The Magical Lullaby of Ancient Egypt

The Magical Lullaby (popularly known as Charm for the Protection of a Child) is an inscription from the 16th or 17th century BCE. The poem exemplifies the ancient Egyptian's personal religious and spiritual practices as it is a spell which was sung to ward ghosts away from sleeping children. Magic (known as heka by the Egyptians after their god of the same name) was a common aspect of daily life and religious and medical practices in ancient Egypt. The Magical Lullaby is one example of the kind of spell which everyday people would use for protection. According to historian Margaret Bunson:

Three basic elements were always involved in the practice of heka: the spell, the ritual, and the magician. Spells were traditional but also changed with the times and contained words which were viewed as powerful weapons in the hands of the learned. (154)

Most people, however, were not 'magicians' and could not even read, and so certain spells were memorized by hearing and passed down generation to generation. The Magical Lullaby seems to be one such spell which could be sung by lay people for protection regularly without them having to consult with a priest, seer, or doctor.


Magic was an integral part of the lives of ancient Egyptians. Magic, in fact, created and sustained the world. In the Coffin Texts (written c. 2134-2040 BCE) the god Heka states that he existed before the gods. He was the god of magic and the magic itself, the creative energy which enabled the creative act. Heka had always existed, would always exist, and informed every aspect of the Egyptians' lives. What one would consider 'supernatural forces' in the modern day were completely natural to them.

The gods and goddesses made regular and expected appearances daily, evil spirits and the angry dead needed to be guarded against, and even the most commonplace aspects of one's life, such as trees, brooks, rocks, and hills were imbued with a spiritual element. The rising and setting of the sun were events the ancient Egyptians believed they played a significant part in as they performed ceremonies to keep the serpent Apophis from destroying the boat of the sun god Ra and plunging the universe into chaos. Bunson notes how, "magic was the binding force between the earth and other worlds, the link between mortals and the divine" (154). Spells and rituals were used routinely for the most serious or mundane situations one encountered. Egyptologist James Henry Breasted comments on this, writing:

The belief in magic penetrated the whole substance of [ancient Egyptian] life, dominating popular custom and constantly appearing in the simplest acts of the daily household routine, as much a matter of course as sleep or the preparation of food. (200)

A priest, magician, physician, or seer who had acquired a certain amount of power and knowledge, was usually called upon in cases of illness, to interpret dreams, to mediate a dispute between the living and an angry spirit, or as mediator between human beings and the gods. Magic was evident in all the stories concerning the gods, and since human beings were considered co-workers with the deities, it made sense that the magical element was available to the people as it was to their gods. Egyptologist Rosalie David writes:

Love History?

Sign up for our free weekly email newsletter!

It was believed that society consisted of four groups - gods, the king, the blessed dead, and humanity - who shared certain moral obligations and a duty to interact in order to maintain world order. (271)

Part of the maintenance of the world, naturally, was one's health and well-being. Although the gods were always watching over one, it was clear their responsibilities were great and humans needed to do their own part to help protect themselves by regularly calling attention to themselves and their needs; and so magical charms, amulets, household statues, and incantations were regularly employed to drive away evil spirits or ghosts and keep the home safe. Egyptologist W.M. Flinders Petrie writes:

Children especially wore figures of Bes, and less commonly Taweret, the protecting genii of childhood...The household amulets in the prehistoric days were the great serpent stones with figures of the coiled later times the image of Horus subduing the powers of evil seems to have been the protective figure of the house. (23)

Although Bes, Taweret, Horus, and many other deities offered protection, all of the gods and goddesses had their own special sphere of expertise. When one wished for help in love one called upon Hathor, for wisdom one would consult Neith, Thoth would assist one in writing, Ptah would dispense justice, and likewise, there was a god who specialized in protection through healing.


Heka was not only the god of magic but also of medicine. He is depicted as a man carrying a staff and knife and ancient Egyptian doctors were called Priests of Heka. Magic was as integral a part of medical practice in ancient Egypt as any other aspect of life, and so Heka became an important deity for doctors. He was said to have killed two serpents and entwined them on a staff as a symbol of his power; this symbol of the medical arts passed to the Greeks and on to the present day. One sees the symbol of Heka in modified form, now known as the caduceus, regularly in doctor's offices as the symbol of Hippocrates, father of medicine.

A papyrus dated to the reign of Amenhotep I (c. 1541-1520 BCE), now known as the Ebers Papyrus, is among the oldest medical texts in the world. It lists over 700 diagnoses and prescriptions with chapters on skin ailments, fractures, burns, digestive problems, as well as more serious conditions such as cancer and heart disease. This work demonstrates a high degree of medical knowledge and skill, and with another, the so-called London Medical Papyrus (c. 1629 BCE), also shows how magic and medicine were considered the same art. Another medical text, the Edwin Smith Papyrus (c. 1600 BCE), although offering primarily practical medical advice, also contains spells for healing.

Doctors could be expensive, however, or were simply unavailable and the gods, as noted, were very busy so the common people of Egypt became their own magicians and doctors when they had to. Egyptologist Joyce Tyldesley writes:

The high levels of infant mortality meant that childhood illnesses were always worrying times for the mother. Very few parents could afford to take their sick children to consult doctors [and so] not surprisingly, mothers turned again to folk wisdom and magic to protect their darlings, placing their trust in a variety of charms, amulets, and spells. (79)

Illness in ancient Egypt, no matter one's age, was attributed either to the gods (who were punishing one for sins or teaching one a lesson), the dead (who were upset over some wrong done them in life or improper burial rites), or evil spirits who preyed on the unsuspecting and, especially, the innocent children. The Magical Lullaby is generally interpreted to address ghosts, rather than only evil spirits, as understood through the reference to them appearing in disguise (the lines, "who enterest in stealth, his nose behind him...who enterest in stealth, her nose behind her..."). This interpretation is challenged, however, and the lines are also interpreted to apply to evil spirits in general, not only disembodied ghosts of those who were once mortal.


The poem is a short verse which speaks directly to the spirits who meant the child harm and warn of the weapons the speaker has for defense. The lines themselves, the spell, would be the 'weapon' in that it would scare the ghost away from the child but the variety of foods and spices mentioned were also potent defenses. Bunson comments on the work:

The Magical Lullaby is a charming song from ancient Egypt crooned by mothers over their children's beds. The lullaby was intended to warn evil spirits and ghosts from tarrying or planning harm. The mother sang about the items that she possessed in order to harm the spirits of the dead. She carried lettuce to 'prick' the ghosts, garlic to 'bring them harm', and honey which was considered 'poison to the dead.' (154)

The following translation comes from Development of Religion and Thought in Ancient Egypt by James Henry Breasted. The 'Efet-herb' mentioned is understood to be lettuce:

Run out, thou who comest in darkness, who enterest in stealth, his nose behind him, his face turned backward, who loses that for which he came.

Run out, thou who comest in darkness, who enterest in stealth, her nose behind her, her face turned backward, who loses that for which she came.

Comest thou to kiss this child? I will not let thee kiss him.

Comest thou to soothe him? I will not let thee soothe him.

Comest thou to harm him? I will not let thee harm him.

Comest thou to take him away? I will not let thee take him away from me.

I have made his protection against thee out of Efet-herb, it makes pain; out of onions, which harm thee; out of honey which is sweet to living men and bitter to those who are yonder (i.e. the dead); out of the evil parts of the Ebdu-fish out of the jaw of the meret; out of the backbone of the perch. (201)


The song is thought to have been sung fairly regularly by mothers, older sisters, and nurses throughout Egypt. Although it was obviously eventually written down, it may predate the 16th-17th century BCE and passed down through oral transmission, although this is speculation. Throughout the piece the speaker directly addresses the spirit who could be invisibly entering the home and, it was thought, drives it away.

The Magical Lullaby is thought to have been sung fairly regularly by mothers, older sisters, & nurses throughout Egypt or tucked into an amulet one would wear.

According to scholar Andre Dollinger, the speaker would need to address both male and female spirits in the opening line because "magic spells are in some way akin to legal writings: they are effective only against those against whom they are specifically applied. Using only the male form in a curse would leave the child open to attacks from female demons" (1). Dollinger further clarifies the lines, "Comest thou to kiss this child...Comest thou to soothe this child" as referring to ghosts which might appear friendly, even helpful, but are only really coming to harm the child. After making clear that the spirit will not get what he or she came for, the speaker threatens the ghost with the weapons at hand: lettuce, onions, honey, and the guts of fish.

The edibles mentioned suggest to some scholars (Breasted among the first) that the child may have been fed lettuce, onions, and honey with some fish as a preventative against possession. The reference to honey as sweet to the living but bitter to the dead is one of the lines scholars point to in interpreting the song as defense against ghosts, not evil spirits. Honey was considered bitter after death during some periods in Egyptian history. The line regarding the fish is interpreted in the same way. The Egyptians, especially of the lower classes, ate fish regularly but discarded the insides (the 'evil parts') as distasteful; the dead were thought to feel the same way.

