The belief in magic is older than the belief in God. Ancient Egyptian civilization flourished for over four thousand years. Magic and religion were viewed as a single unified power. Superstition, religion, and magic formed the framework through which Egyptians attempted to understand and control the world around them. Their world was filled with visible and invisible beings ruled by the laws of nature and subject to human emotions. Egyptians sought to protect and defend themselves through the practice of magic arts.
Egyptians believed in one supreme God, who created the universe and all beings. They also believed in resurrection of the body and eternal life in a changed form, dwelling in a divine kingdom. According to them, man consisted of a physical body, shadow, double, soul, heart, spirit (called the khu; a combination of the ka/spirit and ba/soul), a power, name, and spiritual body. When the body died, the shadow departed from it and could only be returned to it via a mystical ceremony. The ka or double was the ghost of the deceased. It lived in the tomb with the body and was visited by the soul, which dwelled in heaven. The soul was a material thing. Like the double, the soul was believed to partake of funeral offerings placed in the tomb.
Other gods and supernatural beings could be summoned via magic and compelled to carry out man’s wishes. Egyptians compelled supernatural beings to assist them in every aspect of their lives. By properly pronouncing certain power names or words in the correct tone, a priest or knowledgeable Egyptian could heal the sick, cast out evil spirits, bring the dead back to life, and enable the dead to attain eternal life. Words of power enabled people to shape shift or project their souls into other creatures at will.
In obedience to the proper commands, inanimate objects came to life and carried out their master’s wishes. Words of power could transmit effects over any distance. A knowledgeable Egyptian could harness the powers of nature to devastate his foes. Words of power could be written on papyrus or inscribed on objects and worn as a form of protection.
The performance of magical ceremonies, during which words of power were uttered, coupled with mummification were believed to make the body last forever and restore to it the strength to eat, drink, talk, think, and move about. However, only the wealthy could afford such funeral rites.
The peasants and working class did not understand the complex spiritual symbolism of elaborate ceremonies performed in the temples. For them, magicians and priests provided pageants and ceremonies which appealed to the senses. Unscrupulous individuals took advantage of the ignorance of the general public by professing knowledge of and power over gods, spirits, and demons. They sold false access to that power and knowledge for money and personal gain. The magic they practiced evolved into demonology, sorcery and witchcraft, the practitioners of which were considered the devil’s associates, servants of the power of darkness, and workers of the black art.
Egyptians were seen by Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans as a nation of magicians and sorcerers. The changing of a serpent into a wooden staff and back again was preformed in the East in ancient times. The Hebrew Moses had knowledge of Egyptian magic. One big difference between his magic and that employed by the Egyptians was that the former was wrought via the command of the God of the Hebrews, the latter was wrought via man.
The Egyptians recited formulae or prayers over amulets and employed them to provide supernatural protection to the living and the dead from both visible and invisible foes. Amulets and other enchanted objects were also believed to protect the bodies of the deceased from mildew and decay. Words of magical power were engraved upon the amulets, which amplified their innate power. The object of every verse written on the amulets, papyrus, and tombs of the dead was to bring the gods under man’s power and compel them to do his will.
The heart was the source of power in life, as well as conscience. After death, Egyptians mummified it separately. Along with the lungs, it was preserved in a jar and placed under the protection of the god Tuamutef. Preservation of the heart was of such vital importance that the Book of the Dead included specific instructions for its protection.
In the afterlife, the deceased had to keep it from being carried off by a monster. Once the deceased mastered the heart, their double and soul had the power to go wherever they wished and do as they pleased. In the underworld, the deceased’s heart was weighed in the balance against the feather, symbolic of right and truth, in the Judgment Hall of Osiris.
The heart was replaced in the body by an amulet made of lapis-lazuli, carnelian, or other precious stone formed in the shape of a scarab (dung beetle). This heart scarab, with words of power inscribed upon its base, served as the source of life and existence for the body in the next life. The amulet would perform for him the opening of the mouth, which would enable the deceased to breathe, eat, and drink in the afterlife.
Various amulets were employed to grant the deceased things like the protection of the blood of Isis, resurrecting words of power, the ability to free himself from his death swathing, the power to reconstitute the body, and become a perfect spirit in the underworld. In tombs built during ancient and middle empires were ladders to assist the deceased in ascending up through the floor of heaven, which was the sky in their world.
Any symbolic representation of a god or demon, illustrated or spelled out, could serve as an amulet imbued with the power to protect its wearer. The Book of the Dead contained the words of power which would turn a drawing into a boat, enabling the deceased to traverse the canals and streams of the underworld.
The spirit of a god would reside in a statue made in its image. Destroying such a statue would render the god homeless and powerless. Priests spoke words of power over small stone figures of the deceased which would enable it to do for the deceased any work he might be required to do in the afterlife. Wax figures were employed for harmful magic as well as beneficial magic.
Egyptians feared that they would not have enough air, food, and water in the underworld. Prayers had the power to transform paintings and drawings into the real thing. Models or pictures of food and drink were placed tombs. Anytime someone passed by the tomb, recited a prayer and said the name of the deceased, his double was provided a fresh supply of food and drink offerings.
Names were of great importance to both the living and the dead in Egypt. An Egyptian’s name was as much a part of a man as his body and soul. Without a name, he would be excluded from judgement in the afterlife and would be barred from journeying in the underworld.
Addressing a god or devil by their name compelled them to do as one wished. In order to have absolute power of a god of many forms, the deceased had to know all of its names. In most cases, knowing the names of supernatural beings offered sufficient protection from harm. In other situations, it was necessary to have the name inscribed on an amulet or other magical object as well.
There were seven halls or mansions, in the kingdom of Osiris. The front gate of each was guarded by a doorkeeper, a watcher and herald. Each being had to be addressed by name and gifted offerings, in order to satiate them and gain permission to pass through. There were also twenty-one hidden pyramidal towers which could only be passed after the deceased addressed each doorkeeper by name and recited a brief address.
Egyptian Magic offers an in-depth look at the Egyptian religious and magical belief system. It gives detailed examples of the ancient mystical ceremonies and objects of power. It is $12.95 on the Amazon website. Click on the book above to purchase.