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Ancient Egyptian Sex Spell Invoked a Ghost to Entrap a Man

Ancient Egyptian Sex Spell Invoked a Ghost to Entrap a Man

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Ancient, magical spells of subjugation, love, and sex sounds like the opening lines to an adult fairy tale, but these steamy evildoings are also found on an 1,800-year-old ancient Egyptian “erotic binding spell.” Made by a woman named called Taromeway attempting to attract a man beyond her reach, named Kephalas, the sex spell depicts the Egyptian jackal-headed god Anubis shooting an arrow at a nude Kephalas who is illustrated with an enlarged penis and scrotum.

Since November 1924 the papyrus containing the ancient spell , which has never been translated until now, has been held in the collection of the University of Michigan. Robert Ritner, an Egyptology professor at the University of Chicago and Foy Scalf, the head of research archives at the University’s Oriental Institute have published their new study in the journal Göttinger Miszellen . According to a report on Live Science , it is suspected the papyrus was found at the Fayum area of Egypt, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) southwest of Cairo.

The sex spell includes an image of Anubis shooting an arrow at Kephalas. ( University of Michigan )

A Magic Device to Invoke Not Love, But Lust

The pair of researchers say the spell is written in Demotic, which is an Egyptian script derived from northern forms of hieratic used in the Nile Delta after Late Egyptian and preceding Coptic. The incantation specifically asks a ghost, “the noble spirit of the man of the necropolis,” to give Kephalas “anxiety at midday, evening, and at all time” until he seeks Taromeway in lustful desire. According to Dr. Ritner, his emphasized penis and scrotum are “the male organs she specifically wants to pursue her” and the arrow is a magical device to make Kephalas helplessly lustful for Taromeway.

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In Ancient Egypt a fundamental tenet of astrology was the belief that stars, sections of the sky and zodiacal constellations were governed by a ruling spirit or deity that influenced events on earth at certain times, depending on their positions in relation to the sun and its location in the sky. The erotic binding spell calls upon Kephalas to “traverse the northern constellation Ursa Major until he is wandering after [Taromeway] while there is no other woman on Earth whom he desires, as he madly pursues her.”

Part of the papyrus with the erotic binding spell. ( University of Michigan )

According to Alessandro Berio from the University of Pennsylvania in his 2014 paper ‘ The Celestial River: Identifying the Ancient Egyptian Constellations ,’ the stars comprising Ursa Major were a “major metaphor” in the religious and agricultural lives of both Predynastic and Dynastic Egyptians. Egyptian astronomers referred to the northern circumpolar constellations as “The Indestructibles,” perceived as portals to eternity and the afterlife, and Ursa Major was the circling cosmic bowl of the eternal stars which never set below the horizon.

A Priest and a Ghost Activated the Lust Spell

Ritner and Foy say Egyptian erotic binding spells were more commonly used by men seeking women and it is unclear why Taromeway lusted after Kephalas so badly, or whether she actually won him over, but they think Taromeway likely paid a priest to write the spell on her behalf. Once the magical trap had been composed, the papyrus was probably placed in a tomb where the “ghost” of the deceased was invoked to work the spell, said Ritner.

This new research come three years after Dr. Franco Maltomini of the University of Udine in Italy deciphered two papyri from Egypt dating to around the same time, 1,700 years ago, with one spell invoking the gods to “burn the heart of a woman until she loves the spell caster” and the other forcing a male to do “whatever the caster wants”, according to a 2016 CBS News report.

An Ancient Sex Spell, With No Strings Attached

Gnosticism was an ancient religion that incorporated elements of Christianity and according to a Live Science report, this 2016 deciphered “love spell” invoked several gnostic gods and instructs the spell caster to burn a series of offerings in the bathhouse and to write a spell on its walls. Maltomini translated the magical tome as:

“I adjure you, earth and waters, by the demon who dwells on you and (I adjure) the fortune of this bath so that, as you blaze and burn and flame, so burn her (the woman targeted) whom (the mother of the woman targeted) bore, until she comes to me…”

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After this, the spell names several Gnostic gods and an assembly of magical words says “Holy names, inflame in this way and burn the heart of her…” until she falls in love with the person casting the spell.

A lion-faced deity found on a Gnostic gem in Bernard de Montfaucon's ‘L'antiquité expliquée et représentée en figures.’

