Egypt is a nation that is famous for its excessive practice of rituals. Egyptians observed and performed peculiar and intricate forms of rites and more so as funeral rites. Canopic jars are one of the numerous things they utilized to perform rites. Throughout the mummification process, these jars were utilized for the purpose of preserving the ‘viscera’ to enable life after death.
Starting from the period of the ancient Egyptian Kingdom till the end of the Egyptian era, these Canopic jars were in use. Throughout their use during this era, they were used in numerous ways. The Egyptians used manifold forms of the Canopic jars to put each internal organ, and in fact, every organ was ascribed to a specific Canopic jar with dedication.
It is a common opinion among the people that Canopic jars are related to the Greek legendary tales belonging to Canopus. But Egyptian historians have made it obvious that they are two entirely different ideologies not related in any way.
According to tradition the deceased individual might have four Canopic jars. Each of these jars was intended to safeguard a particular organ. The most important organs in the sight of the Egyptians were the lungs, liver, the stomach and the intestines. The design sense employed in creating Canopic jars went through a series of changes with time.
The Canopic jars of the age-old Kingdom of Egypt were not intricately designed. They had simplistic appearance covered with plainly designed lids. Arriving at the first intermediary period, the Canopic jars were designed to portray human heads. They particularly designed thus to symbolically stand for the dead.
Human head designed Canopic jars were widespread until the arrival of the new Egyptian Kingdom. Towards the close of the eighteenth century, the symbol of human heads was no more in use. Instead, the four sons of Horus were symbolized on the lids.
The Egyptian people perceived the four sons of Hours in a symbolic manner as ‘the gods of cardinal compass points’. Every son was divinely employed to safeguard one of the four primary organs taken from the body. In case of dangerous attacks from the outside world, the four sons were to defend one another.
Of the four sons of Horus symbolized on the Canopic jars, the Damutef was a jackal-headed deity appointed to safeguard the stomach. He was also symbolic of the East; he was to be protected by goddess Neith, another deity. Secondly, Qebehsenuef was a falcon-headed deity appointed to safeguard the intestines. This deity was protected by Selket.
The Egyptian deity Hapi was appointed to safeguard the lungs put in the third jar. Hapi was symbolic of the North; he was to be protected by Nephthys. Imseti, the fourth son of Horus was appointed to protect the liver. He was symbolic of North; he was to be protected by the goddess Isis.