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change visits between the divinities of different cities, as between Horus of Edfu and Ḥat-hôr of Dendera, long retinues of priests and attendants accompanying the deities; and during the ceremonies sacred dramas were performed, based upon some legendary incident in the lives. of the gods, as at the festival of Horus at Edfu and in celebration of the mysteries of Osiris at Abydos.8° The festivals of the divinities of the dead were of a funerary character, and those of Osiris were fused with those of the cycle of the cult of Ptaḥ-Sokar-Osiris. Festivals lasted for days, weeks, and even a month, and were occasions for general rejoicings, with music, dancing, and often noisy, licentious gaiety.

Egyptian magic.

Like peoples of other races, the Egyptians sought to better their condition and destiny by enlisting the aid of supernatural forces to modify the natural order; and acting upon their belief that the gods and various spirits had the requisite power, they entered into dealings with them by methods known as hike', the best English equivalent for which is 'magical power.' An essential element in all such dealings was mystery, and they had the clear implication of demand upon the unseen for the exercise of supernatural, miraculous powers for the benefit of the living, actions which, when analyzed, are found to be magical, leaving little that may be described as religion. Hence it is claimed that from the Egyptian point of view, there was only ḥike', but no such thing as religion, which should be considered in the tripartite division of its active aspect into the worship of the gods, cult of the dead, and magic. In the estimation of the people, hike' was effica80 Moret, Mystères égyptiens, pp. 15 ff.; also id., "Mysteries (Egyptian)," in ERE ix, 74-77.

81 A. H. Gardiner, "Magic (Egyptian)," in ERE viii, 262-269; also Erman, Die Ägyptische Religion, 2d ed., chapters i-vi.


cious and was, consequently, held in high esteem; magic was sacrosanct and unchangeable, the oldest and most characteristic element of the so-called religion; it was applied religion, and all rites and ceremonies were full of it. There was even a deified concept of hike', a special divinity (who may have been a form of Thoth), the 'god of the Magic Formulas,' who, in the Pyramid Texts, was represented as a sphinx, bearing a scourge, a shepherd's staff, and the scepter of venerability or life; physicians of the Old Kingdom were 'priests of Hike''; and several well-known divinities, Thoth, Isis, Rē, and Sêth, were called 'great of the magic formulas.'

Divine magic.


The magic of the gods differed from that of man only in its superior power. Possession of the secret names of deities gave dominance over demons and over all evil spirits, enabling the magician to compel divinities of inferior rank to that of the deity whom he invoked, and whose true name he knew, to do his will.86 Hence both gods and men sought diligently to obtain the secret names of the mightiest divinities. The mere possession was sufficient, the name was seldom pronounced, and the few secret names that are mentioned in the texts appear simply as cabbalistic gibberish. It is related that Isis rose from a lowly rank in the house of Re and became the great enchantress of Egypt by her guile, tricking the sun-god into yielding up his true name to her." The mechanism of or

82 Budge, op. cit., i, 13.

83 Wiedemann, Magie und Zauberei im alten Ägypten, p. 23.

84 Mariette, Les Mastabas de l'ancien empire, p. 96.

85 Gardiner, in EB ix, 56.

86 Müller, op. cit., pp. 200-201; also Wiedemann, op. cit., pp. 143-145.

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87 Budge, op. cit., i, 360 f.; and for the myth related in verse, see Müller, op. cit., pp. 80-83.

dinary magic was essentially the same as that which is observed in the worship of the gods and in the cult of the dead. The most common use of magic was to cure the sick; but black magic and sorcery were used for corrupt and degraded purposes, and could be purchased for the injury and misfortune of others.

The magic rites.