Where Taromeway’s sex spell to entrap Kephalas differs greatly from this 2016 translation is that there is no mention of enchanting his heart or dizzying his head with “love,” and her desired outcome is made very clear - to become the target of his “enlarged penis and scrotum”, with not a reference to any subsequent family. This, was a clear cut “business” deal with no strings attached.

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In Egyptian myth, magic (heka) was one of the forces used by the creator to make the world. Through heka, symbolic actions could have practical effects. All deities and people were thought to possess this force in some degree, but there were rules about why and how it could be used.

The most respected users of magic were the lector priests.

Priests were the main practitioners of magic in pharaonic Egypt, where they were seen as guardians of a secret knowledge given by the gods to humanity to 'ward off the blows of fate'. The most respected users of magic were the lector priests, who could read the ancient books of magic kept in temple and palace libraries. In popular stories such men were credited with the power to bring wax animals to life, or roll back the waters of a lake.

Statue of Sekhmet © Real lector priests performed magical rituals to protect their king, and to help the dead to rebirth. By the first millennium BC, their role seems to have been taken over by magicians (hekau). Healing magic was a speciality of the priests who served Sekhmet, the fearsome goddess of plague.

Lower in status were the scorpion-charmers, who used magic to rid an area of poisonous reptiles and insects. Midwives and nurses also included magic among their skills, and wise women might be consulted about which ghost or deity was causing a person trouble.

Amulets were another source of magic power, obtainable from 'protection-makers', who could be male or female. None of these uses of magic was disapproved of - either by the state or the priesthood. Only foreigners were regularly accused of using evil magic. It is not until the Roman period that there is much evidence of individual magicians practising harmful magic for financial reward.

10 Voodoo Dolls Of Love

Like Voodoo witch doctors, the Greeks and the Romans had magical dolls. Theirs, though, weren&rsquot always used to make people suffer. Sometimes, they&rsquod make little of dolls of people as a love spell&mdashalthough if you saw someone making one for you, you might not exactly be flattered.

All you have to do to make a woman fall in love with you, according to ancient Greek magic, is mold a male and female figurine from clay. The male figurine should look like Apollo, and the female one should be on her knees. Oh, and the male figure should be chopping off the female figure&rsquos head. [1]

Next, grab some bronze needles and jab one of them into the likeness of your one true love&rsquos brain while screaming, &ldquoI pierce your brain!&rdquo Then jab them in every other part of her body, saying where you&rsquore stabbing her each time, closing with, &ldquoI pierce your anus!&rdquo

Finally, grab a lead tablet and write a message to Pluto, asking him to do things like &ldquoprevent her eating and drinking&rdquo until she comes to you and to &ldquodrag her by her hair, her guts, by her soul to me.&rdquo Simply tie the tablet to the figures and place them on the grave of someone who was murdered.

Follow these steps, and your true love will come to you and adore you forever. Or she&rsquoll file a restraining order. Definitely one of those two things, anyway.

Egyptian Medical Treatments

The ancient Egyptians experienced the same wide array of disease that people do in the present day, but unlike most people in the modern era, they attributed the experience to supernatural causes. The common cold, for example, was prevalent, but one's symptoms would not have been treated with medicine and bed rest, or not these alone, but with magical spells and incantations. The Ebers Papyrus (dated to c. 1550 BCE), the longest and most complete medical text extant, clearly expresses the Egyptian view of medical treatment: "Magic is effective together with medicine. Medicine is effective together with magic." The magic referred to took the form of spells, incantations, and rituals, which called on higher supernatural powers to cure the patient or treat symptoms.

Heka was the god of magic and also of medicine, but there were a number of deities called upon for different diseases. Serket (Selket) was invoked for the bite of the scorpion. Sekhmet was called upon for a variety of medical problems. Nefertum would be appealed to in administering aroma therapy. Bes and Tawreret protected pregnant women and children. Sobek would intervene in surgeries. One could call upon any god for help, however, and Isis and Hathor were also invoked, as was the demon-god Pazuzu. Even Set, a god associated with chaos and discord, sometimes appears in magic spells because of his protective qualities and great strength. All of these deities, however, no matter how powerful, had to be called by an experienced practitioner and this was the doctor of ancient Egypt part magician, part priest, and part physician.


