Right through the ancient Egyptian history, an important focus of magical ritual activities focused on developing a set of effective magical spell casting procedures to protect one or to bring misery to others. In a book called Book “Overthrowing Apep”, the most critical and important section, as far as magical principles are concerned, is the Papyrus Bremner-Rhind of 4th century BC. This monumental work consists of several sub sections that deal with basic principles of magic, spell casting processes and procedures. This section also deals with several types of verbal expressions (or spells) and physical actions (spell casting techniques). These important details join together to form what as Egyptian spell casting techniques and procedures. These principles in Toto form the ceremonial aspects of Egyptian magic.
Each of these procedures form a well composed ritual, with a string of threat formulae and occult like utterances, all combines with a series of specific symbolic gestures and techniques. In combination, these procedures formed the core of the Egyptian magic.
Here are some of the most famous techniques and procedures that helped people to cast spells:
Spells and Conjurations
In Egyptian magical procedures, spells and conjurations are the most important aspects of a magical ritual. In many cases, critical importance of spell casting is identifiable with a term called heka with a well-defined spoken word. Almost every magic ritual of ancient Egypt deals with a well-spoken magical speech that formed an effective channel to deliver, disperse, activate and reinforce both the magical capabilities and other connoted magical techniques.
Fact: The special meaning of magical processes along with highly calibrated force, within a literary structure of magical utterances, resulted in mobilization and transmission of certain unique powers and reactions in the course of the ceremony.
Egyptian magic always relied on the words of power, whose unique pronunciation, diction could elicit specific forces and powers from the perceived mythical world into the present, and a particular situation the magician needed to confront with. These words of power always depended on verbal jargon and the mode of utterance or delivery. Occult sounding language and vocabulary were the main medium, through which one could access the magical divine and later link it with the present. Some particular traits and parameters defined the scope of Egyptian magic and some of them are:
- The first and the foremost magical spells was the power of utterances along with reinforcement, by a symbolic destruction of a wax or mud figurine in the form of an invisible enemy.
- Such magical spells also included burning of a sheet of papyrus paper with the name and graphical image of the enemy drawn in detail over it.
- In almost all processes of casting magical spells, the use of destruction of wax figurines and papyri drawings was the de facto rule for a majority of sacrificial actions performed during the ceremony.
- The choice of wax as the most preferred spell casting materials had its own significance and importance. Most probably, the choice of wax is entirely due to its special physical properties that made them fit enough for any spell casting methods. Wax also has a religious and mythological connotations attached to it, because the wax material is said to be the creation of the sun god himself!
- Another critical parameter associated with the wax is its perceived vulnerability to pressure and destruction; this is probably the reason, why wax was the most liked spell casting material. Wax could also burn without leaving any ashes, makes it a perfect symbol guaranteeing the elimination of the hostile and dangerous image that it represents.
- Egyptians relied on and believed in the power of colors and numbers, while applying the principles of magic. In fact, the natural color of green had a profound influence on the entire Egyptian populace, as it represents and relates to the evergreen papyrus plant. Green means fertility, flourishing crops, a bountiful harvest, life, microcosm, abundance of riches and finally resurrection. Green color also relates to magical and spells making properties; amulets created of green papyrus columns drove away evil from the real world and thereafter from the world beyond the death. From the middle ages onwards until the end of Egypt-Roman confluence, lion-headed goddesses such as Bastet, Sekhmet and Menhet carried the green papyrus, as an eternal symbol of security and protection and in elimination of all types of harmful influences.
Spell Casting Procedures
Spitting upon, trampling and spearing
Before casting spells , the person who conducts the cast spelling procedure must ensure that he has all the tools, materials and implements ready for the processes; these serve as the medium or points of references from which a hostile influence needs expelling. Several native and indigenous techniques and methods ensured trouble-free spell casting.
A magical procedure contains many simple, yet bizarre procedures and methods like:
- Spitting on the hostile, demonic, evil and undesirable images
- Trampling or crush the image with the left foot
- Spearing or piercing the image with a sharp spear
- Knifing the image with a sharp edged knife
- Binding the image with the papyrus sheet and later wrapping it tightly before placing it on the burning coal
- All these procedures ensured that the evil influences cast away with a fair degree of certainty.
