An Introduction to Egyptian Magic

When human­i­ty final­ly grasped the idea that influ­ences effect­ing ones life could work both ways, that through exer­cis­ing ones will, one could influ­ence the world right back, the art and prac­tice of mag­ic began. By our mod­ern eye and sen­si­tiv­i­ty, the meth­ods employed by the ancient Egyp­tians may seem odd or even extreme, but even then, they were work­ing with the most pow­er­ful ener­gies of the universe.

In the ear­ly Dynas­tic peri­ods, the ancient priests taught that this strict inter­de­pen­dence not only exist­ed, but that a con­tin­u­al appease­ment by offer­ing was nec­es­sary. The Gods and God­dess­es were numer­able and each tem­ple as well as each home took on the oblig­a­tions of giv­ing offer­ings toward their local and state God forms. Through­out Egyp­t’s time, the Pharaohs belief or cos­mogony of favor­ing one God or God­dess of cre­ation above the oth­ers dif­fered. The local deities often became sec­ondary and formed a sort of less­er court, while the Pharao­h’s God became primary.

Conceptions of Heaven

To the ancient Egypt­ian the con­cept of Heav­en, also called the Duat or Tuat, changed through­out its his­to­ry. They saw the earth as a reflec­tion of what was in the heav­ens. The celes­tial Nile exist­ed above the flow­ing Nile below. It was the zone of twi­light or the noc­tur­nal sky, Nu, Nut or Nuit. At first, heav­en rest­ed on two moun­tains, one of sun­rise and one of sun­set, and the sky was divid­ed up into the morn­ing sky and the after­noon sky. Up to the IV Dynasty, the sky was divid­ed into four parts, which relat­ed to the four sons of Horus. They each had four scepters, which held up the sky. These four parts togeth­er com­prised the astral planes where one must be bal­anced in their phys­i­cal, psy­cho­log­i­cal, men­tal and emo­tion­al states in order to enter. It was also the land of light. Lat­er, the Duat had more divi­sions, each with a head God. To enjoy the pow­er to enter into cer­tain cities in heav­en, one had to know the var­i­ous souls wor­shiped in each of them.

In the Papyrus of Nu, it speaks about the sev­en arrat cir­cles or divi­sions, each of which has a door that one must pass through. Each was guard­ed by three enti­ties; a door­keep­er, a watch­er and a her­ald. One must know the names of all three, in each of the sev­en arrats, before being able to pass through.

The Cosmogonies or Creation Myths

There were four prin­ci­ple cos­mogo­nies: Heliopoli­ton, Mem­phite, Hermapoli­tan and Theben. In the city of Heliopo­lis, the Great God Atum rose from the cos­mic waters of Nun and cre­at­ed a place to stand. This “com­plet­ed one” was iden­ti­fied in the Pyra­mid texts as ‘One with Ra.’  The God Ra-Atum was sym­bol­ized by the Ben­nu bird or the Phoenix. He was also sym­bol­ized by the scarab bee­tle, push­ing his egg out in front of him, start­ing a new cycle of cre­ation. He unit­ed with his shad­ow and through mas­tur­ba­tion gave birth to his chil­dren Shu and Tefnut. Shu is the God of air and Tefnut the prin­ci­ple of divine order and of mois­ture. They begat Geb the earth, and Nut the sky. Geb and Nut begat Osiris, Isis, Nepthys and Set. Osiris and Isis begat Horus. The priests and priest­esses con­sid­ered them­selves to be the rep­re­sen­ta­tives on earth of Geb and Nut. In Heliopo­lis, the High Priest was called ‘the Great One with Visions of Ra.’

In the city of Mem­phis, the Great God Ptah was the ‘Cre­ator of the World’ and ‘Mas­ter of Des­tiny.’  The Shaba­ka Stone text declares that Ptah was the heart and tongue, mind and intel­li­gence of the Ennead, or the group of Gods, of Heliopo­lis. Thus, Atum act­ed as the agent of Ptah’s will. Lat­er, Horus the son of Isis and Osiris became the heart, and Thoth because he was the god of wis­dom, the tongue. Ptah cre­at­ed an eth­i­cal order by cre­at­ing the Ka or soul of each being. He estab­lished through­out Egypt provinces called nomes and a polit­i­cal order for the found­ed cities. In Mem­phis the High Priest was called the ‘Great Chief of the Artisans.’

