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Table of contents
- Software and Database Upgrade
- An Evil Spirit Out of the West (Egyptian Mysteries, book 1) by Paul Doherty
- Egyptian Demons and Magic: Exorcising Evil Spirits
- Paperback Editions
- Magical Folk Tradition of Zar
If the blessed dead became the recipients of cult and correspondence, less favoured spirits were widely feared for their potential destructive wrath. Medical spells frequently cite the unholy dead as the enemy afflicting the patients, the source of illness and disease. As is evident from the "Letters to the Dead", even favoured spirits might inflict injury when angered and petitioners were quick to beg for leniency and favour.
Threatening to all - both pharaoh and commoner alike - the danger that these malignant spirits posed required some form of response, and a series of rituals was devised for their suppression. These rituals took the form of a written text and corresponding action which diminished the power of one's adversary while increasing one's own.
An example of this is the Magical Lullaby in which a mother or caregiver would recite prescribed words to ward off evil spirits but, it is thought, also had the herbs and vegetables on hand in the room - such as garlic hanging by an entrance - to keep such spirits at bay. Execration rituals, from the earliest to the latest, were enacted by writing the curse or incantation on a red pot and then smashing it. The color red symbolized both danger and vitality and was often used by scribes in their texts to denote a particularly menacing deity such as Set. The Magical Lullaby does not follow this pattern completely, however, as it was more of a charm of protection than an offensive attack.
These rituals seem to have been used against natural and supernatural enemies from the beginning but, during the Old Kingdom of Egypt , increasingly took on more and more significance in protecting one's self from unseen, mystical forces. The Pyramid Texts of the Old Kingdom contain execration spells to help the soul of the departed avoid evil spirits in the afterlife and Text gives an execration ritual to ward off evil prior to purification rites. Apophis was the great serpent who attacked the barge of the sun god every night as it traveled through the underworld.
The snake was thought to have either existed in the waters of chaos before creation or to have been born of the saliva of the goddess Neith when she first stepped out of those waters onto the ben-ben. Apophis represented the unified, undifferentiated world of chaos before order was instituted by the gods.
Once creation was initiated the primordial oneness of existence was broken into duality: male and female, light and dark, day and night. The goal of Apophis was to destroy the sun god, the giver of light and life, and return everything to its original state. Many of the most important and powerful gods, as well as the justified dead, sailed on the sun god's barge specifically to help protect him from Apophis in the underworld.
Even the god Set, usually considered a force of chaotic destruction and often associated with Apophis, is seen aboard the ship driving the beast away. Each night the gods battled Apophis and were victorious - the snake was killed and cut into pieces - but throughout the next day he would regenerate and attack again that night. This story first appears in texts from the Middle Kingdom , in which Apophis is first named, but ceremonies concerning him were no doubt observed earlier and became more numerous in the New Kingdom of Egypt c.
At this time the execration text, The Book of Overthrowing Apophis , was written down and observed regularly. Participants would make wax figures of the serpent which would then be hacked into pieces, spit on, sometimes urinated on, and burned. By participating in this ritual, the living were helping the gods in their struggle against the serpent, were associating themselves with the justified dead, and were making sure that the sun would rise again the next morning.
A text like The Book of Overthrowing Apophis linked one to the community, the gods, the dead, and the natural world and elevated the individual to an integral aspect of the functioning of the universe. The Magical Lullaby kept the forces of evil at bay and guaranteed the safety of one's children.
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Medical texts called upon more powerful supernatural forces to defeat and drive away those which were attacking a patient. There were many other kinds of texts, however, which were for one's personal use against private and public enemies. By the time of the New Kingdom , state rituals were common in which execration texts were used to empower the pharaoh. Silverman describes the process:. Although the texts and rituals described by these texts vary widely, the standard pattern of the exorcsim is clear: a 'rebellion formula' listing the names of Egypt's potential enemies is inscribed on a series of red pots or figurines, which are subsequently broken, incinerated, and buried.
Although this is obviously a state ritual, there seems to have been some local input on textual choices. Most sections of the formula list the names of living rulers of lands neighboring Egypt, based on information that was surely provided by the royal chancellery.
