Kinds of ancient Egypt written magic with online video part3/6

Apr 6, 2011

Kinds of ancient Egypt written magic with online video part3/6
A book of dream interpretations, in the hieratic script, owned by the scribe Qenherkhepshef, 13th century BC;. The text itself may be centuries older

Other papyri are probably copies of temple books used at Karnak in Thebes and in the temple of Ra at Heliopolis (Brooklyn Magical Papyrus). The great temple of Ptah at Memphis also had a major library. In the first millennium BC; the Houses of Life at Bubastis and Sais were particularly renowned.
An inscription on the statue of a sixth century BC doctor from Sais relates how the Persian king, Darius, commanded him to restore the Houses of Life at Sais and elsewhere.2 This doctor, Udjahorresne, appointed well-born men to study the arts of making all the sick live and making the names of all the gods, their temples, their offerings and the carrying out of their festivals, live forever.
The connection between medicine and the temple rituals was that both were intended to preserve the well-being of the cosmos and its inhabit-ants. Magic was used as part of this task, which in religious terms was described as upholding maat.

The main function of the king was to uphold maat, so it is not surprising that royal libraries contained magical papyri. The story of the papyrus taken from a temple to Khufu's treasury reflects the fact that temple scriptoria produced manuscripts for royal use, just as temple workshops made statues and metalwork for the king. Legal documents dealing with the trial of courtiers accused of plotting to murder King
Ramses in (c.1184 —1153 BC) reveal that one of the conspirators consulted a secret book of magic in the palace library

Such libraries were probably equivalent to temple Houses of Life.
One of the illustrations to the magical papyrus from Abydos gives a schematic plan of the ideal House of Life (fig. 30). The books are said to be emanations of the sun god, Ra, and the priest in charge is identified with the god Shu. Other texts refer to gods being 'resident in the House of Life'. One of the main purposes of the temple cult was to persuade deities to manifest themselves in the divine statues. It seems that deities could also be manifest in the sacred books in the House of Life.
A list on the walls of a small room used as a library inside the temple of Edfu (second century BC) mentions books for protecting the temple and the king. Works of protective magic may have been the most renowned products of the temple scriptoria, but they were not the only ones.
The Edfu list also includes a temple inventory, works on mythology, astrology and geography, and a book on temple plans and decoration schemes. The range of books in the library of a House of Life was probably even wider than that used in the temple proper.
A large number of papyrus fragments survive from the library of a temple at Tebtunis in the Faiyum. The fragments comprise a wide variety of texts composed between about 800 BC and AD 300. Written in several different scripts and languages, they include ritual magic, hymns, myths, festival calendars, lists of places, works on astrology and medicine, dream books, herbals, historical romances, ghost stories and Instruction Texts.
We cannot be sure that temple libraries were like this in earlier times, but it seems probable that they were. Magic was just one of many interrelated categories of learning.
Rare survivals of private book collections suggest a similar range. The library of the scribe Qenherkhepshef (thirteenth century BC) has already been mentioned. These texts, which were inherited by his widow, included poetry, literature, history, a calendar of lucky and unlucky days, a dream book and magical spells. An earlier library belonged to the unknown occupant of a late eighteenth/early seventeenth century BC tomb under the Ramesseum at Thebes. This contained Instruction
Texts, hymns, royal rituals, magical and medical texts, as well as a range of objects used in magic (see further Chapter Nine). It is not clear if this is a case of a magician's books being buried with him, as in the story of Naneferkaptah, or whether the books were being stored in an accessible area of a tomb. Keeping documents in a family tomb was quite a common practice. Many of the surviving magical papyri of the first millennium AD seem to have come from a single tomb at Thebes.
Vellum (calf-leather) was used for some prestigious documents, particularly in temple libraries, but it has not lasted as well as the paper made from papyrus plants. Sheets of papyrus were pasted together to form scrolls. These could be up to 41 m long, but are usually very much shorter. All the Egyptian words we translate as 'book' should be understood to mean scroll. Such scrolls were normally stored in boxes or jars.
The beginning of a scroll is particularly vulnerable to damage, so the tides of books are often missing. This means that we do not always know how the Egyptians themselves would have categorized a particular text.
Since papyrus was a relatively valuable material, it was frequently scraped and reused. Some magical spells are written on the back of old letters. Many papyri have completely different texts on the recto (front) and verso (back). These texts are often in several different hands.
This does not necessarily mean that the texts bear no relation to each other.
For example, one papyrus has magical spells on the verso and the myth of Thoth and the solar eye on the recto. This is a literary text, but magic made great use of the protagonists of this particular myth. A magician needed to be familar with such myths and perhaps collected them for adaptation to his purposes.
Some of the magical texts from the tomb under the Ramesseum share a papyrus with extracts from a literary text known as the Instruction of Ptahhotep. Another collection of spells is written on the back of part of a later example of this genre, the Instruction of Ani. Instruction texts seem to represent the most rational and practical strain in Egyptian thought. However, some of the more obscure maxims of Ani do deal with fear of spirits, and the presence of the text on the same papyrus as a group of spells suggests that a person who appreciated the prosaic wisdom of Ani might also collect and use magic.


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