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3 The Coffin Texts and Democracy

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Chapter Summary

The time when texts of the kind now known as the Coffin Texts were first written down cannot be defined with certainty. The first known coffin on which they occur belonged to the governor Medunefer, who lived in the reign of pharaoh Pepi II, i.e. in the late Old Kingdom. But indirect evidence shows that texts that were probably very similar were used in the cults of private persons (and of course kings) earlier. The evidence suggests that the offering ritual was the performative context of these recitations, which were called sȝḫ, a causative formation literally meaning "to transform into an ȝḫ-spirit". Such spirits are transcendental beings. Gods are often described as being a spirit, and by converting a human being through ritual into the same category, (s)he to an extent became divine also.

Keywords: Coffin Texts; democracy; God; performative context; spirit

10.1163/9789004274990_005
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