In Hermapo­lis there was an Ogdoad, or group of eight gods: Nun and Naunet, Huh and Hauhet, Kuk and Kauket, Amon and Amaunet. These four groups rep­re­sent­ed the four ele­ments. They were hatched out of the mud that formed around the sacred lake or waters called, the Sea of the Two Knives, from which emerged the “Isle of Flames.” There were four myths, which arose con­cern­ing the gods in this cre­ation. One was that the world was a cos­mic egg laid by a celes­tial goose. This egg, laid on this isle, con­tained Ra the cre­ator of the word. Two, that, the egg was laid by an ibis, the bird rep­re­sent­ing the God of wis­dom Thoth. Third, that on the lake a lotus opened to reveal a divine child, who was Ra. Four, that the lotus opened to reveal a scarab bee­tle that trans­formed into a child that cried and each drop con­tained the essence of life for the human form. So, while Gods emerged from Ra’s mouth, men and women came from his eyes.

In Thebes, the supreme and invis­i­ble cre­ator God was Amon. The The­ban doc­trine incor­po­rat­ed in Amon aspects of all the oth­er cre­ator Gods. Thebes claimed to be the city of the primeval mound. Amon embraced whole cos­mogo­nies as aspects or phas­es of his cre­ative activ­i­ty. He was the vital force, which roused Nun, the primeval waters into the cre­ative cycle. In Thebes, the high priest was called the ‘Prophet of Amon.’

There was also a fifth, but small­er cos­mol­o­gy. At Aswan there is an island called, Ele­phan­tine. It was the birth site of Khnum, who cre­at­ed men and women from clay and straw and fash­ioned them on a pot­ter’s wheel along with their Ba, soul. It is said that the fig­ure need­ed Hathor, the god­dess of joy, love and beau­ty, to ani­mate it by touch­ing it with an ankh.

The Five Laws of Truth

There were approx­i­mate­ly five laws of known truths that were extent. One of these beliefs was that the uni­verse con­tained an imma­te­r­i­al and imper­son­al force. The priest­hood worked with col­lect­ing it, hold­ing it, direct­ing it and appeas­ing it. There was also the law of mys­ti­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion. That which is influ­enced in one part of the uni­verse is also affect­ed in anoth­er. They believed in the law of sim­i­lar­i­ty, and that “like evokes like.” Exam­ples from relief and papyri speak of “the name cho­sen at birth influ­enc­ing the indi­vid­u­als des­tiny; of a plant to an organ of the body, that it could heal that organ; that the math­e­mat­i­cal prop­er­ties of num­bers con­ferred on them had cor­re­spond­ing attrib­ut­es; that pour­ing water evoked rain; that knot­ting a thread stops bleed­ing, dis­ease, or the sex­u­al act; that one can, by pun­ning, affect a per­son through his homonym; also that the anniver­sary of a mishap or lucky event that once occurred will have influ­ence on that day again. There was also the law of sol­i­dar­i­ty, which holds that “a body remains for­ev­er linked to any frag­ment detached from it, … even to its shad­ow.” The fifth law was that death was thought of as a “pro­tract­ed sleep.” The dead could return at any time and that offer­ings should always be ready for them.

The Temples

The Dou­ble House of Life was staffed with at least ten to twen­ty-five peo­ple; con­sist­ing of the high cler­gy, the low cler­gy, aux­il­iaries and upon spe­cial occa­sions, floaters or extra peo­ple. The Tem­ple staff con­sist­ed of a man of the roll, or chief reciter; the chief priest; the priest of divine writ­ing who was also in charge of the House of Life, and the Kor­puu priests. These were the main heal­ers, ora­cles, and herbal­ists. With­in the tem­ple, the tem­ple staff always had duties to per­form; ini­ti­a­tions to coor­di­nate and mag­i­cal rit­u­als to be done at every hol­i­day. And the Ancient Egyp­tians cel­e­brat­ed approx­i­mate­ly 172 rit­u­als a year, depend­ing on whether one goes by a cal­en­dar in the late peri­od or it was leap year.