Breasted's conclusion that the song actually relates a recipe which the child would eat makes sense, but it has also been suggested that these ingredients may have been mixed in a paste and applied to doorways and windows. Whether one actually made this mixture may not have mattered, however; perhaps just singing the song was enough to drive the ghosts away and keep one's child safe. Tyldesley writes:

These spells were known to be so effective that they were frequently written on a small scrap of papyrus packed into a specially carved wooden or gold bead and carefully suspended around the neck of the beloved child to ensure maximum protection. (80)

The popularity of such spells attests to the belief in their importance and the vital relationship the people had with the unseen world. The ancient Egyptians believed in a universe alive with supernatural possibilities. From tomb inscriptions to letters to stele to literature to the more obvious examples of charms and spells, it is clear that they saw the world imbued with spiritual forces of enormous power.

Although there were authority figures such as priests and seers who could advise them on how to navigate this world, they understood they also had to take personal responsibility for their lives, those of the larger community, and the maintenance of order and balance in the universe. The Magical Lullaby, sung by a caregiver to a child or tucked into an amulet one would wear, is an intimate glimpse into this grand vision of one of the greatest civilizations of the ancient world.

Ancient Egypt for Kids Magic was real to the ancient Egyptians

In ancient Egypt, magic and medicine overlapped. The ancient Egyptians believed in spells and in medicine. They used both to solve their problems. They might chant a magical spell they bought in the marketplace, and swallow medicine they bought from a different vendor, to solve the same problem.

They believed magical spells would give them good luck or help their lovelife.

They believed cats had magical powers. All homes had a cat to protect the home and the children within.

They believed amulets had magical powers to protect and bring good luck. All ancient Egyptians carried and wore amulets. No one left home without an amulet or two.

They believed gods had the magical ability to communicate with them through their dreams. They believed dreams could foretell the future.

They believed spells from The Book of the Dead would help them travel through the dangerous underworld and safely reach their afterlife.

They believed the little clay figures of people they made as part of their gravegoods would travel with them to their afterlife, then come magically alive and do all the work for them.

They believed in curses and omens and magical powers, all of which were an important part of their daily life and religion.

Khememu – The Black People of Ancient Egypt

Kmt means black, and it only means black, it is what follows that tells us – black (what)?

Some examples of usage: (Note: the ‘t’ is silent, and is merely used to make the word a feminine noun.)

Kmt nu = Black nation (the name for Ancient Egypt)

nn Kmt pw = It is not black (Ahn.Ohn Kem poo)

St Kmt = Black Woman (Say.Kem) (and Because it refers to Isis her name comes first)

The question is often asked “Why is it called Egypt?” This question can best be answered correctly by first remembering that the Ancient Egyptian language is NOT a dead language. It not only survives as Coptic Egyptian, but also in related languages such as Wolof (Senegal) and Yoruba (Nigeria). If this fact is kept in mind, one cannot drift into spurious speculations.

Kemet: The Original Name of Egypt

The oldest, official name for Egypt, by the Ancient Egyptians themselves, is Kmt (Keme) or Black. The contemporary Egyptian (Coptic) words for Egypt are (depending on the particular dialect): Kame, Keme, Kimi, and Kheme – all of which mean Black. Also in Coptic Egyptian we have, kem, kame, kmi, kmem, kmom or “to be black.”
The Ancient Egyptians referred to themselves as Kmtjw (Kemetu) and Kmmw (Kmemu) or Black people (In contemporary Egyptian: Kmemou=Black people). In Wolof, Khem means “burnt to black.”

The Greeks corrupted an Ancient Egyptian name for Memphis – Ht-Ki-Pth (hay-gip-Toh), “The Temple of Ptoh’s Essence,” to Aigyptos. Keeping in mind that the Greeks had a convention of adding an ‘s’ to Ancient Egyptian proper nouns:
Osiri (Usiri in contemporary Egyptian) > Osiris
Isi (Ese in contemporary Egyptian) > Isis
Pth(Toh) > Tos

“Misr” and “Mizraim”: Semitic Corruptions

British Egyptologist E.A.W. Budge was one of the first to remark that “The name Mizraim may have been given Egypt (by foreigners) in respect of its double wall.”

The name Misr is indeed a Semiticized form of Ancient Egyptian:
Medjr = walled district
Medjre = tower, fortress
These Ancient Egyptian words became Meetsrayeem (Egypt) and Meetsree (Egyptian) in Hebrew, and in Arabic Misr and Masri respectively. It is the same as Westerners calling China, “China,” after the original Qin dynasty emperor (“Tschina” in Indo-European). The Chinese, however, call their country Zhongguo or ‘the Middle Kingdom.’

Ancient Egyptian glossary

‘Egypt’ [ ] = Contemporary Egyptian (Coptic) words

Eturmeh……….North river (Lower Egypt) [Eioor – river]
Etures………….South river (Upper Egypt)
Hedje…………..White Crown country (Upper Egypt)
Keme…………..Black (All of Egypt) [Keme – Black]
Kemi……………”Southern” country (Upper Egypt)
Kem Wer Miri..”the Great Black Sea” – which later would be referred to as Deshret Miri or “The Red Sea”
Pasheti…………The two divisions of Egypt one belonging to Horus and the other to Set [Pashe – boundary]
Res……………..the South (Upper Egypt) [Res – south]
Shmo…………..the South (Upper Egypt)
Sonti……………”the two halves of Egypt” (Upper and Lower Egypt)
TaMera………..Land of the Inundation
TaMeri…………My beloved land
Tawi……………the Two lands (Upper and Lower Egypt)

Kemetu…………Black’s peoples (Egyptian citizens)
Kmemu…………Black people (the Egyptian people)
Resu…………….Southern people (Upper Egyptians)
Ret………………The Men [Rot – men]
Ret na Romé….We Men above mankind [Romé – menmankind]
Romé n Keme..Men of Black (“Egyptians”)
TaMeru………..Land of the Inundation people (Egyptians)
Tawiu…………..The Two Lands people (Egyptian) [Tato – land]

A comprehensive list of the structure and usages of perhaps the most significant word in the Ancient Egyptian language. All of these words can be found in “An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary” by E. A. Wallis Budge, Dover, NY

kemkememkemom – black
kemu – black (m)
keme.t – black (f)
hime.t keme.t – “black woman” (woman of Black)
himu.t keme.t – “black women” (women of Black)

keme.t – any black person, place, or thing

A determinative is then used to be more specific:

keme.t (woman) – “the Black woman” ie, ‘divine woman’
keme.t (cow) – “a Black cow” – ie, a ‘sacred cow’
Keme.t (nation) – “the Black nation”

kem – a black one (m)
keme.t – a black one (f)
kemu – black ones (m)
kemu.t – black ones (f)
kemeti – two black ones

Sa Kemet – a man of Black (an Egyptian male)
Sa.t Kemet – a woman of Black (an Egyptian female)
Rome.t Kemet – the people of Black (Egyptians)
Kemetou – Blacks (ie, ‘citizens’)
Kememou – Black people (of the Black nation)

Sa Kem – “Black man”, a god, and son of
Sa.t Kem.t – “Black woman”, a goddess (page 589b)
kem (papyrus) – to end, complete
kem.t (papyrus) – the end, completion
kemi – finished products
kem khet (stick) – jet black

kemwer – any Egyptian person, place or thing (‘to be black’ + ‘to be great’)

Kemwer – “The Great Black” – a title of Osiris – the Ancestor of the race

Kemwer (body of water) – “the Great Black sea” – the Red sea
Kemwer (body of water + river bank) – a lake in the Duat (the OtherWorld)
Kemwer Nteri – “the sacred great Black bulls”
kemwer (fortress) – a fort or town
Kemwer (water) – the god of the great Black lake

Kem Amut – a black animal goddess
Kemi.t-Weri.t – “the great Black woman”, a goddess
Kem-Neb-Mesen.t – a lion god
Kem ho – “black face”, a title of the crocodile Rerek
kem kemu (shield) – buckler, shield
kem (wood) – black wood
kem.t (stone) – black stone or powder (plant) – a plant
kemu (seed) – seeds or fruit of the kem plant
kemti – “black image”, sacred image or statue

S_kemi – white haired, grey-headed man (ie, to have lost blackness)
S_kemkem – to destroy, overthrow, annihilate
S_kemem – to blacken, to defile

S_desher – to redden, make ruddy
S_desheru – red things, bloody wounds

Some interesting Homonyms (pages 770 > )

qem – to behave in a seemly manner
Qemi – the south, Upper Egypt
qem.t – reed, papyrus
qemaa – to throw a boomerang
qem_au – to overthrow
qemam.t – mother, parent
qemamu – workers (in metal, wood)
qemqem – tambourines
qemd – to weep
qemati – statue, image – same as kemti
qema – to create
qemaiu – created beings
QemauQemamu – The Creator

Deshret – the opposite of Kemet

deshr.t – any red (ie, non-Black) person, place, or thing

deshr.t (woman) – “the Red woman” ie, ‘evil woman’
deshr.t (cow) – “a Red cow” – ie, the ‘devil’s cow’
deshr – a red one (m)
deshr.t – a red one (f)
deshru – red ones (m)
deshru.t – red ones (f) — White or light-skinned people devils
deshreti – two red ones

And From the Coptic Bible (Song of Solomon)
Anok ang ou Keme’ nefer
I am Black and Beautiful.

