The role of the priest was very important in Egyptian Society. The Egyptians believed the gods lived in the temples. Only the priest was allowed to enter the sacred area of the temple and approach the statue representing the god or goddess. The people could pray at the gate or in the court to the Pharaoh who acted as a go-between the people and the gods.
The priests role was to care for the needs of the god/goddess. They have no role to oversee or care for the people of Egypt. They did not try to educate the people on the religion or look after their morals.
The priest would care for the god in the following ways:
In the morning, the high priest breaks the seal, lights a torch to walk the god, says prayers, lights incense, washes the statue (which may be solid gold), places fresh clothing and jewels on it and places offerings of food and drink near it. Singers offer hymns of praise to the god. At the end of the day, the priest backs out of the shrine, sweeping away his footprints as he goes, and seals the sacred area again. (Pg. 43 Day, 2001)
The Egyptians believed the priest played a vital role in providing for the needs of the gods. If their duties were neglected, it was believed problems would arise. Due to the importance of their role for the society, the priest were well compensated.
"For much of Egyptian history, there was no class of full-time professional priests." (Redford, 2002, pg 315). Many of the priest were classified as lay priest A lay priest is part-time and would hold another job often in a position in the state or local governments. The lay priests were especially common in small communities. Lay priests served on a rotation system. Normally, there were four equally staffed groups of lay priests. Each group would serve for a month and then return to their other occupation for three months.
New priests were often chosen by the Pharaoh. Often, the Pharaoh would choose relatives to fill positions in the most powerful and influential temples. Many of the positions of priests were hereditary and remained as an inheritance in certain families. The Pharaoh would have the power to transfer or promote a priest the majority of the time. At times, they may have been selected by committee a of priests.
Priests had certain requirements to meet while they were "on duty." They were only allowed to wear linens or clothing made of plants. Articles of clothing that were made from animals were not permitted. They were required to shave their heads and bodies daily. Cold water baths were taken several times a day. They had to practice sexual abstinence while performing their duties at the temple.
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