The past week, I visited the Bay Area of San Francisco, and one of the places I went to was Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum. According to their website, the buildings are all inspired by the Temple of Amon, and that this Museum holds the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts in western North America–including items from pre-dynastic to Egypt’s early Islamic era (http://www.egyptianmuseum.org/). And in my opinion, it is one of the best exhibits I have visited so far.
Let’s start with the grounds, which are amazing! I can’t say it’s like stepping back in time like I have with many historical sites I visited in the past, but it’s close. It more brings a sense of Ancient Egypt to modern North America. It’s also very peaceful, especially the several gardens open to the public to walk. There are a few areas open only to members, but you can still admire the architecture and design from a far.
There are several buildings that are a part of this complex, including a planetarium and library. But my interests lied with the Egyptian Museum. I started in the section which basically depicted daily life in Ancient Egypt. Though, there was a small wing in this section which included Sumerian artifacts and depictions. This display consisted of many trickets from papyrus writings to make-up and mirrors to Senet board games and different playing pieces to offering alters to home deity statuettes. There is also a reconstructed Birthing Room. But my favorite in this section was a New Kingdom Mummy Box depicting Anubis, which held a small votive offering to the gods.
The next section I visited was on Ancient Egyptian funeral practices. Here, they even recreated the entrance of a tomb. It’s surrounded by sarcophagi, mummies of animals, and miniature models of burial sites. In addition, there is a small false door on display, which has always been a interesting concept to me. Based on my research, these false doors are the link between this earth and the afterlife. Spirits were believed to walk through, giving them the ability to receive offerings the dead’s family leave and walk among the people.
And finally, at least in terms of Ancient Egypt, there is the Religion section. Here there are several depictions of the gods–mostly in miniature figurines and amulets which would be buried with the mummies of Egypt. There is also several potteries and larger statues. The most notable being a full size Sekhmet, the lion-headed goddess of war.
In mythology, Sekhmet was sent by Ra to punish man for their crimes. The goddess slaughtered thousands of ancient Egyptians under his command. And when she could no longer control her blood lust, Ra created a mixture of beer and pomegranate juice (which stained the beer blood red) and poured it in her path. She gorged on the “blood” and became so drunk she slept for three days. When she awoke, her blood lust had dissipated, and humanity was saved.
At the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, fake offering are laid at the goddess’s feet, depicting the traditional bread, fruit, honey cakes, meat, and wine offerings that were often placed in front of an Egyptian deity on a daily basis, along with offerings of natron. Every morning, priests would walk into the house of the god or goddess, preforming a ritual to awaken the god/goddess. They would bath and dress the statue, or proxy, of the god and offer food and drink for the spirit of the god to consume.
All in all, a wonderful exhibit of Ancient Egyptian artifacts! I loved exploring the museum and taking in the peace of the gardens. I would revisit the next time I’m in the Bay Area again.