Injury & Disease

Physical injury was common in a culture which not only engaged in monumental building projects but had to contend with wild animal attacks from lions, hippos, jackals, and others. Injuries were easily recognized and treated in much the same way they would be today: bandages, splints, and casts. Since the Egyptians had no concept of bacteria or the germ theory, however, the cause of the disease was less clear. The gods were thought to mean only the best for the people of the land, and so the cause of a disease like cancer was as mysterious to the ancient Egyptians as the origin of evil and suffering is for religiously-minded people in the present.

The most common reasons for disease were thought to be sin, evil spirits, an angry ghost, or the will of the gods to teach someone an important lesson. Although the embalmers who dissected the bodies at death were aware of the internal organs and their relationship with each other spatially in the body's cavity, they did not share this information with doctors, and doctors did not consult with embalmers the two professions were considered distinctly different with nothing of note to contribute to each other.


Doctors were aware that the heart was a pump and that veins and arteries supplied blood to the body, but they did not know how. They were aware of liver disease but not the function of the liver. The brain was considered a useless organ all thought, feeling, one's character, was believed to come from the heart. A woman's uterus was believed to be a free-floating organ which could affect every other part of the body. Still, although their understanding of physiology was limited, Egyptian physicians seem to have been quite successful in treating their patients and were highly regarded by other cultures.

Medical Texts

The medical texts of ancient Egypt were considered as effective and reliable in their time as any modern day equivalent. They were written by physicians for physicians and presented practical and magical cures and treatments. They were written on papyrus scrolls which were kept in the part of the temple known as the Per-Ankh ('House of Life'), but copies must have been carried by individual doctors who frequently made house calls.

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These texts today are all known by the names of the individuals who discovered, purchased, or donated them to the museums where they are housed. The primary texts are:

The Kahun Gynaecological Papyrus (c. 1800 BCE) deals with conception and pregnancy issues as well as contraception.


The London Medical Papyrus (c. 1782-1570 BCE) offers prescriptions for issues related to the eyes, skin, burns, and pregnancy.

The Edwin Smith Papyrus (c. 1600 BCE) is the oldest work on surgical techniques.

The Ebers Papyrus (c. 1550 BCE) treats cancer, heart disease, diabetes, birth control, and depression.


The Berlin Medical Papyrus (also known as the Brugsch Papyrus, dated to the New Kingdom, c. 1570 - c. 1069 BCE) deals with contraception, fertility, and includes the earliest known pregnancy tests.

The Hearst Medical Papyrus (dated to the New Kingdom) treats urinary tract infections and digestive problems.

The Chester Beatty Medical Papyrus, dated c. 1200 BCE, prescribes treatment for anorectal diseases (problems associated with the anus and rectum) and prescribes cannabis for cancer patients (predating the mention of cannabis in Herodotus, long thought to be the earliest mention of the drug).


The Demotic Magical Papyrus of London and Leiden (c. 3rd century CE) is devoted entirely to magical spells and divination.

Each doctor had his or her own area of specialization and would consult the text corresponding to their field.

Medical Treatment

Doctors began their diagnosis and treatment of a patient by examining the person and coming to one of three conclusions:

1. I can treat this condition.

2. I can contend with this condition.

3. I can do nothing for this condition.

Cancer, for example, had no more a cure then than it does today. Heart disease could be contended with through spells, medicine, and a change in one's diet. Skin and eye problems could be treated through salves, spells, and incantations. Once the doctor had determined whether anything could be done, the next step was to understand the nature of the problem. It was a given that the root cause was some supernatural entity, but the physician had to understand how that entity was attacking the body and why. The patient would be asked a series of questions to determine what they were experiencing as well as what they might have done to deserve the affliction.

One example of this procedure, from the Ebers Papyrus, addresses the problem of a patient who presents with what appears to be a "mortal illness". The physician is instructed to examine the patient carefully, and if the body seems free of disease except for "the surface of the ribs," the doctor should then recite a spell against the disease and prescribe a mixture of bloodstone, red grain, and carob, cooked in oil and taken over the next four mornings with honey. The spell to be recited is not specified in this case but in many others is given.

