The Cannibal Hymn forms a self-standing episode in the ritual anthology that makes up the Pyramid Texts, first appearing in the tomb of Unas at the end of the Fifth Dynasty. Its style and format are characteristic of the oral-recitational poetry of Pharaonic Egypt, marked by allusive mataphor and the exploitation of wordplay and homophony in its verbal recreation of a butchery ritual. The dead king butchers, cooks and eats the gods as sacrificial bull, acquiring and exercising their powers to mediate his passage and confirm his transformation as a god ruling in the sky. The butchery of a bull was a central feature of major Egyptian rituals: the detailed Mythologisation of the sacrificial process in this hymn poses key questions about the nature of rites of passage and rituals of sacrifice in Egypt, and a particular about the mobilisation of oral accompaniment to ritual actions. Additionally, the presentation of the sacrifice as a meat-feast focuses on the role of ritual provision in the economic organisation and consumption of beef in pharaonic Egypt. Christopher Eyre is Senior Lecturer in the School Studies at the University of Liverpool.
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