Every day there were ser­vices that had to be car­ried out. It start­ed with build­ing the fire and light­ing the incense. Then of, open­ing the shrine by break­ing the seal on the door to the Holy of Holies. Prais­es and hymns were sung to the god. Food and more incense and offer­ings were giv­en with prayer. Then there was a puri­fy­ing and cleans­ing of the stat­ue and the shrine with natron and Nile waters. The God was final­ly dressed with oint­ments, eye paint and cloth­ing. The offer­ing incense was burned con­tin­u­al­ly through­out the day until the tem­ple was once more sealed at the close of the day.

The tem­ples read­just­ed through­out the dynas­ties to suit the pharaoh and the peo­ples needs. From the 1st through the 3rd Dynasty the tem­ple was noth­ing more than an elon­gat­ed wick­er hut; open in front and in back with an open front court­yard. It was­n’t until the 12th dynasty that the tem­ples were con­struct­ed ful­ly of stone. The mid­dle dynas­ties are still some­what of a mys­tery, but in the lat­er peri­ods, specif­i­cal­ly dur­ing the Roman-Gre­co Peri­od, the tem­ples were large and elab­o­rate, and there was the addi­tion of a room known as the Holy of Holies.

Dur­ing this time the tem­ple was con­nect­ed to a house of learn­ing by a set of columns where the unini­ti­at­ed stu­dents were taught. The sep­a­rate build­ing was called the Dou­ble House of Life. Here the ini­ti­at­ed, the ‘beau­ti­ful stu­dents,’ called nefer­stashi, received the inner tem­ple teach­ings with­in the hypostyle of the House of Life. They were instruct­ed by divine priests in herbs, geog­ra­phy,  his­to­ry, div­ina­tion, weath­er, and were over­seen by a Kor­puu or leader. They were also taught the ways of the gods, but they did not prac­tice the reli­gion or its greater mys­ter­ies until they received their Priest­hood and worked in the tem­ple. The House of Life and the area around the hypostyle was also a gath­er­ing place for the priests, a place where scribes worked, coun­cils met, women came to give birth and the sick were brought for healing.

The Twelve Schools of Magic

There devel­oped twelve dif­fer­ent paths that an ini­ti­ate could fol­low, each hav­ing devel­oped from a tem­ples cen­ter of learn­ing. There were dif­fer­ent Gods or God­dess­es head­ing these paths with spe­cif­ic teach­ings and exercises.