Medicines were usually mixed with beer, wine, or honey, and each of these had their own medicinal properties. Beer was the most popular drink in ancient Egypt, frequently serving as one's wages, and was considered a gift from the gods for the people's health and enjoyment. Tenenet was the goddess of beer, but the drink was most frequently associated with Hathor (one of whose epithets was 'The Lady of Drunkenness'). Spells invoking Hathor appear in the medical texts, but an especially interesting one calls upon Set.

Although Set originally seems to have been a protective god, throughout most of Egypt's history, he was the arch-villain who murdered his brother Osiris and plunged the land into chaos. He does appear in certain eras, though, as a protector and champion, and his name is even taken by some kings (Seti I, for example) who especially honored him. In one spell, recited to cure an unnamed illness, Set is invoked to lend his power to the medicine prescribed: beer. Egyptologist Alison Roberts notes that "Set's influence in the beer drunk by the sick person is so great that tormenting demons become confused and are borne away, leaving the person restored to health" (98). The spell reads, in part:

There is no restraining Set. Let him carry out his desire to capture a heart in that name 'beer' of his - To confuse a heart, and to capture the heart of an enemy. (Roberts, 98)

Beer was thought to "gladden the heart" in general, but when one was ill, medicines mixed with beer - and combined with spells - were thought particularly effective. Beer and wine were also prescribed for children and nursing mothers. A prescription from the Ebers Papyrus for childhood incontinence calls for the mother to drink a cup of beer mixed with grass seeds and cyperus grass for four days while breastfeeding the child.

The Kahun Gynaecological Papyrus focuses primarily on the uterus as the source of a woman's ailments and frequently prescribes "fumigation of the womb" as a cure. This would be accomplished by directing incense smoke or inserting incense into the woman's vagina. Prescriptions frequently mention "discharges of the womb" as the primary cause for problems, as in this passage:

Examination of a woman aching in her rear, her front, and the calves of her thighs
You should say of it 'it is discharges of the womb'.
You should treat it with a measure of carob fruit, a measure of pellets, 1 hin of cow milk
Boil, cool, mix together, drink on 4 mornings. (Column I.8-12)

A test for fertility suggests placing an onion in a woman's vagina if the scent of the onion was on her breath the next morning, she was considered fertile. Pregnancy tests are also addressed in which vegetation (specifically emmer and barley) is doused with a woman's urine if the plants flourish, she is pregnant. It was also thought one could determine the sex of the child in this same way. If emmer seeds sprouted first, the child would be female if the barley responded first, the child would be male. Contraceptives are also described in the text with one method cited as the insertion of a plug of crocodile dung into the vagina. Spells accompanying these procedures are also given to make them more effective.

The Demotic Magical Papyrus is completely devoted to spells, rituals, and incantations for summoning the gods and spirits for assistance, and some of these are thought to instruct the physician-magician on how to raise the dead. While this may be so, it seems the purpose of those spells was primarily to gain insight into the cause of death by summoning the spirit of the deceased. Spells are given to summon a drowned man or a murdered man, for example. To summon the spirit of the drowned man, the doctor should put a sea-carob stone (an object not yet identified) on the brazier and call out his name, while for the murdered man, one places the dung of an ass and an amulet of Nephthys on the brazier. To disperse spirits, the dung of an ape was placed on the fire.

Not all of the medical texts involved magical spells in the treatments, however. The Edwin Smith Papyrus, for the most part, gives straightforward procedures in treating injuries. Beginning with the head, the text goes down the body giving the type of injury sustained and suggesting how best to deal with the problem. Although eight magic spells appear on the back of the papyrus, the majority of the work is concerned entirely with medical procedures addressing injuries directly without an appeal for supernatural intervention.


The ancient Egyptians were acquainted with the concept that disease could be naturally occurring as early as the beginning of the Old Kingdom (c. 2613-2181 BCE). The architect Imhotep (c. 2667-2600 BCE), best known for his work on the king Djoser's Step Pyramid at Saqqara, had written medical treatises emphasizing this possibility and claiming that disease was not necessarily a punishment from the gods or the work of evil spirits. His ideas were not ignored either as he was highly respected for his work and was later deified as a god of medicine and healing.

Even so, lacking any other probable cause for sickness, the Egyptians continued to believe in supernatural elements influencing one's health. Although the title of swnw (general practitioner) and sau (magical practitioner) appear in inscriptions relating to doctors, magic was important for both. This is not surprising as human beings will always seek out a reason for any given experience. When faced with some seemingly inexplicable phenomenon, one will find a cause for it in that which seems most reasonable to one's belief system.