The Spirit Inseparably Linked to the Shadow

In the past, it was believed that the shadow of a living being was its soul or part of its soul. In many languages​​, the word for "shadow" also carries the meaning of "spirit". Thus, numerous practices and rituals have been developed in order to influence a being by means of its shadow. By acting magically on the shadow, one acts on the being in question. Everything that happens to a person's shadow is said to somehow be felt in the physical body. The shadow was seen as the soul of the person in its living manifestation and, when the shadow was not visible, it was believed that the soul had retreated inside the body to enter a temporary state of hibernation. When the shadow reappeared, it was believed that the soul came out of the body, gaining consistency.

Numerous rituals in the ancient past concern the shadow, once believed to be connected to the spirit. ( Thomas Leuthard / Flickr )

It was once believed that the spirit could leave the body for limited periods of time without causing the death of the individual, but this separation was dangerous. If someone intervened magically, that person could capture the soul and without its return to the body, the person would die. Other sorcerers could choose to work on the shadow in order to influence a particular person. As the suggestion to perform a certain action comes from within, acting on the shadow could mean acting on the spirit inside and determining the individual to do what the sorcerer wanted him to do in the first place, while thinking it was his own initiative. Following the same principle, some African tribes believed that a man could be killed by throwing a spear at his shadow, and dreams are seen as the unclear memories of the nocturnal journeys of the spirit.

Featured image: A frog changes into a princess in the painting Tsarevna Frog ("The Frog Princess") by Viktor Vasnetsov ( public domain )

The sacred and magical sistrum of ancient Egypt

The sistrum was one of the most sacred musical instruments in ancient Egypt and was believed to hold powerful magical properties. It was used in the worship of the goddess Hathor, mythological character of joy, festivity, fertility, eroticism and dance. It was also shaken to avert the flooding of the Nile and to frighten away Seth, the god of the desert, storms, disorder, and violence. Isis, in her role as mother and creator, was often depicted holding a pail symbolizing the inundation of the Nile in one hand, and the sistrum in the other hand. It was designed to produce the sound of the breeze hitting and blowing through papyrus reeds, but the symbolic value of the sistrum far exceeded its importance as a musical instrument.

Ancient Greek historian, Plutarch, speaks of the powerful role of the sistrum in his essay, “On Isis & Osiris”:

“The sistrum makes it clear that all things in existence need to be shaken, or rattled about, and never to cease from motion but, as it were, to be waked up and agitated when they grow drowsy and torpid. They say that they avert and repel Typhon by means of the sistrums, indicating thereby that when destruction constricts and checks Nature, generation releases and arouses it by means of motion.” (Plutarch, Moralia, Book 5, “On Isis & Osiris,” section 63)

The sistrum consists of a handle and frame made from brass, bronze, wood, or clay. When shaken the small rings or loops of thin metal on its movable crossbars produced a sound that ranged from a soft rattle to a loud jangling. Its basic shape resembled the ankh, the Egyptian symbol of life, and carried that hieroglyph's meaning. Archaeological records have revealed two distinct types of sistrum.

The oldest variety of sistrum is naos-shaped (the inner chamber of a temple which houses a cult figure). The head of Hathor was often depicted on the handle and the horns of a cow were commonly incorporated into the design (Hathor is commonly depicted as a cow goddess). This sistrum, known as the ‘naos sistrum’ or ‘sesheshet’ (an onomatopoeic word), dates back to at least the Old Kingdom (3 rd millennium BC). In ancient Egyptian art, the sesheshet sistrum was often depicted being carried by a woman of high rank.

The Goddess Isis playing the naos sistrum (sesheshet ) of Hathor, from the "Great Temple" of Sethi I at Abydos. Image source .

During the Greco-Roman Period, a second type of sistrum became popular. Known as sekhem or sekham, this sistrum had a simple, hoop-like frame, usually made from metal. The sekhem resembled a closed horseshoe with a long handle and loose metal cross bars above the Hathor head.

In ancient Egypt, while the sistrum was used in the musical worship of several Egyptian deities, including Amon, Bastet, and Isis), it was especially associated with the worship of the great goddesses Hathor. The sistrum was used in rituals and ceremonies including dances, worship, and celebrations, that honoured Hathor. It also seems to have carried erotic or fertility connotations, which probably derives from Hathor’s mythological qualities. Because of its association with Hathor, the sistrum became a symbol of her son Ihy as well, who was often depicted as the archetypal sistrum player.

Artist’s impression of an Egyptian goddess holding a sistrum.

The sistrum continued to be used in Egypt well after the rule of the pharaohs. Rome's conquest of Egypt in 30 BC, following the death of Cleopatra and Mark Antony, helped spread the cult of the goddess throughout the Mediterranean and the rest of the Roman world. The Hathor heads were interpreted as Isis and Nephthys, who represented life and death respectively.

Worship of the goddess Isis became extremely popular in the Greco-Roman period and during this time, the sistrum became inextricably tied to Isis. Temples to Isis were built in every major city, perhaps the largest and most richly decorated being in Rome, near the Pantheon. The temple and its surrounding porticoes were decorated with beautiful wall paintings, some of which show priests or attendants of Isis holding a sistrum.

In Greek culture, not all sistrums were intended to be played. Rather, they took on a purely symbolic function in which they were used in sacrifices, festivals, and funerary contexts. Clay versions of sistrums may also have been used as children’s toys.

Magic Amulet Of The Buckle: The “Blood Of Isis”

Amulet of the Buckle of the girdle of Isis , 1250-1100 BC, via The British Museum, London

The buckle of the girdle of Isis was made with carnelian or red jasper. These semi-precious stones varied in color from orange to blood red, and represented the rage and power of the gods.

The buckle was thought to allow the deceased access into every part of the underworld. Through the intercession of Isis, the Great Mother and goddess of healing, this privilege of free movement was enabled.

Before the buckle adorned an Egyptian mummy, it had to be ritually dunked in ankham flower water. This was a crucial step that unlocked the magic properties of the amulet, according to the Book of the Dead .


TO the peoples of antiquity Egypt appeared as the very mother of magic. In the mysterious Nile country they found a magical system much more highly developed than any within their native knowledge, and the cult of the dead, with which Egyptian religion was so strongly identified, appeared to the foreigner to savour of magical practice. If the materials of the magical papyri be omitted, the accounts which we possess of Egyptian magic are almost wholly foreign, so that it is wiser to derive our data concerning it from the original native sources if we desire to arrive at a proper understanding of Egyptian sorcery.

Most of what has been written by Egyptologists on the subject of Egyptian magic has been penned on the assumption that magic is either merely a degraded form of religion, or its foundation. This is one of the results of the archæologist entering a domain--that of anthropology--where he is usually rather at a loss. For example, we find Sir

[paragraph continues] Gaston Maspero stating that "ancient magic was the very foundation of religion. The faithful who desired to obtain some favor from a god had no chance of succeeding except by laying hands on the deity, and this arrest could only be effected by means of a certain number of rites, sacrifices, prayers, and chants, which the god himself had revealed and which obliged him to do what was demanded of him." 1 Then we find Dr. Budge stating that in the religious texts and works we see how magic is made to be the handmaiden of religion, and that whereas non-Egyptian races directed their art against the powers of darkness, and invoked a class of benevolent beings to their aid, the Egyptians aimed at complete control over their native deities.

Let us glance for a moment at the question of the origin of magic. Considerable diversity of opinion exists regarding this subject among present-day anthropologists, and the works of Frazer, Marett, Hubert, and Mauss, etc., although differing widely as regards its foundations, have thrown much light upon a hitherto obscure problem. All writers on the subject, however, appear to have

ignored one notable circumstance in connection with it--that is, the element of wonder, which is the true fount and source of veritable magic. According to the warring schools of anthropology, nearly all magic is sympathetic or mimetic in its nature. For example, when the barbarian medicine-man desires rain he climbs a tree and sprinkles water upon the parched earth beneath, in the hope that the deity responsible for the weather will do likewise when the ignorant sailor desires wind, he imitates the whistling of the gale. This system is universal, but if our conclusions are well founded, the magical element does not reside in such practices as these. It must be obvious, as Frazer has pointed out, that when the savage performs an act of sympathetic magic he does not regard it as magical--that is, to his way of thinking it does not contain any element of wonder at all he regards his action as a cause which is certain to bring about the desired effect, exactly as the scientific man of today believes that if he follows certain formulæ certain results will be achieved. Now the true magic of wonder argues from effect to cause so it would appear as if sympathy magic were merely a description of proto-science, due to mental processes entirely similar to those by which scientific

laws are produced and scientific acts are performed --that there is a spirit of certainty about it which is not found, for example, in the magic of evocation.

