Sunday, May 3, 2009

Egyptian Magic

You ever wonder what the ankh meant?
Or how about the scarab?

This is the book you need. Everything from amulets, to talismans are destribe within the pages of this collection. From practical uses , to the magical power they had within, descriptions of ceremonies and all are here. A book for all you lovers of Egyptian culture.

This book was originality published in 1901 in a series called "Books on Egypt and Chaldaea".
Contents: antiquity of magical practices in Egypt; magical stones or amulets; magical figures; magical pictures and formulas, spells, etc.; magical names; magical ceremonies; demoniacal possession, dreams, ghosts, lucky and unlucky days, horoscopes, prognostications, transformations and the worship of animals. Over 20 illustrations.

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Clippus of Horus


In Egyptian myth, magic (heka) was one of the forces used by the creator to make the world. Through heka, symbolic actions could have practical effects. All deities and people were thought to possess this force in some degree, but there were rules about why and how it could be used.

'The most respected users of magic were the lector priests...'

Priests were the main practitioners of magic in pharaonic Egypt, where they were seen as guardians of a secret knowledge given by the gods to humanity to 'ward off the blows of fate'. The most respected users of magic were the lector priests, who could read the ancient books of magic kept in temple and palace libraries. In popular stories such men were credited with the power to bring wax animals to life, or roll back the waters of a lake.

Sekhmet
Statue of
Real lector priests performed magical rituals to protect their king, and to help the dead to rebirth. By the first millennium BC, their role seems to have been taken over by magicians (hekau). Healing magic was a speciality of the priests who served Sekhmet, the fearsome goddess of plague.

Lower in status were the scorpion-charmers, who used magic to rid an area of poisonous reptiles and insects. Midwives and nurses also included magic among their skills, and wise women might be consulted about which ghost or deity was causing a person trouble.

Amulets were another source of magic power, obtainable from 'protection-makers', who could be male or female. None of these uses of magic was disapproved of - either by the state or the priesthood. Only foreigners were regularly accused of using evil magic. It is not until the Roman period that there is much evidence of individual magicians practising harmful magic for financial reward.

Techniques
Detail from an ivory wand showing one of the 'fearsome' deities at the command of the magician
Detail from an ivory
Dawn was the most propitious time to perform magic, and the magician had to be in a state of ritual purity. This might involve abstaining from sex before the rite, and avoiding contact with people who were deemed to be polluted, such as embalmers or menstruating women. Ideally, the magician would bathe and then dress in new or clean clothes before beginning a spell.

Metal wands representing the snake goddess Great of Magic were carried by some practitioners of magic. Semi-circular ivory wands - decorated with fearsome deities - were used in the second millennium BC. The wands were symbols of the authority of the magician to summon powerful beings, and to make them obey him or her.

An ivory wand in the British Museum

'Private collections of spells were treasured possessions, handed down within families.'

Only a small percentage of Egyptians were fully literate, so written magic was the most prestigious kind of all. Private collections of spells were treasured possessions, handed down within families. Protective or healing spells written on papyrus were sometimes folded up and worn on the body.

A spell usually consisted of two parts: the words to be spoken and a description of the actions to be taken. To be effective all the words, especially the secret names of deities, had to be pronounced correctly. The words might be spoken to activate the power of an amulet, a figurine, or a potion. These potions might contain bizarre ingredients such as the blood of a black dog, or the milk of a woman who had born a male child. Music and dance, and gestures such as pointing and stamping, could also form part of a spell.


Protection
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Headrest of a scribe protected with protective deities including the god Bes, who warded off evil demons from the headrest's owner as
Angry deities, jealous ghosts, and foreign demons and sorcerers were thought to cause misfortunes such as illness, accidents, poverty and infertility. Magic provided a defence system against these ills for individuals throughout their lives.

Stamping, shouting, and making a loud noise with rattles, drums and tambourines were all thought to drive hostile forces away from vulnerable women, such as those who were pregnant or about to give birth, and from children - also a group at risk, liable to die from childhood diseases.

'The wands were engraved with the dangerous beings ...'

Some of the ivory wands may have been used to draw a protective circle around the area where a woman was to give birth, or to nurse her child. The wands were engraved with the dangerous beings invoked by the magician to fight on behalf of the mother and child. They are shown stabbing, strangling or biting evil forces, which are represented by snakes and foreigners.

Supernatural 'fighters, such as the lion-dwarf Bes and the hippopotamus goddess Taweret, were represented on furniture and household items. Their job was to protect the home, especially at night when the forces of chaos were felt to be at their most powerful.

Bes and Taweret also feature in amuletic jewellery. Egyptians of all classes wore protective amulets, which could take the form of powerful deities or animals, or use royal names and symbols. Other amulets were designed to magically endow the wearer with desirable qualities, such as long life, prosperity and good health.



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