Fact: Early Egyptians also believed that the essential act of spitting is a symbolic gesture of being hostile or threatening towards the evil influences. Egyptians believed that spitting is similar to ejected venom from dangerous serpents, scorpions, insects and other similar creatures.
Spitting is also a prominent feature during the recitations of spells and execrations aimed at those wax figures that represented demons and their cohorts.
On the other hand, trampling upon or crushing on the wax figure or image is an established gesture and act of magical spell casting rites. Egyptian royalties and pharaohs always wore sandals with common imagery and pictures of their enemies and adversaries, so that they can keep on trampling on them throughout the day and night.
Egyptians applied similar analogous rites in their magical rituals as well! Briefly, the trampling or crushing procedure follows the spitting steps. All most all Ptolemaic temples show relevant and right imageries of this procedure. In fact, the king led by his chief priest appears before the principal deity in the temple to conduct these rituals. Though the burning of the wax figurine is not normal under normal Egyptian occult school of practices, it provides strong evidence Egyptians considered it as a tool to sacrifice the enemy. Many sheets of magic papyri mention the exact location where the figurine catches fire:
- The burning place is either at the furnace of the coppersmiths or
- Any place where there is a furnace.
The fire that is present in the furnace should be strong enough to consume the whole figurine within the shortest possible time. Egyptians also considered the flame emanating from the furnace as something that is divine and holy. Many funerary texts of Middle and New kingdom personified the burning process as the “mistress of fire”; this will burn and char all enemies of Osiris and other powerful gods and the place in the underworld will thus become safer for living in peace.
Images of furnaces on the tomb walls provide a great example of how Egyptians revered the spell casting process in their daily life. In fact, there are many examples of physical furnaces in the form of truncated cones excavated in the wide expanse of present day Egypt. However, there was a small problem while burning the wax figurine, that it will never leave any residue after burning. Thus, spell-casters collected the ashes of burnt papyrus in a pot of urine and burnt the same in a smoldering fire.
All about the Power of Encircling
Once a spell-caster finishes off the basic aspect of spell casting, by burning either figurine or papyrus sheets, he will conduct another simple ceremony called encircling. The basic aim of conducting this procedure is to control the malicious activities of evil forces or the shadow in the underworld. To conduct this important procedure, a suitable and auspicious day and hour for the intended act was essential. Most of these rituals relates directly to the sun god and his cohorts. These rituals always occur in the morning, when the sun is rising from the horizon. On the other hand, some procedures against the dangers of the night always took place in the evening and soon after sunset.
The Egyptian Calendar
To conduct a perfect spell casting, one needed to relay on the calendar of the day; Egyptian calendars always mentioned about lucky and unlucky days of the year. Some of these rituals occurred everyday, while many others took place on those days that were pure and auspicious. More about the Egyptian Calendar
Festivals and Rites
Illustrated examples show us that most of the spell casting and other similar rituals had a great bearing on the most common and popular festivals of the day. As an example, during the famed festival of Horus the Behdetite, at a place called Edfu, priests conducted rituals to execrate images of Apophis along with animals like hippopotami and crocodiles. These animals symbolized Seth and other enemies of Horus. The whole set of rituals will be over with the following procedures:
- Striking of eyes of Apophis
- Offering cake made out of hippopotamus
- Crushing of fishes
- Destruction of all enemies of the kingdom
The Importance of Symbolism
During funerary processes, and soon after mummification, priests used to place the mummy on a boat and transport it to the Lake of Kings in a religious procession, attended by the goddesses Isis and Nepthys, while the gods Wepwawet of Upper Egypt and the god Wepwawet of Lower Egypt, Horus and Thoth inspected the entire procedure. Once the coffin arrived at the Lake, the priests used to sail across, while reading the nine sacred books. Next, the mummy went through the Opening of Mouth ceremony and later enters the Embalming house for embalming.
Most of the magical rituals conducted in the early Egyptian kingdom were purely symbolic and ritualistic in nature; however, these signs of symbolism ensured that the desired results were at hand at the end of the ceremony.
- Destruction of enemies and evil creatures and,
- Protection and safety of the entire Egyptian populace