It would, however, be rash to attempt to differentiate sympathetic magic entirely from what I would call the "magic of wonder" at this juncture indeed, our knowledge of the basic laws of magic is too slight as yet to permit of such a process. We find considerable overlapping between the systems. For example, one of the ways by which evilly disposed persons could transform themselves into werewolves was by means of buckling on a belt of wolfskin. Thus we see that in this instance the true wonder-magic of animal transformation is in some measure connected with the sympathetic process, the idea being that the donning of wolfskin, or even the binding around one of a strip of the animal's hide, was sufficient to bestow the nature of the beast upon the wearer. In passing, I may say, for the sake of completeness, that I believe the magic of wonder to be almost entirely spiritistic in its nature, and that it consists of evocation and similar processes. Here, of course, it may be quoted against me that certain incenses, planetary signs, and other media known to possess affinities for certain supernatural beings were brought into

use at the time of their evocation. Once more I admit that the two systems overlap but that will not convince me that they are in essence the same.

Antiquity of Egyptian Magic.

Like all magic, Egyptian magic was of prehistoric origin. As the savage of today employs the sympathetic process, so did the savage of the Egyptian Stone Age make use of it. That he also was fully aware of the spiritistic side of magic is certain. Animism is the mother of spiritism. The concept of the soul was arrived at at a comparatively early period in the history of man. The phenomenon of sleep puzzled him. Whither did the real man betake himself during the hours of slumber? The Palæolithic man watched his sleeping brother, who appeared to him as practically dead--dead, at least, to perception and the realities of life. Something seemed to have escaped the sleeper the real, vital, and vivifying element had temporarily departed from him. From his own experience the puzzled savage knew that life did not cease with sleep, for in a more shadowy and unsubstantial sphere he re-enacted the scenes of his everyday existence. If the man during sleep had experiences in dreamland or in distant parts, it was only reasonable

to suppose that his ego, his very self, had temporarily quitted the body. Grant so much, and you have two separate entities, body and soul, similar in appearance because the latter on the dream plane exercised functions identical with those of the former on the corporeal plane.

The Wandering Spirit.

But prehistoric logic did not stop here. So much premised, it extended its soul-theory to all animate beings, and even to things inanimate. Where, for example, did the souls of men go after death? Their bodies decayed, so it was only reasonable to suppose that they cast about them for other corporeal media. Failing their ability to enter the body of a new-born infant, they would take up their quarters in a tree, a rock, or any suitable natural object, and the terrified savage could hear their voices crying down the wind and whispering through the leaves of the forest, possibly clamoring or entreating for that food and shelter which they could not obtain in their disembodied condition. All nature, then, we see became animate to early man, and not less so to the early Egyptian than to others. But his hunting life had made prehistoric man exceptionally cunning and resourceful, and it

would soon occur to him--in what manner we do not presume to say, as the point greatly requires elucidation--that we might possibly make use of such wandering and masterless spirits as he knew were close to his call. In this desire, it appears to me--if the statement be not a platitude--we have one of the origins of the magic of wonder, and certainly the origin of spiritism. Trading upon the wish of the disembodied spirit to materialize, prehistoric man would construct a fetish either in the human shape or in that of an animal, or in any weird presentment that squared with his ideas of spiritual existence. He usually made it of no great dimensions, as he did not believe that the alter ego , or soul, was of any great size. By threats or coaxings he prevailed upon the wandering spirit--whom he conceived as, like all the dead, cold, hungry, and homeless--to enter the little image, which duly became its corporeal abode, where its lips were piously smeared with the blood of animals slain in the chase, and where it was carefully attended. In return it was expected, by dint of its supernatural knowledge, that the soul contained in the fetish should assist its master or coadjutor in every possible way.

Coercing the Gods.

Egyptian magic differed from most other systems in the circumstance that the native magician attempted to coerce certain of the gods into action on his behalf. Instances of this elsewhere are extremely rare, and it would seem as if the deities of Egypt had evolved in many cases from mere animistic conceptions. This is true in effect of all deities, but at a certain point in their history most gods arrive at such a condition of eminence that they soar far above any possibility of being employed by the magician as mere tools for any personal purpose. We often, however, find the broken-down, or deserted, deity coerced by the magician. Of this class Beelzebub might be taken as a good example. A great reputation is a hard thing to lose, and it is possible that the sorcerer may descry in the abandoned, and therefore idle, god a very suitable medium for this purpose. But we find the divinities of Egypt frightened into using their power on behalf of some paltry sorcerer even in the very zenith of their fame. One thing is of course essential to a complete system of sorcery, and that is the existence of a number of spirits, the detritus of a vanished or submerged religion.

[paragraph continues] As we know, there were numerous strata in Egyptian religion--more than one faith had obtained on the banks of the Nile, and it may be that the worshippers of the deities of another as magical on the first introduction of a new system in fact, these may have been interchangeable, and it is possible that by the time the various gods became common to all the practice had become so universal as to be impossible of abandonment.

If our conclusions are correct, it would seem that Maspero's statement that magic is the foundation of religion is scarcely consonant with fact. We have seen that at least the greater part of barbarian magic so--called--that is, sympathetic magic--is probably not of the nature of magic at all, so that the scope of his contention is considerably lessened. Budge's dictum that the magic of every other nation of the ancient East but the Egyptian was directed entirely against the powers of darkness, and was invented to frustrate their fell designs by invoking a class of benevolent beings, is so far an error in that the peoples of the ancient Orient invoked evil beings equally with good. At the same time it must be admitted that Egyptian magic had much more in common with religion than most other magical systems, and this arose from the

extraordinary circumstances of the evolution of religion on Egyptian soil.


Of all civilizations known to us through history, that of ancient Egypt is the most marvellous, most fascinating, and most rich in occult significance: yet we have still much to discover, and although we have the assurance of Herodotus that the Egyptians were "beyond measure scrupulous in all matters appertaining to religion," the ancient religions--or such fragments as survive--appear at first glance confusing and even grotesque. It is necessary to remember that there was an inner as well as an outer theology, and that the occult mysteries were accessible only to those valiant and strenuous initiates who had successfully passed through a prolonged purification and course of preparation austere and difficult enough to discourage all save the most persistent and exalted spirits.

It is only available to us to wander on the outskirts of Egyptian mythology. The most familiar symbolic figures are those of Isis the moon goddess, traditional queen of Egypt, and Osiris her husband and when we read that Isis was the sister, wife, and mother of Osiris we must seek the inner

meaning of the strange and impossible relationship. It has been lucidly explained by Princess Karadja in her King Solomon: a Mystic Drama , 1912, pp. 130 to 131:

"Originally the dual souls are part of the same Divine Ego. They are golden fruits upon the great Tree of Life: 'male and female He created them.'

Isis is the Sister of Osiris because she is of Divine origin like himself, and is a sprit of equal rank.

She is his Wife , because she alone can fill his highest cravings.

She is his Mother because it is the mission of Woman to restore Man unto spiritual life."

How Osiris was slain by his brother Typhon--or Set--the spirit of evil, and dismembered into fourteen fragments which were scattered and bidden by the destroyer how Isis, widowed and broken-hearted, sought patiently until she found each fragment, and how Horus her son when he grew to manhood challenged and conquered Typhon--all this is the figurative rendering of the eternal battle between light and darkness.

Typhon or Set symbolises autumn, decay, and destruction, Osiris springtime, light, and the fertilizing and growing powers of nature. Isis is typified in many forms, but was especially revered as the goddess of procreation, universal mother of the living, and protectress of the spirits of the dead.

Her symbol was the cow, and she is usually depicted wearing cow's horns, and between them the orb of the moon.

But more ancient and more exalted than Osiris was Ra, the sun god, whose worship was blended with that of Isis and her husband and son. The priests of Ra established a famous temple at Heliopolis, and founded a special system of solar worship. Just as the Emperor Constantine subsequently fixed as saints' days in the Christian church the days which had been dedicated to the ancient pagan gods, so the priests of Ra adapted their cult to the tastes and notions of the people, and a whole company of subordinate gods figured in the religions of lower Egypt for many centuries. Sometimes divine virtues were portrayed in very material forms.

Between 4000 and 2000 B.C., the worship of Amen, or Amen Ra, as the greatest god of the Egyptians, was established at Thebes, which became the centre of religious teaching. The priests grew more and more powerful until finally the high priest of Amen--whose name means the " hidden one "--became the king of upper Egypt. Amen was regarded as the creator, with all the power and

attributes of Ra the sun god, and as ruler of the lesser gods.