  1. The path of Ra or the Path of the Sun comes from the city of Her­mopo­lis. It was most pop­u­lar from the XVIII to the XXII dynasty. It is of Kab­bal­is­tic struc­ture, with a tree of life, a ten-part pan­theon, a twen­ty-one-step path and a com­plete route through the astral plane.
  2. The Path of the Tarot or The Roy­al Road was cen­tered in Mem­phis and in Alexan­dria. There exists in Egypt a tem­ple whose walls, no one could dis­pute, what can only be of an ancient tarot design. It is writ­ten on ostre­ca and they cor­re­spond with sev­er­al of the major arcana. Orig­i­nal­ly, it was a meditation/nature/animal hus­bandry path and evolved into a med­i­ta­tion and alchem­i­cal path.
  3. The Path of Cre­ation or of Ptah orig­i­nat­ed in Mem­phis. Exo­ter­i­cal­ly it was a path and dis­ci­pline of artists and crafts­men. Eso­ter­i­cal­ly, it was the cen­ter of pre-Pythagore­an mys­ti­cism using form in art, archi­tec­ture, and geo­man­tria in the hiero­glyph­ic lan­guage to express the teachings.
  4. The Path of Osiris or the Path of Res­ur­rec­tion is a path that con­sists of a tri­ad of Osiris the father, Isis the moth­er and Horus the son. The book of study is what today is called the Book of the Dead, or the Papyrus of Anni.
  5. The Path of Amon or the Hid­den Path was pri­mar­i­ly a mys­ti­cal path using med­i­ta­tions and mantras up through the XVIII dynasty. After that, Amon was com­bined with Ra, and the exo­teric side of Ra was attached to Amon, there­by cre­at­ing a large cer­e­mo­ni­al mag­i­cal priesthood.
  6. The Path of Horus or the Path of Mar­tial Arts is where many of the guards and priests were the Shem­su Heru, or war­rior priests of Horus. Fight­ing tech­niques includ­ed stick fight­ing, hand-to-hand com­bat, bow and arrow and the spear.
  7. The Path of Tehuti or the Path of Wis­dom and Phi­los­o­phy was from Her­mopo­lis. The God Thoth, was the God of Intel­li­gence and wis­dom, and he head­ed the pan­theon with Seshat and Ma’at. Many judges and most viziers were priests of Ma’at. The Wis­dom texts are philo­soph­i­cal approach­es to an indi­vid­u­al’s rela­tion­ship with the out­side world as well as the world with­in. It con­tains codes of ethics and con­duct between all strata’s of the culture.
  8. The Path of Cer­e­mo­ni­al mag­ic or the Path of Thoth is actu­al­ly from the same city of Her­mopo­lis. Although the last path is also a path of Thoth, the path of wis­dom and path of mag­ic were sep­a­rate sys­tems that were taught in the same tem­ple. This path was the Setep-Sa, or for the magi­cians that also includ­ed psy­chom­e­try, div­ina­tion, forms of astrol­o­gy and of healing.
  9. The Path of Astrol­o­gy or the Heav­en­ly Path was a path of Hathor, Nut and Horus. These tem­ples are at Edfu and Den­der­ah. Mag­ic was based entire­ly on the move­ments of the heav­en­ly bod­ies. Charts were cast and an accu­rate cal­en­dar sys­tem was drawn approx­i­mate­ly 4,500 years ago. There were astron­o­my texts and astrol­o­gy signs on tem­ples and tombs.
  10. This is the Gold­en Path or the Path of Alche­my. Zois­mos was the Father of mod­ern alche­my. There was also Bolos of Mendes, Maria the Egypt­ian and Her­mes Tris­mag­is­tis and his great Emer­ald tablet, which were all late Egypt­ian alchemists before Paraselseus. It start­ed with the gold­smiths or priests of Ptah.
  11. The path of the Aahti-Ahesheta or the Path of the wise woman is very Wic­can in style and con­tent. It is there­fore a God­dess and nature-wor­ship­ping path. The most com­mon God­dess­es wor­shiped were Isis, Hathor, Nei­th, Bast and Bes.
  12. The Tantric Path was of short dura­tion from the IV to the XIII dynas­ties. Spe­cial move­ments and prac­tic­ing of the Kun­dali­ni with an invo­ca­tion to the couple?s respec­tive deity was enact­ed in the tem­ple of mys­tery called sahadu.

The pre­dom­i­nate traits shared by all stu­dents of mag­ic con­sist­ed of an eleven fold path, hav­ing: strength of char­ac­ter, self-con­trol, self-train­ing, self-respect, readi­ness and bold­ness, activ­i­ty, straight for­ward­ness, dis­cre­tion, quiet­ness, extreme reserve, and right conduct.

The Ritual Aspects

The strongest mag­i­cal act was what the heart desired and the tongue com­mand­ed. Once a word was spo­ken, it took an inevitable course, for the pow­er was in the spo­ken word, the mind being the cre­ative force, which gave the idea real­i­ty. Prop­er names when spo­ken or writ­ten were even more pow­er­ful. Maspero writes his com­ment on nam­ing. “Noth­ing exist­ed that had not received a name, and who­ev­er lost his name lost his per­son­al­i­ty and his inde­pen­dence,” and could be pre­vent­ed from re-incar­nat­ing his soul. To sing a name was “to make it appear,” and to know a hid­den name had the great­est pow­er. The val­ue of pro­nounc­ing the mag­i­cal phras­es, the lita­nies and for­mu­las faith­ful­ly were imper­a­tive. The Egyp­tians often reg­u­lat­ed the admin­is­tra­tion of reme­dies and recita­tion of spells by the laws of mag­ic num­bers; 3, 4, and 7 being predominate.