To these sections, however, is appended a list of Egyptians, all qualified as 'dead', who also pose a threat. The destruction of a person's name, image, or both was the most effective means of neutralizing their power because one was erasing them from history. Individuality and one's personal story were vitally important to the ancient Egyptians. One needed to be remembered in order to continue to exist.
Food and drink offerings were an important part of the mortuary rituals for this very reason: family members would have to remember the deceased every time they brought these offerings to the tomb. In an execration ritual, one was destroying the elements of one's enemy which gave that person power and substance: their name and their likeness. State rituals were enacted to punish subversives and traitors and to lessen the power of Egypt's enemies, but individuals used the same kind of formula in their private lives. In protecting one's self against the threat of an angry ghost , for example, one would find that ghost's tomb and deface it, erasing the name and image, and would then perform a further ritual involving a written text on a red pot which was then smashed.
Execration rituals were also performed, in this same way, by nobility against political enemies. The so-called 'heretic king' Akhenaten BCE was erased from history by the last king of the 18th Dynasty Horemheb BCE for his attempt at abolishing the traditional religion of Egypt and instituting his own brand of monotheism. Narrow-shouldered and pear-shaped in body, his head is abnormally elongated with a drooping jaw.
Only in his mysterious, pensive eyes does one glimpse a fleeting shadow of the soul that sought to persuade a kingdom to understand his belief in monotheism. For the 17 or so years of his reign, Akhenaten was so absorbed in preaching his new faith that he sought to conquer no new territories — nor did he heed the reports of his military commanders and allies to shore up the defenses of Egypt's borders. To the dismay of those who had grown wealthy with the expansion of the Egyptian empire, Akhenaten was not the great warrior-pharoah that so many of his predecessors to the throne had been.
Neither was he an effective missionary, for the angry, dispossessed priests of Amun and the outcast servants of the many other gods only bided their time to resume control of the spiritual needs of the Egyptian people. While some scholars maintain that Akhenaten's experiment in monotheism has had lasting effect upon the religions of today, the cult of Aten appeared to have had no real lasting effect upon the religious framework of Egypt.
Recent scholarship has suggested that about the twelfth year of his reign, Nefertiti and Akhenaten became estranged and that he may have taken another queen who might bear him a son. Others have argued he elevated his son-in-law Smenkhkare to share the throne with him in a kind of co-rulership capacity. Still other scholars have debated that Nefertiti herself ascended the throne after Akhenaten died a natural death or was killed by those who condemned him as a heretic. All that is certain is that the son-in-law who succeeded Akhenaten soon changed his name from Tutankhaten to Tutankhamun, thereby indicating his allegiance to the Theban god of Amun, rather than Aten, the god of Akhenaten.
It is also evident that the priests and followers of Amun achieved their revenge on the heretic pharoah by obliterating his name and the name of his god from all monuments, statues, temples, and city walls throughout Egypt. In , a mummy was found in a violated tomb in the Biban-el-Moluk that some Egyptologists theorized might well contain the remains of Akhenaten.
While such claims have not yet been verified, perhaps modern pathology might one day solve another controversy that has been provoked by the mystical pharoah. Assmann, Jan. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, Around the year b. Egypt was invaded and partially conquered by bands of shepherd-kings from Asia called Hyksos, who occupied the areas of the Delta and Middle Egypt. The invaders brought with them a culture that was corrupt by Egyptian standards, and for a time it seemed as though the life and soul of Egypt was threatened.
However, the priesthood that kept alive the ancient knowledge of Hermes withdrew to hidden sanctuaries and temples and practiced the secret mysteries. While they outwardly bowed to the foreign gods, they maintained their old traditions and believed in a time when the dynasties of Egypt would be restored in all their magnificence. It was during this time that the priests began to propagate the legend of Isis, goddess of enchantment and magic, and her husband Osiris, father of the great war god Horus, finally conqueror of northern Upper Egypt.
Osiris came into conflict with Set, who killed and dismembered him, scattering his body parts in the Nile. Death didn't eliminate Osiris, for Isis, incarnation of the divine mother goddess, used her magic to put him back together. Osiris and his doctrines were concerned with the problems of life, death, resurrection, and an afterlife. The initiate who wished to attain mastery over the mysteries of life after death would be sent to knock at the door of the great temple of Thebes or of Memphis. Here, he had been told, the priests could teach what Isis and Osiris knew. If the newcomer were admitted, the priest of Osiris would question him about the place of his birth, his family lineage, and the temple where he had received his elementary instruction.