It has been asked why the Egyptians, who had no belief in a material resurrection, took such infinite trouble to preserve the bodies of their dead. They looked forward to a paradise in which eternal life would be the reward of the righteous, and their creed inculcated faith in the existence of a spiritual body to be inhabited by the soul which had ended its earthly pilgrimage but such beliefs do not explain the attention bestowed upon the lifeless corpse. The explanation must be sought in the famous Book of the Dead, representing the convictions which prevailed throughout the whole of the Egyptian civilization from pre-dynastic times. Briefly, the answer to our question is this: there was a Ka or double, in which the heart-soul was located this Ka, equivalent to the astral body of modern occultists, was believed to be able to come into touch with material things through the preserved or mummified body. This theory accords with the axiom that each atom of physical substance has its relative equivalent on the astral plane. It will therefore be understood how, in the ancient religions, the image of a god was regarded as a medium through which his powers could be manifested.

[paragraph continues] "As above, so below" every living thing possessed some divine attribute.

Faith in prayer was an essential article of the Egyptian religion, and the spoken word of a priest was believed to have strong potency, because it had been the words of Ra uttered by Thoth which brought the universe into being. Amulets inscribed with words were consequently thought to ensure the fulfilment of the blessing expressed, or the granting of the bliss desired.

The Book of the Dead was not only a guide to the life hereafter, wherein they would join their friends in the realms of eternal bliss, but gave detailed particulars of the necessary knowledge, actions, and, conduct during the earthly life to ensure a future existence in the spirit world, where everlasting life was the reward of the good and annihilation the fate of the wicked, thus showing that the belief in the existence of a future life was ever before them. Various qualities, though primarily considered a manifestation of the Almighty, were attributed each to a special god who controlled and typified one particular virtue. This partly accounts for the multiplied numbers of the Egyptian gods, and with the further complications that resulted from invasions and the adoption of

alien beliefs, the religious philosophy of Egypt is not easy to follow, and is often seemingly contradictory but when we take into consideration the vast period during which this empire flourished it is natural that the external manifestations of faith should have varied as time went on.

A knowledge of life, death, and resurrection of Osiris is assumed, and his worship in association with Isis and Horus although not necessarily under these names, is continuous. Horus is frequently alluded to as the god of the ladder, and the mystic ladder seen by Jacob in his vision, and the ladder of seven steps known to the initiates of Egypt, Greece, Mexico, India, and Persia will be familiar to all students of occultism.

Throughout the whole of the Egyptian civilization, which lasted for at least 6000 years, the influence and potency of amulets and talismans was recognised in the religious services, each talisman and amulet having a specified virtue.

Certain amulets not only were worn during life, but were even attached to the dead body. They are described in the following notes

The Crux Ansata , or Ankh (see Illustrations Nos. 1, 2, 3, Plate I), was known as the symbol of life, the loop at the top of the cross consisting of the


hieroglyphic Ru (O) set in an upright form, meaning the gateway, or mouth, the creative power being signified by the loop which represents a fish's mouth giving birth to water as the life of the country, bringing the inundations and renewal of the fruitfulness of the earth to those who depended upon its increase to maintain life. It was regarded as the key of the Nile which overflowed periodically and so fertilized the land.

It was also shown in the hands of the Egyptian kings, at whose coronations it played an important part, and the gods are invariably depicted holding this symbol of creative power it was also worn to bring knowledge, power, and abundance. Again, it had reference to the spiritual life for it was from the Crux Ansata, or Ankh, that the symbol of Venus originated, the circle over the cross being the triumph of spirit, represented by the circle, over matter, shown by the cross.

The Menat (Illustrations Nos. 4, 7, Plate I), were specially dedicated to Hathor, who was a type of Isis, and was worn for conjugal happiness, as it gave power and strength to the organs of reproduction, promoting health and fruitfulness. It frequently formed a part of a necklace, and was elaborately ornamented No, 4 from the British Museum,

is a good specimen, the cow being an emblem of the maternal qualities which were the attributes of the goddess, who stood for all that is good and true in wife, mother, and daughter.

The Two Plumes (Illustration No. 5, Plate I), are sun amulets and the symbols of Ra and Thoth, the two feathers being typical of the two lives, spiritual and material. This was worn to promote uprightness in dealing, enlightenment, and morality, being symbolical of the great gods of light and air.

The Single Plume (Illustration No. 6, Plate I), was an emblem of Maat, the female counterpart of Thoth, who wears on her head the feather characteristic of the phonetic value of her name she was the personification of integrity, righteousness, and truth.

Illustrations Nos. 8, 9, 10, Plate I, show three forms of the Nefer , a symbol of good luck, worn to attract success, happiness, vitality, and friends.

The Cartouche , or Name Amulet (Illustration No. 15, Plate I), was worn to secure favor, recognition, and remembrance, and to prevent the name of its wearer being blotted out in the next world. This is a very important amulet, as the name was believed to be an integral part of the man, without

which his soul could not come before God, so that it was most essential that the name should be preserved, in order, as described in the Book of the Dead , "thou shalt never perish, thou shalt never, never come to an end," the loss of the name meaning the total annihilation of the individual.

The amulets of the Angles (see Illustrations Nos. 12, 13, Plate I) and the Plummet (No. 60 on the same Plate), were symbols of the god Thoth, and were worn for moral integrity, wisdom, knowledge, order, and truth. Thoth was the personification of law and order, being the god who worked out the creation as decreed by the god Ra. He knew all the words of power and the secrets of all hearts, and may be regarded as the chief recording angel he was also the inventor of all arts and sciences.

Bes , shown in Illustration No. 11, Plate I, was a very popular talisman, being the god of laughter, merry-making, and good luck by some authorities he is considered to be a foreign importation from pre-dynastic times, and he has been identified with Horus and regarded as the god who renewed youth. He was also the patron of beauty, the protector of children, and was undoubtedly the progenitor of the modern Billiken.

Illustrations Nos. 15, 19, Plate II, are examples of the Aper , which symbolised providence and was worn for steadfastness, stability, and alertness.

The Tat (Illustrations Nos. 16, 17, 18, Plate II) held a very important place in the religious services of the Egyptians, and formed the centre of the annual ceremony of the setting-up of the Tat, a service held to commemorate the death and resurrection of Osiris, this symbol representing the building-up of the backbone and reconstruction of the body of Osiris. In their services the Egyptians associated themselves with Osiris, through whose sufferings and death they hoped to rise glorified and immortal, and secure everlasting happiness. The four cross-bars symbolise the four cardinal points, and the four elements of earth, air, fire and water, and were often very elaborately ornamented (see Illustration No. 17, Plate II, taken from an example at the British Museum). It was worn as a talisman for stability and strength, and for protection from enemies also that all doors--or opportunities--might be open both in this life and the next. Moreover, a Tat of gold set in sycamore wood, which had been steeped in the water of Ankham flowers, was placed at the neck of the deceased on the day of interment, to protect him


on his journey through the underworld and assist him in triumphing over his foes, that he might become perfect for ever and ever.

The Heart was believed to be the seat of the soul, and Illustrations Nos. 20, 21, 22, Plate II, are examples of these talismans worn to prevent black magicians from bewitching the soul out of the body. The importance of these charms will be realized from the belief that if the soul left the heart, the body would quickly fade away and die. According to Egyptian lore at the judgment of the dead the heart is weighed, when, if found perfect, it is returned to its owner, who immediately recovers his powers of locomotion and becomes his own master, with strength in his limbs and everlasting felicity in his soul.

The buckle of the girdle of Isis was worn to obtain the good-will and protection of this goddess, and symbolised "the blood of Isis" and her strength and power. Frequently made of carnelian it was believed to protect its wearer from every kind of evil also to secure the good-will of Horus and, when placed like the golden Tat at the neck of the dead on the day of the funeral in the soul's journey through the underworld it opened up all hidden places and procured the favor of Isis and her son,

Horus, for ever and ever. (See Illustrations Nos. 24, 25, 26, Plate Tie .)

The Tie , or Sa (Illustration No. 23, Plate Tie ) is the symbol of Ta-urt, the hippopotamus-headed goddess, who was associated with the god Thoth, the personification of divine intelligence and human reason it was worn for magical protection.

The Scarab was the symbol of Khepera, a form of the sun-god who transforms inert matter into action, creates life, and typifies the glorified spiritual body that man shall possess at the resurrection. From the enormous number of scarabs that have been found, this must have formed the most popular of the talismans. The symbol was derived from a beetle, common in Egypt, which deposits its eggs in a ball of clay, the action of the insect in rolling this ball along the ground being compared with the sun itself in its progress across the sky and as the ball contained the living germ which (under the heat of the sun) hatched out into a beetle, so the scarab became the symbol of creation. It is also frequently seen holding the disk of the sun between its claws, with wings extended, and it is thought by some authorities that the scarab was taken as an emblem of the sun, because the burial

of its ball was symbolic of the setting sun from which new life arises with each dawn.