The earliest myths were told to explain the rising of the sun, the change of seasons, the reason for suffering and these all had a supernatural element to them. The gods were present in every aspect of the ancient Egyptians' lives. When it came to determining the root cause of disease, therefore, they looked to that same source and implemented spells and rituals to call upon their gods for health and well-being with the same confidence people in the present day submit to any treatment prescribed by the modern medical profession.

Understanding the Buzz About Magic Mushrooms

Cultures throughout the world have used plants and fungi with psychedelic properties for millennia to produce altered states of mind. More than just temporarily transforming the lens through which one sees the world, these drugs were considered sacred, because those who took them frequently had mystical or religious experiences.

To this day, many individuals who use psychedelic drugs feel they grant a certain kind of perspicacity, and the number of people who are using psychedelics appears to be growing. Several clinical trials are now examining the effects of these drugs, while some cities and states are considering decriminalizing “magic mushrooms” that contain the psychotropic compound psilocybin.

While under the influence of the drug, users typically experience changes in mood and perception, a sense of oceanic boundlessness, radically altered reasoning and thinking, and auditory and visual hallucinations. Once the acute effects of the drug subside, however, many people feel as though they have a heightened sense of empathy and self-awareness, which is why these drugs have generated much interest from many medical researchers.

While this is not an endorsement by any means—since far more research needs to be conducted before medical science can definitively say these drugs are effective—preliminary clinical trials indicate that these aftereffects may have therapeutic benefits, especially for those who are confronting the limits of their mortality.

Perhaps some of the most promising research into psychedelics examines how these drugs affect those who are in the latter stages of a terminal disease and experiencing existential distress due to their impending death. Several studies have shown that psychedelics such as psilocybin (the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms”) are effective at producing antidepressant and anxiolytic effects by letting these individuals come to terms with their own mortality.

Not only are these findings relatively new, but they are also supported by strong data sets. This is important because many Western physicians and medical researchers would have looked askance at such claims about psilocybin had the evidence not been so strong.

For decades, even the suggestion that psilocybin and other psychedelics possessed therapeutic potential was often seen as an endorsement of not only the drugs themselves but the counterculture of the 1960s. And while many researchers continue to associate the use of psychedelics like psilocybin with this counterculture, the stigmas are beginning to subside as more research is published that strongly indicates that psilocybin does have therapeutic potentials.

Cultural stigmas surrounding the use of drugs like psilocybin are not the only obstacles to research. There are also legal restraints. At this time, psilocybin is still considered a Schedule 1 drug by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which means there are significant regulatory barriers preventing researchers from obtaining and testing the compound.

The good news, however, is that the FDA has designated psilocybin as a breakthrough therapy on two separate occasions, most recently for the treatment of a major depressive disorder. Breakthrough therapy designation, according to the FDA, “is intended to expedite the development and review of drugs for serious or life-threatening conditions.”

How Does Psilocybin Affect the Brain?

Psilocybin is a naturally occurring tryptamine compound found in at least 100 species of mushroom. When consumed orally, which is the typical route of administration, psilocybin is converted into psilocin through hepatic metabolism. Psilocin, not psilocybin, appears to be the pharmacologically active substance responsible for the psychotropic effects of “magic mushrooms.”

Ancient Egyptian Literature

Ancient Egyptian literature comprises a wide array of narrative and poetic forms including inscriptions on tombs, stele, obelisks, and temples myths, stories, and legends religious writings philosophical works autobiographies biographies histories poetry hymns personal essays letters and court records. Although many of these forms are not usually defined as "literature" they are given that designation in Egyptian studies because so many of them, especially from the Middle Kingdom (2040-1782 BCE), are of such high literary merit.

The first examples of Egyptian writing come from the Early Dynastic Period (c. 6000- c. 3150 BCE) in the form of Offering Lists and autobiographies the autobiography was carved on one's tomb along with the Offering List to let the living know what gifts, and in what quantity, the deceased was due regularly in visiting the grave. Since the dead were thought to live on after their bodies had failed, regular offerings at graves were an important consideration the dead still had to eat and drink even if they no longer held a physical form. From the Offering List came the Prayer for Offerings, a standard literary work which would replace the Offering List, and from the autobiographies grew the Pyramid Texts which were accounts of a king's reign and his successful journey to the afterlife both these developments took place during the period of the Old Kingdom (c. 2613-c.2181 BCE).