As far as the rit­u­al itself a com­bi­na­tion of adjuncts were uti­lized. The ges­tures pro­duced the great­est results; for often sim­u­lat­ed actions and real dra­ma were per­formed in order to bring about the desired results. Holy Nile water, spe­cial oils, wine, strong per­fumes, and a great amount of incense were used. Amulets and tal­is­mans were worn, car­ried and uti­lized dur­ing the rit­u­als for a vari­ety of rea­sons. They gained their poten­cy from their fash­ion­ing, inscrib­ing of sacred names on them and numbers.

An assort­ment of rit­u­al tools, were used depend­ing upon the nature of the rite. If it was a bur­ial rite, the Osiri­an emblems of the crook and flail were used by the High Priest. The crook served as the tool that cut open the slit at the mouth so that the spir­it of the man could depart. The ankh, sym­bol of new life, is also seen over the body and at the mouth. The ankh is depict­ed as being car­ried by many Gods and God­dess­es and was used in rit­u­al for bless­ing, heal­ing, con­se­crat­ing and as a ground­ing tool. Incense was used almost con­tin­u­ous­ly through­out any rite, espe­cial­ly cleans­ing rites. The offer­ing table was always laden with its offer­ings of oil, hon­ey, flower, fruit and fowl. There were musi­cal instru­ments of var­i­ous pipes and drums, and strings. Sis­tra were played to accom­pa­ny chants and hymns to appease the Gods or they were shak­en loud­ly to wake up the Gods.

Manifestations of Power

There are four dif­fer­ent man­i­fes­ta­tions of pow­er that the Egyp­tians rec­og­nized and worked with. There is Divine Pow­er. The Gods and God­dess­es, are an expres­sion of the prin­ci­ples and func­tions of divine pow­er man­i­fest­ing in nature. Mer is mag­net­ic pow­er. The Egyp­tians called the pyra­mid a struc­ture with mer pow­er. Sa is an invis­i­ble mys­te­ri­ous flu­id that flows through­out stat­ues of Gods and God­dess­es. A man, who wish­es to acquire this Sa, kneels with his back to the stat­ue and the stat­ues hand must touch the upper spine to trans­fer this ener­gy. It is only tem­po­rary and fre­quent renew­al is need­ed. Sa pow­er is pulled from the pond of Sa, which is locat­ed in the north­ern heav­ens. It pre­serves vig­or and age. It is said that if enough were held long enough the flesh would turn to gold, the bones to sil­ver and the hair to lapis lazuli. This is the high­est pow­er attain­able. Sekem is the forth pow­er. It is the “vital force,” the “rul­ing pow­er,” the “essen­tial pow­er for cre­ation.” It is the pow­er that ani­mates the sahu, or spir­i­tu­al body. It is the pow­er for forms and names, and lives in the astral heav­en. It is the eas­i­est to work with and is often called mana.

Trans­la­tions from the XII & XIII dynas­ties con­cern­ing celes­tial God pow­ers and their domin­ions, brings us a very diver­si­fied descrip­tion. The souls of the west came to be ruled by Temu. The lord of the Mount of sun­rise was Sobek. The Lady of the evening was Hathor. The souls of the East were ruled by Heru Khuti. The calf of the God­dess or morn­ing star was Khera. The souls of the city of Pe were ruled by Horus, Mestha and Hapi. The souls of the Nekhen dis­trict were ruled by Horus, Tua­mutef, and Qebh-sen­nuf. The souls of Heliopo­lis were ruled by Ra, Shu, Tefnut, and the souls of Her­mopo­lis came to be ruled by Thoth, Sa, and Tem.

The celes­tial Gods and God­dess­es have their duties too. They must orga­nize and sep­a­rate the “One who makes Him­self into mil­lions.” Some are assigned to direct the affairs of the world. Oth­ers must oper­ate the heav­ens and direct all things astro­nom­i­cal. In the Land of the Light, when an ini­ti­ate arrives, he is formed into light and he eats on light. His food is sup­plied by the eye of Horus. The ini­ti­ates exis­tence is sup­port­ed by the rays that fall from the ulti­mate God, and any­one who enters becomes a part of the light. They all arrive from the celes­tial lake of Sekhet-het­ep. The celes­tial foods eat­en are all made up of light. They form the light of wheat, red bar­ley, heav­en­ly figs, wine, and of the bread of eter­ni­ty, which is shed from an olive tree. With these he is sus­tained until he is called again to the earth plane.

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