Kinds of ancient Egypt written magic with online video part5/6

Apr 6, 2011

Kinds of ancient Egypt written magic with online video part5/6
OPPOSITK Bronze statuette of Khonirdis, a high official of the yth century BC. The figure of Osiris on the man's shoulder could be a magical drawing or tattoo 

Since Thoth was credited with the invention of the hieroglyphic script, the mysterious Book of Thoth in the Setne cycle should probably be thought of as written in hieroglyphs. When Prince Naneferkaptah recovered the book from its hiding place, he copied the spells onto a sheet of fresh papyrus. He then soaked the copy in beer until it dissolved and swallowed it with a drink of water. This incident sounds like fantasy but it describes a standard magical practice in ancient Egypt. The magician hoped to absorb the heka of the spells into his body. It is possible that Egyptians wealthy enough to commission a scroll of funerary magic also paid for a copy to dissolve and drink. Drinking your way through twenty metres of The Book of the Dead would take quite some time and determination.

Some statues and stelae covered with magical images and spells incorporate a basin. The spells are mainly for the cure of snake or scorpion bites. Water was poured over the texts and collected in the basin. The patient would drink the water or pour it onto his wound
In the Graeco-Egyptian papyri, some spells involve writing words of power in a special myrrh-based ink and then washing them off with spring water and drinking the mixture.
Hieroglyphic signs and images of divine beings were sometimes drawn in ink on the skin of the person to be healed or protected. One anti-venom spell specifies that three images are to be drawn on the patient's hand and then licked off by him. Sometimes spells were written on a small piece of papyrus or linen and hung around the patient's neck or attached to the afflicted part of the body. The physical contact between the written words and the patient was part of the protective magic.

Most everyday magic was written in the hieratic script used for letters and administrative documents. The pedigree of some spells does trace them back to hieroglyphic originals. A spell in Greek claims to be a translation of a sacred book from the temple at Heliopolis, written in Egyptian letters. Some magical formulae may have been transliterated into hieroglyphs if it was necessary to write on the patient. However, the ability to read and write hieroglyphs was always far less common than knowledge of the hieratic script.
The form of a spell sometimes imitates other types of document written in hieratic, such as royal decrees, standard letters or legal judgements. For example, a spell to cure a feverish cold is in the form of a decree isssued by Osiris as King of Upper and Lower Egypt to his Vizier, the earth god Geb.
It orders him to take action against the malicious spirits who cause fever and catarrh. This was a device to increase the authority of the magician.
The magician hoped to emulate the creator's power of 'authoritative utterance', which brought all gods and people into existence. Many spells begin with invocations of divine beings who are summoned to intervene on behalf of the client. These invocations are often similar to those found in hymns and prayers engraved on statues and stelae set up in temples. A spell which simply invokes the four spirits who watched over Osiris to watch over the magician's client, seems similar to the standard Christian prayer invoking the four evangelists or four arch-angels to surround and protect a sleeper.
In temple inscriptions, praises of a deity are usually followed by requests for general favours such as life, prosperity, and health, or to live to old age and have a good burial. Within the strict conventions of religious art and language, it was only possible to ask for a limited range of standard gifts that the gods were understood to bestow. Magical texts did not suffer the same constraints. Invocations of deities could be followed up with very specific requests, ranging from eternal life in the Boat of Millions to a cure for stomach ache, or the love of a particular person.

One spell begins by addressing Horus:
Hail to you, a god and the son of a god. Hail to you, a bull and the son of a bull, born to the divine cow. Hail to you Horus, begotten by Osiris, given birth to by Isis.

This could come from a hymn, but the spell goes on to make it clear that the speaker (the magician) is to be identified with the god Thoth. He is invoking Horus as the overcomer of venomous and dangerous beasts.
The rubric at the end states that the spell is to be recited over a particular kind of Horus statue and that it is for the cure of snake bite.
Other spells begin with a brief summary of a mythical narrative or with a lively dialogue between two deities. Thus an anti-headache charm starts with a statement that the traditional enemies, Horus and Seth, are fighting over a unique plant. A spell to ease stomach pains opens with a conversation between Isis and Horus, in which the latter admits to stomach pains after eating a sacred fish. The spell may go on to make specific identifications between the mythical characters and events and the situation of the client.
The magician is sometimes simply the narrator, but in other spells he acts the role of a deity renowned for the use of heka, such as Thoth or Isis. Authoritative utterance not only brought beings into existence, it also controlled them. Repeated commands or assertions that a desired state of affairs was already in being, are a common feature of Egyptian spells. One spell against an unspecified demon or spirit, keeps repeating the command 'You will stand still!' to stop the enemy in its tracks. In this spell, the magician himself acts as the 'fighter' and claims to be able to turn the enemy's head and feet back to front and make all its limbs weak.
Concentration of the will must have been an important part of making such assertions. The magician's confidence would then be passed on to the client.


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