Ancient Egyptian Magic & Ritual
Ancient Egyptian magic was part of religious and medical practices, as well as forms of personal voodoo. But before we get into details, we need to first define what we mean by magic.
Till now, there is debate about what can be considered magic. One culture’s religious rituals might be seen by another’s as superstitious magic. But for the sake of simplicity, let’s define it as:
A act intended to bring about a change on some sort of supernatural level.
Heka & the Force
The term the ancient Egyptians used to describe magic is “heka”.
Heka was believed to be a natural force that is present throughout the universe, it was used by the creator to create and animate the world.
Heka is personified in a god of the same name, who is thought to have predated all dual creation, since of course the force he personified is what was used to create the world.
It was also believed to be available for use by both Gods and mortals. Egyptians used it mainly as a means to ward off the forces of evil. They also used it for personal gain – to influence others by casting love spells for example, or even to cause harm to enemies.
However, almost all religious rituals were considered a type of magic. The symbolic meaning of the practices was thought to have influenced the Gods and the forces of nature.
Most rituals included the incantation of spells. Spells consisted of two parts – the words to be spoken and the actions to be followed. Words and names had to be pronounced correctly.
Uses of Ancient Egyptian Magic
Ancient Egyptian magic was used for many, many things. But the most common uses were:
The ancient Egyptians believed that there are evil forces that could do harm and damage. These forces could come from demons, angry gods, or even people using black magic and curses. Protection against these forces came in the form of magic rituals, practices and the wearing of amulets to keep them at bay.
Also, protection was used during sensitive moments like childbirth and during the soul’s journey through the underworld. For example, the ritual of the Opening of the Mouth ceremony.
Healing – Medicine or Magic?
The ancient Egyptians were plagued with many diseases and health hazards such as Nile parasites and respiratory problems from the sandy environment.
And although for an ancient culture its medical practices were quite advanced (with some techniques still in use today), they were at a loss with much of the ailments. Some health problems were attributed to Godly wrath or harmful spells – and thus they would turn to magic for help.
The priests who were versed in incantations and trained medically would then be enlisted for help with many medical problems. The priests would then use a combination of medical practices and magical rituals to aid healing.
It’s like an ancient Egyptian version of complimentary medicine.
The spells and speeches were aimed at certain Gods or Goddesses, mainly those who were closely connected to medicine such as:
Thoth the God associated with writing, including the writing of healing texts.
Sekhmet the Goddess of the plague.
Selqet the scorpion Goddess whom you could pray to help with bites and venom.
Some techniques the priests used were:
- To act out a myth with the patient by reciting speeches and spells.
- Using substances such as honey or dung to lure out or repel demons that possessed patients.
- Inscribing protective and healing spells on statues and amulets.
Other Techniques of Ancient Egyptian Magic
Potions, Wands, Dolls and Dances
- Using magic wands to summon powerful beings or drawing protective circles.
- Making loud noises by stamping the feet and shouting – performing a sort of magical dance with drums and sistra. These would help drive away evil spirits.
- Using special bowls with written spells that transform water into a healing potion to be drunk or washed with.
- Some potions were made with ingredients like animal blood.
- Making wax figures of people to use like voodoo dolls. Either to harm or curse enemies.
Although the average Egyptian could practice magic, the formal practitioners were the priests. The priesthood gave them access to magical texts and temple rituals which are off limits to others. It even gave them access to healing magic that was used when no medical cure was available.
The magical texts were studies by lector priests, who would then gain vast knowledge in performing spells for protection, rebirth and healing.
Whatever the case, priests had to be in a state of purity before performing any magic or religious ritual. They would bathe and adorn fresh clothing, abstain from sex, and avoid contact with menstruating women.
If you think about it, the ancient Egyptian idea of what magic is (to make things happen) means that we still practice magic to a certain extent today. Of course most of us don’t follow their techniques, but many of us believe in the power of faith and mind over matter.
Prayers and blessings could be considered a spiritual force to make things happen. And also the very old yet newly popular concept of “the law of attraction” (you attract what you think about the most) has become a widely accepted theory.
Ancient Egyptian Magic may have been quite superstitious in techniques, but the meaning behind it was not.
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