The ceremony of the ‘Raising the Djed Pillar took place in the city of Menefer or Memphis. The King, aided by the priests, would raise the pillar with ropes. A Djed lying on the ground is indicative of death, and the raising of the Djed is symbolic for raising up or bringing new life. Because the Pharaoh was the ruler of the living and Wasir was the king of the dead, the act of raising the Djed was believed to emphasize both the stability of the King and with him, the land, but also tied the king and the land with the rebirth of life in both the world of form and the Duat. Raising the Djed pillar was also done during the Heb-Sed festival which was performed by the Pharaoh to reaffirm his strength and endurance at year 30 and then every three years again after this. It was considered a joyous occassion.
It was a common practice to paint an image of the Djed pillar in the back interior panel of coffin for the obvious reference of the symbol representing the backbone and would be in the precise place where the actual backbone of the deceased would rest. The stabilizing and regenerative meaning of this is obvious. Djed amulets were also commonly included in the wrappings of mummies to insure the renewed life of the deceased in the Duat. On these amulets were sometimes inscriptions of prayers or heka. A portion of the Prt Em Hru or Book of the Dead were engraved on one of two Djed amulets that were found on the mummy of Tutankhamen. The word words to be recited to the god Wasir (Osiris) were:
“Thou hast thy backbone, O weary one of heart; thou shalt place thyself upon thy side so that I may give thee water beneath thee. I have brought thee a djed pillar of gold; mayest thou be pleased with it.”
In the tomb of Queen Nefertari in the Valley of the Queens in Egypt, Nefertari is shown offering to Ptah who is standing in a kind of kiosk. Directly in back of him is the Djed pillar and even the staff that the god holds is in the form of the Djed. One of the inscriptions include the Djed, the Ankh and the Was and says:
“All protection, life, stability, dominion and health are behind him.”
In Kemetic belief, the four capitals at the top of the Djed pillar signify stability. Everything, for us, is almost always done in fours – the four corners of a building, the four times that we declare purity, “It is pure, It is pure, it is pure, it is pure,” or the four times we encircle a room with natron and water, light and incense and sound – all lend itself to establishing a foundation of purity, and again, tie back to the Djed and its manifold symbolism. Stability allows firmness of purpose, to know where we stand, or that what has been established can be carried on and continued on that firm foundation of stability.
Naydler, Jeremy. Temple of the Cosmos: The Ancient Egyptian Experience of the Sacred. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 1996. Print.
Naydler, Jeremy. Shamanic Wisdom in the Pyramid Texts: The Mystical Tradition of Ancient Egypt. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 2005. Print.
Shaw, Ian, and Paul T. Nicholson. The Dictionary of Ancient Egypt. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1995. Print.
Wilkinson, Richard H. Reading Egyptian Art: A Hieroglyphic Guide to Ancient Egyptian Painting and Sculpture., p.176 – 177; London: Thames and Hudson, 1992