Scarabs of green stones with rims of gold were buried in the heart of the deceased, or laid upon the breast, with a written prayer for his protection on the day of judgment, whilst words of power were frequently recited over the scarab which was placed under the coffin as an emblem of immortality so that no fiend could harm the dead in his journey through the underworld. It is said the scarab was associated with burial as far back as the fourth dynasty (about 4600 B.C.) it represented matter about to pass from a state of inertness into active life, so was considered a fitting emblem of resurrection and immortality, typifying not only the sun's disk, but the evolutions of the soul throughout eternity. It was also worn by the Egyptian warriors in their signet rings for health, strength, and virility, it being thought that this species of beetle was all males, so that it would attract all. manly qualities, both of mind and body. For this reason it was very popular as presents between friends, many scarabs being found with good wishes or mottoes engraved on the under side, and some of the kings used the back of scarabs to commemorate historical events one in the British

[paragraph continues] Museum records the slaughter of one hundred and two fierce lions by Amenhetep III, with his own hand (see Illustrations Nos. 27, 28, Plate III).

Next to the scarab, the ancient Egyptians attached much importance to the Eye Amulet , which, from the earliest astral mythology, was first represented by the point within the circle and was associated with the god of the pole star, which, from its fixity, was taken as a type of the eternal, unchangeable as time rolled on, and thus a fitting emblem of fixity of purpose, poise, and stability. Later it was one of the hieroglyphic signs of the sun-god Ra, and represented the one supreme power casting his eye over all the world, and instead of the point within the circle is sometimes represented as a widely open eye. This symbol was also assigned to Osiris, Isis, Horus, and Ptah the amulet known as the Eye of Osiris being placed upon the incision made in the side of the body--for the purpose of embalming--to watch over and guard the soul of the deceased during its passing through the darkness of the tomb to the life beyond.

It was also worn by the living to ensure health and protection from the blighting influence of workers in black magic, and for the stability,


strength, and courage of Horus, the wisdom and understanding of Ptah, and the foresight of Isis.

It was also extensively used in necklaces on account of the idea that representations of the eye itself would watch over and guard its wearer from the malignant glances of the envious, it being universally believed that the fiery sparks of jealousy, hatred, and malice darting from the eyes of angry persons, envious of the good looks, health, and success of the fortunate ones, could so poison the surrounding atmosphere as even to cause sickness, decay, and death horses were thought particularly liable to this injurious influence, and talismans to avert such a misfortune to them were hung on their foreheads, or over the left eye.

Examples of eye amulets are illustrated on Plate III, Nos. 32, 33, and 34.

When two eyes are used together the right eye is symbolic of Ra, or Osiris and the sun whilst the left eye represents Isis, or the moon, and is sometimes called the amulet of the two Utchats the word Utchat, signifying "strength," being applied to the sun when he enters the summer solstice about June 22d, his strength and power on earth being greatest at that time.

The talisman of the Two Fingers (Illustration

[paragraph continues] No. 35, Plate III) was symbolical of help, assistance, and benediction, typified by the two fingers extended by Horus to assist his father in mounting the ladder suspended between this world and the next. This amulet was frequently placed in the interior of the mummified body to enable the departed to travel quickly to the regions of the blest. Amongst the ancient Egyptians the fingers were ever considered an emblem of strength and power, the raising of the first two fingers being regarded as a sign of peace and good faith the first finger being the indicator of divine will and justice and the only one that can stand erect by itself alone the second representing the holy spirit, the mediator, a symbolism handed down to us in the extension of the index and medius in the ecclesiastical benediction. It is also interesting to note that at the marriage ceremony in olden days the ring was first placed on the thumb, as typical of man's allegiance to God, and lastly on the third finger of his bride to show that next to God in the trinity, a man's life should be devoted to his wife.

The Collar Amulet (Illustrations Nos. 36, 37, Plate III) was a symbol of Isis, and was worn to procure her protection and the strength of her son Horus. In both examples the head of the hawk

appears, this bird being attributed to Horus as well as to Ra. This collar, which was made of gold, was engraved with words of power and seems to have been chiefly used as a funeral amulet.

The Sma (Illustration No. 38, Plate III) was a favorite amulet from the dawn of Egyptian history, and is frequently used in various forms of decorated art. It was symbolical of union and stability of affection, and was worn to strengthen love and friendship and ensure physical happiness and faithfulness.

The Ladder is a symbol of Horus, and was worn to secure his assistance in overcoming and surmounting difficulties in the material world, as well as to form a connection with the heaven world, or land of light. The earliest traditions place this heaven world above the earth, its floor being the sky, and to reach this a ladder was deemed necessary. From the pyramid texts it seems there were two stages of ascent to the upper paradise, represented by two ladders, one being the ladder of Sut, forming the ladder of ascent from the land of darkness, and the other the ladder of Horus reaching the land of light (Illustration No. 39, Plate III).

'The Steps (Illustrations Nos. 40, 41, Plate III) are a symbol of Osiris, who is described as the god

of the staircase, through whom it was hoped the deceased might reach the heaven world and attain everlasting bliss.

The Snake's Head talisman (Illustration No. 42, Plate III) was worn to protect its wearer from the attacks of Rerek, or Apep, the servant of Set, who was typified as a terrible serpent, which when killed had the power of rising in new forms and who obstructed the passage to the heaven world. The serpent, although sometimes assumed to be a form of evil, was generally regarded as a protecting influence, and for this reason was usually sculptured on either side of the doorways to the tombs of kings, temples, and other sacred buildings to guard the dead from enemies of every kind, and to prevent the entrance of evil in any shape or form. It was also placed round the heads of divinities and round the crowns of their kings as a symbol of royal might and power, being one of the forms or types of Tem the son of Ptah, who is thought by some authorities to have been the first living man god of the Egyptians, and the god of the setting sun (in contrast to Horus, who was the god of the rising sun). Tem was typified by a huge snake, and it is curious to note in connection with this that amongst country

folk at the present day there is a popular belief that a serpent will not die until the sun goes down.

The Sun's Disk talismans (Illustrations No. 43, 45, Plate IV) are symbols of the god Ra, No. 45 being appropriately placed upon the head of a ram, the symbol of the zodiacal house Aries, in which sign the sun is exalted. It was worn for power and renown, and to obtain the favors of the great ones, being also an emblem of new birth and resurrection.

The Frog talisman (Illustration No. 44, Plate IV) was highly esteemed, and is an attribute of Isis, being worn to attract her favors and for fruitfulness. Because of its fertility its hieroglyphic meaning was an immense number. It was also used as a symbol of Ptah, as it represented life in embryo, and by the growth of its feet after birth it typified strength from weakness, and was worn for recovery from disease, also for health and long life, taking the place sometimes of the Crux Ansata or Ankh, as a symbol of life.

The Pillow (Illustration No. 46, Plate IV) was used for preservation from sickness and against pain and suffering it was also worn for the favor of Horns, and was placed with the dead as a protection and to prevent violation of the tomb.

The Lotus (Illustrations No. 47, 48, Plate IV)

is a symbol with two meanings. Emblematical of the sun in the ancient days of Egypt and typifying light, understanding, fruitfulness, and plenty, it was believed to bring the favors of the god Ra. Later it is described as "the pure lily of the celestial ocean," the symbol of Isis, who is sometimes alluded to as "the white virgin." It became typical of virginity and purity, and having the double virtue of chastity and fecundity it was alike prized for maiden- and motherhood.

The Fish talisman (Illustrations Nos. 49, 50, Plate IV) is a symbol of Hathor--who controlled the rising of the Nile--as well as an amulet under the influence of Isis and Horus. It typified the primeval creative principle and was worn for domestic felicity, abundance, and general prosperity.

The Vulture talisman (Illustration No. 51, Plate IV) was worn to protect from the bites of scorpions, and to attract motherly love and protection of Isis, who, it was believed, assumed the form of a vulture when searching for her son Horus, who, in her absence, had been stung to death by a scorpion. Thoth, moved by her lamentations, came to earth and gave her "the words of power," which enabled her to restore Horus to life. For this


reason, it was thought that this amulet would endow its wearer with power and wisdom so that he might identify himself with Horus and partake of his good fortune in the fields of eternal bliss.

It is, of course, difficult and futile to speculate as to the extent of the influence these Egyptian amulets and talismans exercised over this ancient people, but in the light of our present knowledge we feel that the religious symbolism they represented, the conditions under which they were made, the faith in their efficacy, and the invocations and "words of power" which in every case were a most essential part of their mysterious composition makes them by far the most interesting of any yet dealt with.

