Blue lotus chalice
Faience lotus flower cup with pale blue black painted decoration (for a similar New Kingdom example see Scott 1986, 106–107. The stem and foot is missing. This was originally part of the MacGregor collection purchased by Wellcome in 1922. The Egypt Centre also has a stone chalice in the shape of a lotus (W1474).
Such lotus chalices seem to appear in the New Kingdom and are typically Egyptian. See Brovarski, et al. (1982, 145-148) for other examples. The lotus or water lily rises and opens up each day as the sun comes up. It was thus associated with rebirth. Spell 81 in the ‘Book of the Dead’ is for transforming oneself into a lotus: ‘Spell for assuming the form of a lotus. To be said by N. I am this pure lotus that has ascended by the Sunlight and is at Re’s nose. I spend my (time) shedding (i.e. the sunlight) on Horus. I am the pure lotus that ascended from the field.’ Translation from Allen (1974).
Some have suggested that its narcotic properties were also used by the Egyptians (see Harer 1985 and Emboden 1981). However, recent studies suggest that it could not have such properties (Counsell 2008). It is possible that the sweet smell, however, had reviving qualities.
The meaning of rebirth was enhanced by the use of faience for the manufacture of the chalice. In itself faience was associated with life and rebirth.
It has been suggested that since the blue lotus chalice is not usually shown in scenes of drinking that it was only used as a cult vessel in temples or for rituals of the dead (Tait 1963). Some depictions of chalices even show them as containers for holding vegetables and flowers. However, a piece of linen of Ramesside date was painted with a picture of a lady holding a lotus chalice. In several faience bowls a blue lotus chalice is used to hold a libation.
Brovarski, E. Susan K. Doll, S.K. and Freed, R.E. eds. 1982, Egypt ‘s Golden Age. The Art of Living in the New Kingdom . 1558-1085 BC. Museum of Fine Arts Boston.
Counsell, D.J. 2008 Intoxicants in ancient Egypt? Opium, nymphea, coca and tobacco. In R. David Egyptian Mummies and Modern Science, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 195–215.
Emboden, W. 1981. Transcultural Uses of Narcotic Water Lilies in Ancient Egyptian and Maya Drug Ritual. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 3, 39–83.
Friedman, F.D., 1998. Gifts of the Nile. Ancient Egyptian Faience. Thames and Hudson.
Harer, W. B. 1985. Pharmacological and Biological Properties of the Egyptian Lotus. Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt, 22, 49–54.
Scott, G.D. 1986. Ancient Egyptian Art at Yale Yale University Art Gallery.
Tait, G.A.D. The Egyptian Relief Chalice. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 49, 93–139.