These texts were written in hieroglyphics ("sacred carvings") a writing system combining phonograms (symbols which represent sound), logograms (symbols representing words), and ideograms (symbols which represent meaning or sense). Hieroglyphic writing was extremely labor intensive and so another script grew up beside it known as hieratic ("sacred writings") which was faster to work with and easier to use. Hieratic was based on hieroglyphic script and relied on the same principles but was less formal and precise. Hieroglyphic script was written with particular care for the aesthetic beauty of the arrangement of the symbols hieratic script was used to relay information quickly and easily. In c. 700 BCE hieratic was replaced by demotic script ("popular writing") which continued in use until the rise of Christianity in Egypt and the adoption of Coptic script c. 4th century CE.

Most of Egyptian literature was written in hieroglyphics or hieratic script hieroglyphics were used on monuments such as tombs, obelisks, stele, and temples while hieratic script was used in writing on papyrus scrolls and ceramic pots. Although hieratic, and later demotic and Coptic, scripts became the common writing system of the educated and literate, hieroglyphics remained in use throughout Egypt's history for monumental structures until it was forgotten during the early Christian period.


Although the definition of "Egyptian Literature" includes many different types of writing, for the present purposes attention will mostly be paid to standard literary works such as stories, legends, myths, and personal essays other kinds or work will be mentioned when they are particularly significant. Egyptian history, and so literature, spans centuries and fills volumes of books a single article cannot hope to treat of the subject fairly in attempting to cover the wide range of written works of the culture.

Literature in the Old Kingdom

The Offering Lists and autobiographies, though not considered "literature", are the first examples of the Egyptian writing system in action. The Offering List was a simple instruction, known to the Egyptians as the hetep-di-nesw ("a boon given by the king"), inscribed on a tomb detailing food, drink, and other offerings appropriate for the person buried there. The autobiography, written after the person's death, was always inscribed in the first person as though the deceased were speaking. Egyptologist Miriam Lichtheim writes:

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The basic aim of the autobiography - the self-portrait in words - was the same as that of the self-portrait in sculpture and relief: to sum up the characteristic features of the individual person in terms of his positive worth and in the face of eternity. (4)

These early obituaries came to be augmented by a type of formulaic writing now known as the Catalogue of Virtues which grew from "the new ability to capture the formless experiences of life in the enduring formulations of the written word" (Lichtheim, 5). The Catalogue of Virtues accentuated the good a person had done in his or her life and how worthy they were of remembrance. Lichtheim notes that the importance of the Virtues was that they "reflected the ethical standards of society" while at the same time making clear that the deceased had adhered to those standards (5). Some of these autobiographies and lists of virtues were brief, inscribed on a false door or around the lintels others, such as the well-known Autobiography of Weni, were inscribed on large monolithic slabs and were quite detailed. The autobiography was written in prose the Catalogue in formulaic poetry. A typical example of this is seen in the Inscription of Nefer-Seshem-Ra Called Sheshi from the 6th Dynasty of the Old Kingdom:

I have come from my town

I have descended from my nome

I have done justice for its lord

I have satisfied him with what he loves.

I spoke truly, I did right

I spoke fairly, I repeated fairly

I seized the right moment

So as to stand well with people.

I judged between two so as to content them

I rescued the weak from the stronger than he

As much as was in my power.

I gave bread to the hungry, clothes to the naked


I brought the boatless to land.

I buried him who had no son,

I made a boat for him who lacked one.

I respected my father, I pleased my mother,

I raised their children.

So says he whose nickname is Sheshi. (Lichtheim, 17)

These autobiographies and virtue lists gave rise to the Pyramid Texts of the 5th and 6th dynasties which were reserved for royalty and told the story of a king's life, his virtues, and his journey to the afterlife they therefore tried to encompass the earthly life of the deceased and his immortal journey on into the land of the gods and, in doing so, recorded early religious beliefs. Creation myths such as the famous story of Atum standing on the primordial mound amidst the swirling waters of chaos, weaving creation from nothing, comes from the Pyramid Texts. These inscriptions also include allusions to the story of Osiris, his murder by his brother Set, his resurrection from the dead by his sister-wife Isis, and her care for their son Horus in the marshes of the Delta.