Gnosticism is the name given to a system of religion which came into existence in the Roman empire about the time Christianity was established it was founded on a philosophy known in Asia Minor centuries previously and apparently based upon the Egyptian beliefs, the Zendavesta, Buddhism, and the Kabala, with their conception of the perpetual conflict between good and evil.

The name is derived from the Greek Gnosis , meaning knowledge, and, in brief, the gnostics' belief was that the intellectual world, with its

spirits, intelligences, and various orders of angels were created by the Almighty, and that the visible matter of creation was an emanation from these powers and forces.

The attributes of the Supreme Being were those of Kabala:--Wisdom--Jeh prudence--Jehovah magnificence--El severity--Elohim victory and glory--Zaboath empire--Adonai the Gnostics also took from the Talmud the planetary princes and the angels under them.

Basilides, the Gnostic priest, taught that God first created

(1) Nous , or mind from this emanated

(2) Logos , the Word from this

(3) Phronesis , Intelligence and from this

(4) Sophia , Wisdom and from the last

The Almighty was known as Abraxas, which signifies in Coptic "the Blessed Name," and was symbolized by a figure, the head of which is that of a cock, the body that of a man, with serpents forming the legs in his right hand he holds a whip, and on his left arm is a shield. This talisman (see Illustrations Nos. 55, 56, Plate IV) is a combination of the five emanations mentioned above: Nous and Logos are expressed by the two serpents, symbols

of the inner sense and understanding, the bead of the cock representing Phronesis , for foresight and vigilance the two arms hold the symbols of Sophia and Dynamis , the shield of wisdom and the whip of power, worn for protection from moral and physical ill.

The Gnostics had great faith in the efficacy of sacred names and sigils when engraved on stones as talismans also in magical symbols derived principally from the Kabala.

One of the most popular inscriptions was Iaw (Jehovah), and in Illustration No. 52, Plate IV, this is shown surrounded by the serpent Khnoubis , taken from the Egyptian philosophy, representing the creative principles, and was worn for vitality, understanding, and protection. The seven Greek vowels (Illustration No. 53, Plate IV) symbolized the seven heavens, or planets, whose harmony keeps the universe in existence, each vowel having seven different methods of expression corresponding with a certain force, the correct utterance of these letters and comprehension of the forces typified being believed to confer supreme power, bringing success in all enterprises and giving complete control over all the powers of darkness.

Illustration No. 54, Plate IV, is an example of

the use of the magic symbols, the meaning of which has been lost. It is probably a composition of the initial letters of some mystical sigil, enclosed by a serpent and the names of the arch-angels Gabriel, Paniel, Ragauel, Thureiel, Souriel, and Michael. It was worn for health and success also for protection from all evils, and it is cut in an agate and set in a gold mount.

A figure of a serpent with a lion's head, usually surrounded with a halo, was worn to protect its wearer from heart and chest complaints and to drive away demons.

The mystic Aum, already described in the chapter on Indian talismans, was also a favorite with the Gnostics, and equally popular was a talisman composed of the vowels Ι Α Ω, repeated to make twelve, this number representing the ineffable name of God, which, according to the Talmud, was only communicated to the most pious of the priesthood. They also adopted from the Egyptians the following symbols: Horus , usually represented seated on a Lotus, for fertility Osiris , usually in the form of a mummified figure, for spiritual attainment and Isis for the qualities mentioned in the previous chapter.


231:1 "Etudes de Mythologie et d'Archéologie Egyptienne" Paris, 1893.

Ancient Egypt for Kids Music and Dance

Instruments: The ancient Egyptians loved music. They created many instruments that were easy play like bells, drums, rattles, chimes, tambourines, and clapping hands. They wanted to keep things simple so that everyone could participate. They also created instruments that took practice and skill like the flute, the guitar and the harp.

The flute was one of the first wind instruments in the world and the only wind instrument in ancient Egypt. Hollow reeds are common along the Nile. The flute probably started as a reed. Holes were added. You had a flute.

The guitar was a lute-like instrument. It didn't look much like today's guitars, but it had a sound box and a long neck with strings that stretched from the neck end down and across the sound box. Strings could be tightened and held to make many different sounds. This instrument took time to learn to play well.

Harps were started as hunting bows. In time, harps had 10-12 strings.

Singing: Music, including singing, was part of religious festivals, banquets, and general joy of the ancient Egyptian people.

Cult Singers and Temple Musicians: Music and dance was also used by temple priests. For much of ancient Egyptian history, cult singers and temple musicians were made up of both men and women, although temple men and women did not perform together. Later on, in the New Kingdom, the priesthood became exclusively male, but some priests were married. Their wives lived in the temple, and continued to be temple singers and dancers. The songs and dances performed by temple women remained more important than those done by the male priests.

Dance: The ancient Egyptian people also danced. Women danced with women and men with men. Dance could be very athletic and acrobatic with the inclusion of cartwheels, back-bends, and handstands. Some dances had certain steps these were dances you could learn. Some dances were used exclusively for religious or funeral purposes. Muu-dancers, for example, were a specialized profession they wore kilts and reed crowns and danced alongside a funeral procession. There are quite a few tomb paintings that show two female dancers dancing together. Dance was accompanied by music or by hand clapping to keep the rhythm.

4 Resurrecting The Dead

Perhaps you&rsquove gleaned at this point that magic was quite popular in ancient Egypt. It was used for just about anything and had an institutionalized place in their society. This use of magic led to the performance of all sorts of miracles by the high priests. Some legends claim that an ancient Egyptian priest once parted a lake, much like Moses parting the red sea, just to get a trinket that had been lost on the seabed. They have also been known to resurrect animals and even humans. Usually, the reason given for resurrecting someone is an crucial purpose that person needs to fulfill, like standing as a witness in an important trial.

Resurrection played an important part in the Egyptian way of life. The idea of death and new life was a fundamental tenet of their religious beliefs. Egyptians believed that, like the sun rising again, they would eventually begin life anew, and so were very concerned with proper preservation of remains and making sure the dead were prepared for the next life. It wasn&rsquot necessarily a &ldquoget out of death free&rdquo card, however. When an ancient Egyptian died, it was believed they would now face judgment and would only begin new life if their deeds weighed out properly.

The Magical Lullaby of Ancient Egypt - History

Ancient Egyptian Ritual Worship

► General Features

Many different definitions of ritual may be formulated. Let us understand "ritual" as a special event in time and space, organized in terms of a shared sequence of symbolical, formal acts and utterances, serving the goals, values and expectations of an individual, a group, a society, a cultural form, or a world order, whatever these aims may be. In this sensu lato, the "obsessive rituals" of the compulsive neurotic are included.

In the specific, much narrower case of religious rituals, these privileged deeds & words may involve : induction, consecration, initiation, passage, commemoration, celebration, invocation, evocation, etc. They always set aside a totaliter aliter, and are intended to link the part with this larger whole. The latter is given a mental architecture thanks to a set of symbols of transcendence and/or immanence. These may be theist or atheist, monotheist or henotheist , as in Amenism .

In magical rituals, the intention is to pacify, to grow, to shield or to destroy : protection, defence, lawful combat, execration, healing, the restoration of a state of affairs, the reversal of misfortune (caused by negative energies), healing, natural evolution etc. are specific examples. Magic aims at the Earth, religion at the sky. Magic is never without religion, but religion may reject magic. In many ways, magic is what makes religion possible. In all Egyptian religious rituals, magic is a functional element, ascribed to specific priestly functions and magical instruments (cf. the "Ur Hekau", a name for both a priest and a magical weapon to circulate the Sa).

Basically, through enactment, religious ritual realizes intention by making use of the (visible or invisible) natural order (elements & forces), be it to celebrate the Divine (as in offerings, commemoration, thanksgiving, etc.) or in terms of a particular request (votive ritual). Simply put : the ritualist acts and the intention happens. Clearly, ritual and magic interconnect, although the magician is not necessarily a priest, and so may bind "lower" forces (such as elemental spirits or Earth-bound demons) to his trained & focused will to achieve his personal goals. The priest can put magical forces in action, but never without asking guidance from the Divine (cf. the oracle) and considering their effect in the great plan of things. The priest(ess) serves his (her) God. The magician serves his intention.

Ritual is a complex language composed of speech-acts & meaningful activities, bringing it close to performance, dramatic techniques, the standards of literary critique and various artistic traditions. However, contrary to theatre, an audience and an applause are absent.

► Egyptian rituals

"At least, it is true to say that the bulk of the surviving inscriptional evidence represents ritual and ceremonial activities performed by the king." - Wilkinson , 1994, p.149.

Nobody doubts Egyptian religion was highly ritualistic, involving daily ceremonial activities (complex rituals celebrating the Divine) and regular, popular festivals, or public celebrations, with a pre-determined periodicity (daily, quaterly, monthly, yearly, etc.) cast in a religious calendar, based on stellar (stars), astral (planets), seasonal (Sun and Sothic cycle), monthly (the 4 quaters of the Moon) and daily phenomena (decans and Earth-rotation).

