Purification was an important aspect of the daily life of the Ancient Egyptians. It kept Isfet (evil) away which took the form of demons, pestilence and disease – which would run rife without adequate purification practices. Purification was seen as a way to strengthen the power of protection as well as provide insight through making the way clear and clean.
The Ancient Egyptians would use fumigation as part of the purification process which involved incense made from resins and herbs which would be lit and wafted through temple, royal and residential homes alike. The Ancient Egyptian clergy and aristocracy would shave their bodies as a way to keep themselves pure and free from pollutants. The Priests would also keep themselves pure by avoiding dressing in garments made from animals such as wool or leather and only wear natural materials like linen. Another method the priests had for remaining pure was to abstain from specific foods, depending on which God they served.
Priests had to abstain from any sexual intercourse before rituals as a form of purification even though they normally lived like the rest of the population and married and had children. The only difference is that they dedicated some time out of the year to honor their gods in their part time vocations as priests of the temple. Therefore before they re-entered the temple they would abstain from intimate relations to be pure for their gods.
The priests and royalty had lakes they had deemed for divine purification. There they would ritually bathe themselves with natron, a salt like substance collected from the banks of the Nile river, before entering their temples to perform their religious rites. Natron was used by the Ancient Egyptians for mummification but the priests also used it for personal purification in which they would wash their mouth out, hands and feet when it was dissolved in water.
Purification of the temple shrine and the associated tools was completed using natron so it was a cleaning agent which was pretty much used for everything. Natron infused water was used to wash the temple walls and floors and implements as well as the images of the gods. Images of the gods within the temple sanctuary were sprinkled with water and grains of natron during various times of the day and night when opening, maintaining and closing the shrine occurred. Any remaining natron water was used to wash the surrounding streets and buildings.
For practicing Kemetics using abstinence, fumigation, cleaning and bathing still occurs as part of the purification practice today. Since natron was a natural occurrence found on the banks of the Nile and we don’t have the luxury of being able to collect it this way I would like to share with you how to make your own natron.
Two methods I have found to make natron successfully :
- Simply mix some baking soda and kosher salt in the blender or in a mortar with a pestle – ¼ part baking soda to ¾ part salt.
- Bake method outlined below which I prefer due to the consistency and its potency:
a. Mix one cup kosher salt and one cup baking soda and place in a cooking pot (shouldn’t be more than ¼ of the depth of the pot).
b. Add water until it covers the mixture and heat on low whilst constantly stirring.
c. Once it reaches boiling point ensure all the ingredients blend smoothly and take off heat.
d. Mixture should be slime like substance which you can now pour and spread over a baking paper lined oven tray.
e. You can put it in direct sunlight to dry out covered by netting so it isn’t polluted by grit or bugs (this can take a month or so) or alternatively place in a very low oven for several hours until the mixture dries out ensuring the mixture doesn’t turn brown as it must remain white in color.
f. Once dry, break apart the sheets of natron into smaller barley sized pieces and store in air tight container so it doesn’t get damp and clump up.
(c) T. Georgitsis 2014