page contents

Magic, Madness, Heaven, Sin

Saw you there and I thought “oh my god”, look at your face. You look like… you need magic.

So let’s talk about…

Screenshot 2015-10-12 17.59.15

Magic in Egypt

Well, not that kind of magic, silly.

Ancient Egyptians believed in the power of magic to overcome problems in their lives related to health, love, marriage, children and the supernatural realm amongst others.

They invoked Heka:

Heka refers to magic, literally translated as “using the Ka” and also refers to his personification of magic. Yes, it’s all confusing stuff.

Magic: For Pros Only

In modern times, when we have a specific need that we cannot achieve through DIY (do-it-yourself) means, we leave it to the professionals. We have doctors, lawyers, plumbers, contractors, photographers, teachers (hi prof) and thousands of other occupations in today’s world. This is synonymous with how ancient Egyptian commoners thought about magic: it was just another aspect of knowledge, akin to the fields of architecture, literature and medicine. In the same way that we (hopefully) do not operate on our own bodies with medical instruments, magic was off-limits to people who were not “professionals” such as the priests, and reaching out to the divine was considered fatal.

Leave it to the real professionals, please.

Egyptian Magic Usage

Magic was thought to have beneficial aspects and was practical for the Egyptian environment, people and religion. Ancient Egyptian magic rituals practices were also used as a protection against invaders. It was essentially part of their way of life, quite unlike how we modern folk often separate the “worldly view” and religion today.

Like a weatherman or financial analyst, magic in ancient Egypt was also used in greater and more complex forms or processes such as predicting the future, interpreting dreams and prophecies (“incubation”). Dreams were considered a channel for Gods to reach humans.

There were spells for practically everything. From our research, we found magic could be used to cure snake bites, aid childbirth, pregnancy and conception. Incantations were found for birth, protection of babies, milk provision, defense against childhood diseases and more. Men of magic would chant certain spells and perform rituals in a bid to ward off Egypt’s enemies.

Egyptian Magic Preparation

Success of spells depended on various conditions such as:

  • Dates (auspicious or not)
  • Time (golden or blue hours were preferred: dawn and dusk)
  • Location (dark places such as chambers, recesses, cells or secret rooms)
  • Ingredients (of rituals)
  • Magician (ritually pure)

Such strict conditions were put in place for as the rituals were considered sacred. The utmost highest regards were given to gods and the supernatural realm.

Egyptian Men of Magic

The skills of a magician or sorcerer included rather bizarre ones such as:

  • Sanctioning human beings and their souls into becoming other outlandish forms or into animals and creatures
  • Breathing life into images or non-living things (which would proceed to heed every word instructed by the magician/sorcerer)
  • Reciting the most powerful and respectable word of the day “thoth”
  • Conjuring the highest deities/gods to aid their in accomplishing tasks beyond the general acuity
  • Creating natural disasters and extreme elements (e.g. diseases and death)

Computer gaming geeks would recognise that last part in Age of Mythology (because we loved having disease ridden locusts and sand storm “god powers”. Or perhaps a meteor shower?

Egyptian Magic in Death and the Afterlife

death animated GIF

Magic, was no less important to the ancient Egyptians with regard to the afterlife.

Thousands of imprinted spells (800-1100) referred to as “Pyramid Texts” and “Coffin Texts” were found among the deceased in the forms of writings and incantations, as they are known to be a means of protection for their spirits to not get adrift or missing. However, these spells were later reproduced onto scrolls and its availability were only limited to those who can afford them, even though most of them were not regulated and alterations had occurred in the process.

Coffin Wall, Founders Society Purchase. Acc. No. 65.394

Retrieved from

Sins: Egyptians at the Pearly Gates (or not)

We learnt in class that Egyptians believed in a gatekeeper of their souls… a little bit similar to the Christian Pearly Gates.

Ancient Egyptians knew what was acceptable and unacceptable of them, and they are prepared to suffer after death if evidence of their misbehaviour was raised to them.

They believed it was viable to persuade the Gods of their purity through the use of magic and the right spells. The negative confessions learnt in class was used to give them the ability to alleviate their crimes and immoralities.

Picture of Anubis weighing a heart against the feather of Ma’at

Retrieved from

Of course we’d show you a dramatic artist’s rendition of the weighing of the heart against a feather. Of course we would.

Heaven (not really, it’s called Aaru)

Ancient Egyptians viewed life as a never-ending system whereby humanity was a mere establishment to the revolution after death. Egyptians were not infatuated by death, but instead they were actually so infatuated with life that they hoped it would not stop even after passing on. The sophisticated burial practices and mummification were not meant to symbolize the termination of life, but is to its extension and the faith that the soul would be able to enter Sehet Aaru. However, they must first travel pass the treacherous underworld, the Duat before they can reach Sehet Aaru.

Aaru is described in texts as eternal papyrus fields that were ideal for hunting and fishing. Wheat and barley grew high and everyone would be dressed in their very best. Couples would hope to reunite in the afterlife along with their children and favourite pets (yes, our group read the EGYPTIANIMALS blog post. Who knew that there were more than cats as pets?). Doesn’t that paint a picture similar to the Abrahamic religions’ “land of abundance, overflowing with milk and honey”? Some food for thought!

If this was your cat, WOULD YOU NOT WANT TO SEE HER AGAIN?


So yeah, see you again :)