Rituals synchronized with a series of natural events interwoven in complex mythologies. But foremost, a theology of State defined Egypt's way of worship. Pharaoh was the only high priest of Egypt, the sole representative of the gods and goddesses on Earth. Of course, royal festivals were also a way to strengthen the prestige of Pharaoh, and the whole of society participated.

Pharaoh's core ritual was the offering of Maat to his father Re. Maat had no sanctuary of her own, but was worshipped in all Egyptian temples (there is a small ruined temple to Maat in the southern sector of the precinct of Montu at Karnak). By maintaining the redistributive (pyramidal) order of life, Pharaoh, as son of Ra, returned what had been received, completing the circle and assisting Re in his eternal cycle (cf. the royal "cartouche", the circumambulation of the "Sed" court, the ambulatory around the naos in the temples, etc). Only Pharaoh could open the bolts of heaven (on the two wooden doors of the central shrine) and "see" the deity "face to face". This mystical experience (cf. the testimony of Akhenaten ) was ineffable, but conferred a higher understanding to the King, enabling him to unite the "Two Lands". Indeed, he alone was a divine spirit incarnate.

Let us distinguish between different cycles of ritual worship :

Nocturnal rituals : the sacerdotal rehearsal of the netherworld ? Most egyptologists stress the Solar (the journey of Re at night) and funerary (protection through knowledge and/or the sheer presence of sacred words) intentions of those texts depicting the stages of the netherworld (for they were found in tombs). Nevertheless, their this-life ritual importance was noted by Hornung :

It seems unlikely for a processional & ritual construction as the Osireon not to have been used for a netherworldy Osirian mystery drama. As no other evidence of the sort of papyrus Leiden 32 T has (yet) been found, no final conclusions are at hand. But even if these Egyptian initiation rituals were historical, they differed from Greek mysteries and should neither be confused with Hermetic and other cross-cultural syncretisms (like the cult of Serapis). In these, native Egyptian thought was Hellenized and modified to satisfy the Greek "noetic" mentalities (just as the Torah was Hellenized).

Under the Ptolemies, the original, native context had been lost for over eight centuries (namely at the beginning of the Third Intermediate Period, ca. 1075 BCE), although the cultural pattern and its sacral core continued to remain operation long after Pharaonic Egypt -in Greek guise- had finally come to an end with the suicide of Queen Cleopatra VII (30 BCE).

Dramatic directions are sparse, but the fact they exist proves the importance of this-life ritual in Ancient Egyptian religion. Many representations are ritual high points frozen in space : foundation rituals, libation, censing, opening the mouth, food offerings, offering of Maat, execration, worship of the deity, to name the most common. The vast literature of Egypt provides us with a variety of ceremonial gestures (adoration, respect, repose, devotion, supplication, rejoicing, triumph, healing, mourning, smiting, harpooning), priestly functions (overseer, reciter, magician, libationer, seer, overseer of the tomb, oracle, physician, guardian, chanter, keeper of offerings, etc.) and magical instruments (hedj, was, djam, seb-ur, ur-hekau, sekhem, ritual crowns etc.). The Egyptian deposit is a vast storehouse of images, magical practices, spiritual intentions and wisdom teachings . It constitutes a broad cultural pattern (stretching over three millenia), which has been a source of wisdom and inspiration for all Mediterranean spiritual traditions, in particular Judaism and Christianity (Islam was influenced via Hermetism ).

► reconstructing Egyptian rituals in Late Hellenism, Scripture and the Renaissance :

Despite contemporary egyptology, a precise historical reconstruction of Ancient Egyptian rituals is impossible. The dramatic line is lost. Even an educated reconstruction would contain many "blanks", crippling the dynamics of the ritual. Such information would only convey the basic ritual matrix of speech-acts and gestures, nothing more. Moreover, because of Egypt's multiplicity of approaches, no "standard" line is to be sought, for every temple made adaptations serving its tutelary deity. Hence, a reconstruction of Egyptian ritual "as such" is unthinkable, for although there are overall patterns, there is no "theoretical" model. We may reconstruct Heliopolitan or Osirian ritual, but never Egyptian ritualism as a whole.

the Hellenistic reconstruction : Ancient Egyptian religion, after having influenced the Greeks , was eventually Hellenized . The cults of Osiris and Isis, as well as Hermetism , evidence the survival of Hellenized forms of the native Egyptian ways. But the Greeks intermixed their somber views of the hereafter with the extended Egyptian funerary rituals. Their extatic, "away from the body" mystery traditions was escapist. The role of Anubis as "guide of the dead" and initiator and Osiris as "king of the dead" was reinterpreted in terms of the Greek religious attitude. The Egyptian mysteries were seen as leading to another, better plane of existence, away from the limitations and boundaries of the material plane (cf. Plato's analysis of the realm of becoming and the body as a "prison" or "tomb" in Plotinos' Enneads IV 8,3). The Greeks longed for a contemplative life, devoid of material duties and suffering. Theory was more appreciated than practice. Hence, material life on Earth, feding the passions, had to be bridled and finally transcended. In this perspective, death heralded the final disconnection with the body, a state the Egyptians tried to avoid at all costs. Their religious attitude was un-Greek and in no way theoretical or abstract. In Egyptian religion, material life was spiritualized to make it eternal. Death was rebirth in the afterlife.

Indeed, the Egyptian view on their mysteries and secrets was Oriental. The Egyptians loved life and saw death as the gate to an even more richer life. After purification in the Duat, the final transformation of the soul takes place, initiating the spirit-state. The rituals guaranteed a two-way communication between the spirit-world and the material plane : the false door in the tomb is a way to leave the tomb but also a way to return to it. In the spiritual economy of the funerary temples of the Old Kingdom, this return of the spirit to the tomb was crucial. Thanks to the funerary magic of the tomb, the deceased could make his family benefit from his (or her) invisible powers and liberty of movement, free of shadow and extremely fast. In this way, magic could be accumulated and passed on to future generations . In contemporary African tradition, the spirits are described in comparable terms.

Both the Hellenistic, Scriptoral and Renaissancist reconstructions are flawed and rejected. The work of appreciating Ancient Egypt has to be redone from scratch, which is precisely what egyptologists and other scientists have been doing for the last two centuries (with an increasing amount of technical data becoming available in the last four decades).

These flawed approaches are rejected in favor of a historical reconstruction. This offers, for the first time since the demise of Egyptian culture, interesting valid historical information concerning the Egyptian ways, based on the direct translation of the vast corpus of Ancient Egyptian literature and a contemporary perspective on the symbolical features of its art ( Wilkinson , 1992 & 1994).

"In esoteric circles, people are too dependent on the old, outdated works of Budge and ought to take into account more recent literature, which has much to offer of esoteric interest." - Hornung , 2001, p.2.

techno-scientific : the application of alternative scientific methods to prospect sites, individual pieces and papyri, including physical, chemical and biological techniques.

The so-called "Kemetic reconstruction" (after "kmt", the "back" fertile silt left behind by the receding Nile), if in accord with the basic ritual matrix (unknown to Renaissancist Hermeticism and its following), can be more than just (another) literary fiction.

This thematic reconstruction "fills in the blanks" of the basic ritual matrix in such a way as to be faithful to what is known of native Egyptian history. It outlines an itinerary of physical, emotional, mental, soul-like and spirit-like growth and well-being based on Ancient Egyptian teachings and practices.

Because these blanks are eliminated in harmony with the historical reconstruction, the spiritual device or psychological mechanism is liberated from Hellenistic, Scriptoral, Renaissancist and egyptomanic ballast. This "purist" approach is necessary. But is it truly possible ? Can the many unknowns be genuinely defined ?

► Kemetism : towards a genuine Egyptian esotericism ?

In the sixth century CE, the last Egyptian temple (of Isis at Philae) was officially closed. Egypt had become Christian. The ability to read hieroglyphs was lost. Hermetism was recuperated by Christianity (Clement of Alexandria and the later Orientale Lumen) and Islam (cf. the Sabians of Harran). Because nobody could read the original texts, egyptomania, a literary fiction of Ancient Egypt, was inevitable. It was fed by the mythological, allegorical and symbolical interpretation of the signs themselves, suggestive of an ancient, secret knowledge of the most profound kind.

Egyptomania had and still has a tremendous impact. It puts into perspective the universal appeal of the hieroglyphs, the "words of the gods", magic and Egyptian art. These are the archetypes of the Egyptian view.

Kemetism, contemporary Egyptian esotericism, proposes a valid device, but cannot prove its historical claims. The historical matrix is too incomplete to provide us with enough information to eliminate all the unknowns present in the ritual equation.

initiated : 2003 - last update : 07 I 2015

© Wim van den Dungen

Watch the video: Οι βασίλισσες Φαραώ της Αρχαίας Αιγύπτου. Ντοκιμαντέρ. (January 2022).