of Pharaonic civilization. The sources available are not very loquacious about what was produced in this lab and this is understandable given its nature.
A very interesting document is the Salt 825 papyrus (British Museum No. 10051) whose content is largely devoted to etiological myths and the rest to magical prescriptions. A long passage of the papyrus informs us of the ideal structure of the House of Life to be realized in Abydos. Let us read it, even because it has almost never been reported where the subject is concerned:

Ir pr-nh About the House of Life it will be in Abydos. Build it in 4 bodies: the inner body in marinated and covered (from them). Regarding the 4 houses together with the (sign of) life, and regarding the Living, he is Osiris. About the 4 houses (they are) Isis, Nephtis, Geb and Nut. Isis will be on one side, Nephtis will be another, Horus will be on one (side) and Thoth on the other: these are the 4 corners. Gheb is its floor and Nut is its firmament. The Great God is the Hidden Resting Inside. The 4 bodies outside are in stone with two strings and its bottom in the sand. Its exterior has 4 doors separately: one is south, one is north, another is western and another is eastern. It must be very hidden and very large. It must not be known or be looked at, except that you look at the sun its mystery. People accessing it must be Ra’s personal and the people inside it must be Scribes of the House of Life. The priest lies is Shu; The butcher is Horus who massacred the rebels towards his father Osiris; The scribe of the Book of God is Thoth: it is he that performs the glorification rites that are not seen or heard on a daily basis. Healthy mouth and body and mouth secrets, they will look to cut and erase. You will not be able to access an Asian or look at it, otherwise you will be really gone. Regarding the books that are in it, I am Ra’s Power to make this god live in them and overthrow his enemies. Regarding the staff of the House of Life that is inside it, it is (consisted of) Ra’s followers to protect his son Osiris.

casadlla vitaAn original image shows the scheme of the functions of the House of Life. The design is executed according to the three-dimensional representation of the ancient Egyptians, that is, with the horizontal projected vertical projections.
In the central space Osumi mummy with white crown and scepter uas in hands on 9 arcs, a symbol of the traditional foreign enemies of Egypt. Around there is a court in which Upper and Lower are Gheb. At the four corners Horus, Thoth, Nephtis and Isis. The four doors are marked by the signs of the west, north, east and south. From all this comes a prescriptive precision regarding a situation Magical religious very delicate. The consecration of the various parts of the building, based on the assimilation of the walls, the ceiling and the floor to the divinities of the Osirian cycle, clearly shows the sacred character of the institution. Osiris is the central element, the “living” and his being son of Ra indicates his “solarization” and subordination to this god. The lifeboat of the House of Life is highlighted by the presence of the solar disc that illuminates the execution of rites, except the central part covered by herbs.

The secrecy surrounding the institution is highlighted, for example, by the text above, for example, by another passage of the same papyrus which deals with a book to be written on the 20th day of the first month of the Flood:
The recommendation is that it should not be disclosed. Those who made it public were likely to die of sudden death or suffocation. The same editor had to be very careful and the book was to be read only by a scribe whose name was on the lists of the House of Life. The House of Life’s activities were varied. The theories concerned the most secret and refined rites that had to make the macrocosm process work without hindrance and extend their beneficial influence to society.

The communion of the sovereign with the solar entities, as an intermediary with them, was subject to rites and appropriate ceremonies. The dainem king’s defense follows the same technique used for Ra and the malicious Apep: in the “Book to Break Apep” are described by thread and sign the ways of packing images of the Malignant and its deprecating formulas. The House of Life practitioners also practiced the natural magic to assist people in the various vicissitudes of life. It is also presumed that the consecration of amulets and prophylactic magic texts took place in this place. Funeral magic was practiced in the institution, as evidenced by a fair amount of documents. It was a wish and a possible certainty that the name of the deceased was pronounced by pr-anx staff, as well as the food could come to fruition in his library and offerings to become in it. In particular, burial offers were considered vitally important for the ka of the deceased, and no less important the survival of the name, “identity card” of the personality of the individual.

Logically, the House of Life had a library and a staff of scribes who copied sacred papyrus, such as the Book of the Dead, at least in the least corrupt times, or the medical texts in whose prescriptions (when The limits of medicine are exhausted) there are magical formulas and appeals to the gods. In conclusion, we can compare this institution to a magical religious “university” that has survived throughout the Egyptian history as a nerd of the spiritual culture of ‘ Ancient Egypt.

Source: Heka- Magic in Ancient Egypt – Pietro Testa – Harmakis Editions


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