Ancient Egyptian Priests

The priests in Ancient Egypt were very important.  Since most Egyptians believed that there were gods and goddesses that lived in the temples, the priests played a huge role in what happened in the temples.

Priests

Unlike the regular Ancient Egyptians citizens, the priests were allowed to go into the temple and approach the different gods and goddesses.  The citizens of Ancient Egypt were only allowed to go outside of the temple to pray or they could pray in the courts or the streets or from their own private homes.

Sometimes, there were other people that were allowed in the temple to do work and other things, such as the craftsmen, but in order to approach the gods or goddesses, you had to be a priest.

The priests were allowed to go into the temple and to pray to the gods and goddesses.  The priests were considered to be very sacred people and they were believed to have special access to the gods.

Role of the Priest

The main role of the priest was to take care of all of the gods and goddesses in their temple.  The priest would go in and communicate with the gods and then would communicate with the people.

Teaching of the gods

The priest would not go around and teach the people about the different gods or goddesses or how the people should behave or act.

The people automatically knew how they were supposed to act because they were taught as children what it would take for them to make it to the afterlife and so they were not taught these things by the priest.  Most of the time, these things were taught in the people’s homes and they would grow old knowing and believing in the afterlife.

The priest also did not have to take time to teach the people to believe in the gods and goddesses because they already believed in them.  The people knew that if they wanted to be able to make it to the afterlife that they must know and believe in the gods and goddesses, so they did.

Jobs

Some priests from Ancient Egypt would work only part time as priests and the rest of the time they would have regular jobs such as working in the government or working as a farmer.  The priests that were only part time priests were called lay priests.

The priests that had part time jobs usually worked in small communities and they would rotate with other priests to make sure that someone was always available in the temple.  There were usually four different lay priests that would work together, and they would rotate one month in the temple and then three months at their job in the community before they would switch again.

How to Become a Priest

Getting to become a priest was not the same as it is today.  Priests would usually be chosen by the Pharaoh.  Most of the time, this was the case, but sometimes, the priests would be born into the job because their father or their grandfather was a priest before them.

Sometimes the Pharaoh would move the priest from different temples and sometimes the priest would be given higher power.  People really respected the priests, especially since they were chosen by the Pharaoh and this made them important.

Actions

The actions of the priests were very important.  The priests had to act a certain way in order to be able to serve the gods and to be able to hear from the gods.  It was important that the priests had a pure heart so that they could go before the gods and communicate with them.

Cleanse

The priests were made to wash and shave differently than regular citizens.  It was required that they would wash twice a day and that their heads and bodies were shaves.

The priests were only allowed to wear clothing that was made from the skin of leopards or other sacred animals and they had to cover both their bodies and their heads.

Tutankhamun
Tutankhamun
What Did the Priests Do?

The priest would go to the temple and would do magic and offer different things to the gods and goddesses to make sure that the gods were happy.

The gods had to take care of the community because this was the only way that trouble would not enter the community.  The priests helped to keep the gods happy and they were servants of the gods because they took care of them.

Rituals

When the priest would go into the temple, they would do different rituals such as lighting a torch, anointing statues, putting perfume or oil on the statues and praying.

Sometimes, the priests would have to give offerings to the gods to make sure that they were happy and that they did not turn on the people in the community.

More Facts About Ancient Egyptian Priests:

  • Sometimes the priest would offer gifts of clothing, jewels and fine foods to the gods and goddesses.
  • When the priest was leaving the temple in the evening, he would have to walk out of the temple backwards and wipe away all of the footprints that he left in the temple.
  • A priest had a very important job because if he did not take care of the gods then the gods would not take care of the people.
  • The priest was always paid well and so people would always want to take away the job of the priest.
  • When a priest would work at one temple for a long period of time, they were called career priests which meant that it was their job.
  • The priest was required to study and know the text and to say the prayers perfectly in the temple so that the gods did not get mad.
  • Priests were not required to stay single; they were most of the time married and had children.

What Did You Learn?

  1. What was the job of an Ancient Egyptian priest?  The job of the priest was to make sure that the gods and goddesses were happy with the people in the community.
  2. What was a priest called that only worked as a priest part time? A part time priest was called a lay priest.
  3. What was the priest called if they were appointed to one temple for a long time? A priest that was appointed to one temple for a long time was called a career priest.
  4. What were some things that the priest would give to the gods as gifts? The priest would give things such as clothing, fine foods and jewelry.
  5. Was it easy to get a job as a priest?   A regular person could not just get a job as a priest, he had to be born into the priesthood or appointed by the Pharaoh.