In a brief but revealing interrogation, if the student was found unworthy of the mysteries, he would be sent quickly away.
An Evil Spirit Out of the West (Egyptian Mysteries, book 1) by Paul Doherty
If the seeker appeared to be one who sincerely desired to learn the truth of the mysteries, he would be led through a corridor to an underground crypt where a large statue of Isis hid the doorway to an inner sanctuary. The goddess's face was veiled, with an inscription that advised all initiates that no mortal could ever lift her veil and look upon her true features until the moment of death.
Within the hidden sanctuary were two columns, one colored black, the other red. The priest explained to the novice that the red column represented the ascension of the spirit into the light of Osiris, while the black one signified the captivity of the spirit in physical matter. Whoever sought the mysteries risked madness or death, the initiate was warned. Once the door closed behind him, he would no longer be able to turn back. Those novices who chose to go forward were assigned a week of menial tasks working with the temple servants and forced to observe a strict silence.
When the evening of the ordeals arrived, two neocoros, assistants of the hierophant, led the candidate to the secret sanctuary, a dark room where statues of the ancient gods and goddesses, entities with human bodies and animal heads, appeared foreboding and threatening in the flickering torchlight. On the far side of the room, a hole in the wall, flanked by a human skeleton and a mummy, appeared just large enough for someone to enter on hands and knees. Here, the novice was given another opportunity to turn back.
Or, if he had the courage, he was to crawl into the tunnel and continue on his way. With only a small lamp to drive back the shadows of the cramped corridor, the novice crawled on his hands and knees, hearing over and over a deep sepulchral voice warning that fools who coveted knowledge were certain to perish in the tunnel. As the initiate proceeded forward, he eventually found himself in a wider area where he began to descend an iron ladder. But as he reached the lowest rung, he saw below him only a gaping abyss. There seemed no choice left to him. He could not go back, and he could surely die if he stepped off the ladder into what might be a drop of thousands of feet into the blackness below him.
It was at this point that the fortunate initiate, if the oil in his small lamp had held out, would notice a staircase carved into a crevice to his right. Stepping into the crevice and ascending the spiral staircase, he would find himself entering a great hall and being congratulated by a magician called a pastophor, a guardian of sacred symbols, for having passed the first test.
Before the next ordeal, the pastophor explained the sacred paintings and the 22 secret symbols on the walls of the great hall. These represented the 22 first mysteries and the alphabet of their secret science, the universal keys, the source of all wisdom and power. Each letter and each number given in the language of the mysteries had its repercussion in the worlds of the divine, the intellectual, and the physical. The second test involved passing through a great furnace of flames.
Those initiates who refused, protesting that to enter such a wall of fire could only result in death, never got close enough to see that it was all a clever optical illusion and that there was a safe pathway through the middle. Following the trial by fire was the trial by water, which offered no illusion, but only a walk through a chest-high dark and stagnant pool. Two assistants helped pull the novice from the dank pool, escorted him to a room with a tub filled with warm and perfumed water, then left him to dry off and to dress in fine linens while awaiting the hierophant.
Exhausted from his ordeals, the initiate could enjoy the bath, and later lie on a soft bed to relax while awaiting the priest. Soon music sounded from an invisible group of musicians, and within a few moments, a lovely young woman, appearing much like the goddess Isis herself, entered the room where the initiate lay resting upon the bed.
Haven't emailed him recently, and don't know if he is still working on the book, or if he is done, and just trying to get it published. Also: Nefertiti by Moran Nefertiti: The Book of the Dead by Drake Both are good, though with some problems, and both have a second book coming that follows the story in the first book. I read Moran's Nefertiti, and thought it was just okay. I felt like I was reading the same scene over and over between Mutny and Nefertiti.
Hopefully, Brad Geagley will disregard his agent's advice about being pigeonholed. Isn't that what series writers do, write multiple books with the same setting?
