The protestation of innocence, and thus of religious cleanliness and piety, through a series of denials of specific actions deemed offensive to a god. The confessor engages in a series of protests of the simple form "I did not do this sin, X". The simplest form is already evidenced in the Hebrew Bible. Cf. Deuteronomy 26.13f:

I have purged my house of the sacred portion and I have given them to the Levite, the alien, the orphan, and the widow, just as you have commanded me. In this I have not broken or forgotten any of your commandments: I have not eaten any of the tithe as a mourner; I have not brought any of it out as one unclean; I have not offered any of it to the dead.

The prayer ends, "Look down then, from heaven...and bless your people Israel...". The petitioner is worthy of blessing because of his innocence, proven by the statement. The formula is more common still in Egyptian ritual. Spell 125 in the Book of the Dead:

I am pure. My purity is the purity of this great Phoenix...O far-strider who came forth from Heliopolis, I have not sinned. O flame-embracer who came forth from Kheraha, I have not robbed. O Beaked One who can forth from Hermopolis, I have not been greedy. O swallower of shadows who came forth from the cavern, I have not stolen...

The spell continues; there are some 42 declarations in all, each of them addressing a god under an epithet, followed by a negative statement. Unlike the Hebrew text, however, Egyptian magic suggests that these are more than simple attestations of innocence; each declaration carries an actualizing force. Thus, by declaring that he has not been greedy, the speaker purges himself of the sin of greed, and thus any religious consequences in the afterlife.

The statements are appeals to justice, and places the speaker in a context of correct action and deserved consequences. He has already here accepted that theft or greed will result in punishment; since he is innocent, or becomes innocent in speaking the formula, it is also just that he will not be punished, and thus will win his reward in the afterlife (or, in this case, pass one of the trials of the gates of the underworld).

This type of magical protest is famously taken up in Tibullus, I.3.51ff, when he states:

parce pater! timidum non me periuria terrent,
non dicta in sanctos inpia verba deos!
Spare me, father, threats of perjury don't frighten me,
For I've not spoken impious words against the gods!

The poet declares his innocence by denying a particular wrong action. It has been suggested that Tibullus assimilated many elements of Egyptian and Near Eastern ritual and magic into his poetry by contact with cults of Isis, then popular in Rome. But Egyptian influences on Tibullus, and on Latin Literature in general, are, of course, subjects for another node.

The Book of the Dead has the deceased recite this to the god Osiris:

Behold, I have come to thee, and I have brought maat (i.e., truth, integrity) to thee.
I have destroyed sin for thee.
I have not sinned against men.
I have not oppressed my kinsfolk.
I have done no wrong in the place of truth.
I have not known worthless folk.
I have not wrought evil.
I have not defrauded the oppressed one of his goods.
I have not done the things that the gods abominate.
I have not vilified a servant to his master.
I have not caused pain.
I have not let any man hunger.
I have made no one to weep.
I have not committed murder.
I have not commanded any to commit murder for me.
I have inflicted pain on no man.
I have not defrauded the temples of their oblations.
I have not purloined the cakes of the gods.
I have not stolen the offerings to the spirits (i.e., the dead).
I have not committed fornication.
I have not polluted myself in the holy places of the god of my city.
I have not diminished from the bushel.
I did not take from or add to the acre-measure.
I did not encroach on the fields of others.
I have not added to the weights of the scales.
I have not misread the pointer of the scales.
I have not taken milk from the mouths of children.
I have not driven cattle from their pastures.
I have not snared the birds of the gods.
I have not caught fish with fish of their kind.
I have not stopped water when it should flow.
I have not cut the dam of a canal.
I have not extinguished a fire when it should burn.
I have not altered the times of the chosen meat offerings.
I have not turned away the cattle intended for offerings.
I have not repulsed the god at his appearances.
I am pure.
I am pure.
I am pure.
I am pure....
Source: Project Gutenberg http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext04/8bkdd10.txt


For most of them, no problem, but I know I would have trouble with a few of these should I find myself in a situation calling for my own personal confession (perhaps an exchange program between adherents of the Egyptian and Christian creeds). "I have not caused pain." "I have made no one to weep." You mean like in my entire life? Even when I used to teach physics?

I imagine Osiris seated on a high seat, not saying anything. Over the long millennia he has heard every attempt to weasel out of this list of basic acts of decency and restraint. I don't imagine that citing the rigors of science would change his demeanor at all, not even if I could recall the special circumstances and extenuating factors involved (he was an engineering student who had no business in engineering, she was a pre-med with an air of entitlement, etc.), an effort which probably would result in more fiction than fact. Perhaps the look of misery on my face would communicate to the god the difficulty we living mortal beings have in avoiding any sort of questionable action or inaction somewhere along the way. And if the fishing one and the worthless folk one are deal breakers, then what hope can I have?

That the merciful judge in the halls of the dead grades on a curve, that's what.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.