Magic in Ancient Egypt: Curses, amulets, exorcism and spells went beyond black magic.
In ancient Egypt, witchcraft was part of the daily life of its citizens. Nothing in the universe was conceived without it and it was everywhere (although it was necessary to learn to master it).
In addition, it served to heal the sick, to protect themselves from baby-eating night demons or – among many other things – to divine the future.
Ancient Egyptians firmly believed in “heka”, the power of magic. Nothing in the Universe was conceived without being animated by that power. The very existence of the World was for them the proof of the existence of that power.
How important was magic in Ancient Egypt?
Magic had a fundamental role for the ancient Egyptians. It was of vital importance for the proper functioning of not only the state, but also the Universe itself.
In the Egyptian worldview, the entire Universe had arisen from the waters of the Nun, a primordial ocean that potentially contained all things, including the gods themselves.
The land had emerged from that ocean. On that first hill the first creator god had arisen and that demiurge ( Ra in Heliopolis, Ptah in Memphis, Thoth in Hermopolis, etc.) created the rest of the world.
The primal life force that made it possible to do all this, and to maintain the delicate universal balance, was an ancient power that the ancient Egyptians imagined even older than the gods themselves: Heka , the word with which the gods designated magic.
The gods, the magicians and the pharaoh possessed heka, they had that magical power linked to Creation itself, which held it upright, and which allowed them to manipulate the Universe.
Heka was everywhere and learning to master that ancient force was tantamount to having the power of Creation and the gods.
What was the basic function of the priests?
Some categories of Egyptian priests, especially, the reading priests instructed in the Houses of Life, are more than intermediaries between men and gods, they are powerful magicians who know how to handle the heka in rites to maintain the balance of the Universe.
Every night, Ra, the sun god, crosses the sky in his boat and the horizon disappears from view, through the West to emerge again, strong, glorious, rejuvenated, through the East.
But his journey through the underworld is fraught with danger. The forces of Chaos associated with the primitive Ocean do not rest in their endeavor to submerge the Universe back to the “Nun” from which it arose.
And before being able to be reborn in the East, the Sun God has to face the incarnation of those powers of Chaos, the fearsome and colossal serpent Apep, which attacks the solar boat every night.
The gods use heka, the power of magic, to confront Apep and safeguard the boat of the Sun god and the entire Universe.
In fact, Heka, represented as a god, accompanies Ra and protects him. Meanwhile, on earth, the magician priests perform rites and acts of magic to help the god and his companions.
Did the magicians have any other task?
The magicians also fulfill an important function in the Court, interpreting the dreams of the pharaoh, advise him, perform rituals and spells to help him in his endeavors.
Other priests also use magic for different purposes and specialize in branches of magical knowledge.
Magic and power of the Pharaoh
The magician par excellence, like the priest par excellence, is the pharaoh. His royal status, as “son of Horus” filled him with magical power, a power that all Egyptians took very seriously.
The force that emanates from the pharaoh permeates his clothes and the objects that are in contact with him, a dangerous force that could be harmful, lethal, if not handled properly.
In what areas of life was magic used?
Magic was part of all areas of life for the ancient Egyptians. There was a state magic, in charge of medicine and healing, of maintaining cosmic balance, of subduing the enemies of the nation.
But there were also, among the common people, people who were dedicated to divination, to healing, to perform protective spells, etc.
Protective spells …?
There was a protective magic that was applied to defend against the many beings that turned out to be a threat to the living.
In the imagination of the ancient Egyptians the invisible world was inhabited by a host of demons, emissaries and envoys of the gods, dangerous deceased who survived, described as deformed beings who walk with their feet and head facing towards behind, fearsome characters who, they believed, were responsible for the strange noises of the night, for all kinds of terrifying demonstrations, appearing before the living or visiting them in their nightmares.
Apotropaic spells and rites were performed to keep them at bay and away from the weakest, especially children, women who were about to give birth, and mothers who had recently given birth.
A good number of objects known as “magic knives”, found in numerous archaeological sites, had this purpose, to defend the mother and her son from evil creatures.
Source: “Magic in Ancient Egypt. Curses, amulets and exorcisms”, Javier Arries.