In order to approach the supernatural agencies by successful magic, it was necessary to break down the mystic barriers through the medium of the ritual-specified word-formulas and acts, homage and sacrifice—and purity in all things was a prerequisite for receiving benefits. The priests, versed in secret lore and adepts in all these practices, had exclusive charge of the divine books, including those of the 'double house of life'; and magic in the hands of the proper person, the theologian, became religion. The ibis-headed moon-god, Thoth, was the chief magician, and Isis was his counterpart. He knew the mystic names, the mighty hidden words of power, the secrets of the gods; and hence he was master of them all, having authority over heaven, earth, and the Underworld. He knew the prayers, the ceremonies, and the formulas for all occasions, using them in the 'correct voice' and with the proper gestures; while magicians educated at his school at Hermopolis had powers which approximated his own.89


Examples of magic.

The power of Egyptian magic was boundless, and the oldest Pyramid Texts describe the wonders performed by magicians, usually the 'lector-priests' (kher-hab). Devils were cast out, the sick were healed, life was restored, the

88 Müller, op. cit., p. 198.

89 Budge, op. cit., i, 408; also Maspero, op. cit., i, 246.

corruptible body was transformed into the incorruptible, human beings assumed other shapes at will, and inanimate objects, becoming animate, obeyed commands and then returned to their normal state. The powers of nature were under the control of the magician. Wind, rain, rivers, and seas obeyed; waters were separated and piled up on one side; the earth was rent; the sun was made to stop in its course; and all the mysteries of life, death, and the future belonged to him who possessed the lore of the book of 'the double house of life.' The Westcar Papyrus, of about 1500 B.C., tells of many feats performed by the 'chieflectors' in the reign of King Cheops (Khufu) of the Fourth Dynasty." Teta, a magician, demonstrated before the Pharaoh his power of revivification by cutting off the head of a goose, a snake, and a bull, after which, at his command, each head moved forward, and joined its respective body, thus restoring life." Again when one of the royal rowers lost her jewel in the lake, a magician was commanded to secure it, which he did by separating the waters, piling them on either side, walking between on dry ground, picking up the jewel, and restoring it to its owner; and the same papyrus contains an account of another magician who fashioned a wax crocodile which, placed in the river, devoured an adulterer when he came to bathe."1 At a much later date, Moses, who "was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians" and, like her magicians, was "mighty in words and deeds," performed things which they also did, as well as others which exceeded their powers.



Paraphrase of the Westcar Papyrus, see Flinders Petrie, Egyptian Tales, i, 97-142; also Erman, Die Märchen des Papyrus Westcar, i, 21 ff.; Wiedemann, Altägyptische Sagen und Märchen, pp. 1-24.

91 Erman, op. cit., i, 8 ff.; also Budge, Magic, pp. 18-19, 9-10, 67-69; Maspero, Popular Stories of Ancient Egypt, pp. 33-34, 28-30, 24-27. 92 Exodus, vii, 10-11, 20-22; viii, 5-7, 16-18; Acts vii, 22.


In common with other peoples of the ancient Orient, the Egyptians resorted to divination to learn the future and the disposition of the gods toward them. The earlier mantic processes, depending upon the interpretation of dreams, upon the readings of the stars, and upon estimates of their position and influence (little used in healing practices), as well as upon the direct manifestation of the divine will by the deities themselves, appear to have been simpler than those of their contemporaries, which, however, were introduced in the late period under Asiatic and Hellenic influences."

The most characteristic Egyptian means of learning the divine will and of securing benefits was by direct appeal to the image of the deity, the response being made by 'seizing' the person chosen, as in the selection of a king; or by acquiescing in the prayer by gestures, this being accompanied in some instances by the spoken word, 'as a father to a son.' Such consultations were made according to an established etiquette at certain times and places, when the priest, approaching the statue, began the invocation (âsh) in court language, asking if it were convenient for it to listen to such and such an affair. According to the records, the "chief of the temple has a consultation of the god," and this was made orally by prayer or by reducing questions to writing after carefully arranged formulas, and depositing them under seal before the image of the deity, the petition usually beginning as follows: "O God of Goodness, my Lord," or "Lord, may we lay before thee a serious affair?" and then stating the case. The reply often came in sealed writing, but in certain instances the response proceeded directly from the statue of the divinity; if it remained motionless, the request was refused;

93 G. Foucart, "Divination (Egyptian)," in ERE iv, 792-796.

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