Opening of the Mouth Ceremony
Many years ago, in what seems like another lifetime, I was a young undergrad at Penn State taking one of my first art history classes. My favorite professor, Dr. Elizabeth Walters, had the gift of making the rituals of ancient people seem relevant to this Pennsylvania girl who came of age during the The Breakfast Club era of the late 1980s.
As I was working on a dancing fox sculpture this month, memories of her intro course on ancient Egyptian culture came flooding back. I could hear Dr. Walters describing the Egyptian “opening of the mouth” ceremony. In this ceremony, a statue or mummy was given symbolic life through special tools that magically opened the mouth so that it could breathe and speak.
The memory made me laugh because, here I was, unwittingly conducting my own modern version of the “opening of the mouth” ceremony. There is a special moment when you are creating a figure when you feel “life” start to enter the piece. The eyes and mouth play critical roles in this magical process.
In the photo above, you can see my favorite ceremonial tool for opening the mouth. I don’t use a peseshkaf or an adze, but rather a tiny crochet hook that my great-grandmother, Ethel, gave me when I was 7 or 8 so that I could make doilies with her. My doilies became skirts for my Barbie dolls. I haven’t crocheted since she passed away. The lessons just didn’t stick, but I cherish the tool.