Egyptian Demons and Magic: Exorcising Evil Spirits
Seems like sort of silly advice to me. I thought the writing in Moran's book was better, and she sucked me right in. I felt a certain high-school-ishness to the book because their outlook Mutny, Nefer, Ankhenaten , expectations, and behavior were often so trivial and over the top emotionally, over minor stuff. I suspect the advice was because he was just starting out, and lost his place. Perhaps there isn't a big market for historical fiction mysteries that aren't blockbusters? I think Robinson and Haney have had to stop too.
But I agree its sad. Publishers probably don't want to wait for a series and a following to develop anymore. Now is books and if you aren't a best seller its out the door. I found a series by Christian Jacq, can't remember where! They are set in the time of Rameses.
Has anyone read any of these? I have yet to start the series, but am interested from reviews I have read.
RE: Lord Meren books-- I believe Robinson got dropped by her publisher, which is why the series suddenly stopped. FicusFan-- Great List!!! I read the first two of the Ramses series by Jacq. The first one was a few years ago, and I remember enjoying it a lot. The second was a few months ago, and I didn't enjoy it quite as much as I expected.
The writing isn't really great, though perhaps that's the translator's fault. Have you gone ahead and read any of them? If so, what did you think? Doherty has actually done any research on ancient Egypt, it does not show. He could not be bothered to find an Egyptian personal name for his detective; many details are simply wrong; and his depiction of Egyptian court life is, to put it mildly, bizarre. I can't believe these got published, especially when so many authors are having trouble getting their books accepted.
Lauren Haney is a bit better. Her idea of featuring an "MP" in Nubia is great, but I don't think her prose captures the reader's attention very well it doesn't capture mine, anyway. She's done some reading, but apparently in out-of-date books, and I think she's been influenced by other novelists. At some point, one of her characters says, or thinks to himself, that no Egyptian army had been seen in Nubia for twenty years--this during the coregency of Hatshepsut and Thutmose III!
That was enough to make me stop reading right there. Also, in one story, the Steward of Amun and Overseer of Works Senenmut puts in a cameo appearance, and the other characters talk about him as though he's--well, rather dim. He's one of the last figures from Egyptian history that I would describe as dim! I've finished two or three of Robinson's books, and they're a bit over the top, but fun to read when battling a cold or recovering from deadline stress. Like many novelists who choose Egypt as a setting, Robinson goes in for a good deal of melodrama and portrays Egypt under Akhenaten as a sort of cross between Stalinist Russia and Spain of the Inquisition.
I don't think much of Akhenaten, but that's a little harsh! Pauline Gedge used a real Egyptian story as the basis for Mirage, but she turned a rather sympathetic set of characters into monsters. Read "Setna" in one of the Egyptian literature collections available I recommend Miriam Lichtheim and compare. Unfortunately, I can't think of any books set in ancient Egypt that I can wholeheartedly recommend. Even those that are well-written from the standpoint of prose style, even those that have exciting plots, get a lot of details wrong Eighteenth Dynasty Egyptians did not use coins, for example, or breed goldfish and needlessly sensationalize history.
Magical Folk Tradition of Zar
We can only wait and hope. Fascinating, orsolina! I have never read anything scholarly on the period, so I can't catch any of these sorts of errors, although I had the sense of Robinson being a bit over the top she also wrote romances and the mysteries had a bit of that feel , and Haney being a bit more realistic, but with dryer prose.
There's a great deal of interest in ancient Egypt but very little thorough studies are made, most people only know what's presented in popular culture. It seems to me a quickly changing field of knowledge, to some extent, since there are actually new things being found even if in the depths of old collections in Cairo or elsewhere that shed new or a different light upon events and life in the times. It's too bad that there isn't a series that gets it quite right yet, but maybe someday!?
Can you recommend any good NF books on ancient Egypt?
Hi, aprillee. There are now many good books available on different periods of Egyptian history and various aspects of Egyptian culture, although some subjects are still relatively neglected at least in terms of books you'd find in a public library. Look for recent catalogues of museum exhibitions; they often have up-to-date background articles by prominent scholars.
Pharaohs of the Sun covers the Amarna period, for example, and Hatshepsut: from Queen to Pharaoh will be a good start if you're interested in the Queen.