Ancient Egypt Demons and Spirits part 4 personnel of the wands and eye-makeup

Apr 4, 2011

Ancient Egypt Demons and Spirits part 4 personnel of the wands and eye-makeup

For most of the period during which the wands were made (c.2800—1650 BC), access to the state-run temples of the major gods was limited to the priesthood. Votive stela set up by private persons only start to show deities around the seventeenth century BC. Deities do not appear in the paintings or reliefs of non-royal tombs before the sixteenth century BC. Yet magical objects could feature a wide range of divine manifestations.
The wands even predate the appearance of many of the same gods and demons in the royal Underworld Books. It appears that at this period, ordinary people enjoyed closer contact with their gods during magical rites than they could through the official cults of the state-run temples. It is perhaps significant that the wands disappear at around the time the great state temples became more accessible to ordinary people.
Some of the personnel of the wands do continue to appear through-out the second millennium BC on household objects such as eye-makeup containers and head-rests


The latter took the place of pillows in an Egyptian bedchamber. Some come from houses; others were specially made for use in tombs where they were placed under the head of a mummy. Both types can be decorated with Bes and Taweret figures brandishing knives and gripping or biting snakes. Such headrests were particularly common at Deir el-Medina, the village of the craftsmen who decorated the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings. Ostraca (texts written on pot sherds or stones) from this site give rare specific information about hostile personal manifestations of Taweret and other deities.



It is not usually clear why an afflicted person decided that a manifestation of a particular deity was causing his or her problem. They may have consulted a divine oracle or a village wise woman to identify which deity they had offended (see Chapter Four). In one case, it is obvious that Taweret was the offended party. A villager lost a cake from his family shrine during the festival of Taweret. The thief only confessed after suffering a bau (manifestation), presumably of Taweret.
In another case, a craftsman lost a valuable metal tool. Eventually, one of the village women announced that a bau was troubling her, so she must now confess that she had seen another woman take the tool. The missing object was duly discovered hidden under the floor of the accused's house. Here the bau seems to be conscience personified; justified retribution rather than random malice. The breaking of an oath sworn in the name of a god seems to be a frequent cause for manifestations of divine displeasure.

A number of stelae set up by Deir el-Medina craftsmen are inscribed with penitential prayers
They describe how the donor has been 'made to see darkness by day' after offending a deity. This may mean physical blindness or blurred vision, but it could simply be a metaphor for the horror of experiencing divine displeasure. Some of the inscriptions do refer to suffering a bau. The craftsmen offer public penitence for their sins by erecting a stela and then place their trust in divine mercy. This could be regarded as the religious response to the problem of suffering. An alternative would have been to consult a magician and have some kind of exorcism performed. The course of action chosen must have depended on the beliefs of the individual.
Ostraca from Deir el-Medina suggest that some people did try to defend themselves with magic. One villager wrote to a craftsman asking him to make an image of Taweret to protect him against a bau of Seth.
His own image had been stolen and he feared that it might be used against him. This is typical of the way in which the same deity could be seen as both a potential protector and a potential threat.
It was probably common to respond to such threats in more than one way. The religious response is commemorated in stone, the magical response is less likely to leave a record.
Of all the powers that could be set against demons and the bau of deities, Taweret and the lion-dwarf Bes seem to have been the most popular. Both were particularly associated with helping humans through the great crisis of birth 

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