Following closely on the heels of the Pyramid Texts, a body of literature known as the Instructions in Wisdom appeared. These works offer short maxims on how to live much along the lines of the biblical Book of Proverbs and, in many instances, anticipate the same kinds of advice one finds in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Psalms, and other biblical narratives. The oldest Instruction is that of Prince Hardjedef written sometime in the 5th Dynasty which includes advice such as:


Cleanse yourself before your own eyes

Lest another cleanse you.

When you prosper, found your household,

Take a hearty wife, a son will be born to you.

It is for the son you build a house

When you make a place for yourself. (Lichtheim, 58)

The somewhat later Instruction Addressed to Kagemni advises:

The respectful man prospers,

Praised is the modest one.

The tent is open to the silent,

The seat of the quiet is spacious

Do not chatter.

When you sit with company,

Shun the food you love

Restraint is a brief moment

Gluttony is base and is reproved.

A cup of water quenches the thirst,

A mouthful of herbs strengthens the heart. (Lichtheim, 59-60)

There were a number of such texts, all written according to the model of Mesopotamian Naru Literature, in which the work is ascribed to, or prominently features, a famous figure. The actual Prince Hardjedef did not write his Instruction nor was Kagemni's addressed to the actual Kagemni. As in Naru literature, a well-known person was chosen to give the material more weight and so wider acceptance. Wisdom Literature, the Pyramid Texts, and the autobiographical inscriptions developed significantly during the Old Kingdom and became the foundation for the literature of the Middle Kingdom.

Middle Kingdom Literature

The Middle Kingdom is considered the classical age of Egyptian literature. During this time the script known as Middle Egyptian was created, considered the highest form of hieroglyphics and the one most often seen on monuments and other artifacts in museums in the present day. Egyptologist Rosalie David comments on this period:


The literature of this era reflected the added depth and maturity that the country now gained as a result of the civil wars and upheavals of the First Intermediate Period. New genres of literature were developed including the so-called Pessimistic Literature, which perhaps best exemplifies the self-analysis and doubts that the Egyptians now experienced. (209)

The Pessimistic Literature David mentions is some of the greatest work of the Middle Kingdom in that it not only expresses a depth of understanding of the complexities of life but does so in high prose. Some of the best known works of this genre (generally known as Didactic Literature because it teaches some lesson) are The Dispute Between a Man and his Ba (soul), The Eloquent Peasant, The Satire of the Trades, The Instruction of King Amenemhet I for his Son Senusret I, the Prophecies of Neferti, and the Admonitions of Ipuwer.

The Dispute Between a Man and his Ba is considered the oldest text on suicide in the world. The piece presents a conversation between a narrator and his soul on the difficulties of life and how one is supposed to live in it. In passages reminiscent of Ecclesiastes or the biblical Book of Lamentations, the soul tries to console the man by reminding him of the good things in life, the goodness of the gods, and how he should enjoy life while he can because he will be dead soon enough. Egyptologist W.K. Simpson has translated the text as The Man Who Was Weary of Life and disagrees with the interpretation that it has to do with suicide. Simpson writes:

This Middle Kingdom text, preserved on Papyrus Berlin 3024, has often been interpreted as a debate between a man and his ba on the subject of suicide. I offer here the suggestion that the text is of a somewhat different nature. What is presented in this text is not a debate but a psychological picture of a man depressed by the evil of life to the point of feeling unable to arrive at any acceptance of the innate goodness of existence. His inner self is, as it were, unable to be integrated and at peace. (178)

The depth of the conversation between the man and his soul, the range of life experiences touched on, is also seen in the other works mentioned. In The Eloquent Peasant a poor man who can speak well is robbed by a wealthy landowner and presents his case to the mayor of the town. The mayor is so impressed with his speaking ability that he keeps refusing him justice so he can hear him speak further. Although in the end the peasant receives his due, the piece illustrates the injustice of having to humor and entertain those in positions of authority in order to receive what they should give freely.

The Satire of the Trades is presented as a man advising his son to become a scribe because life is hard and the best life possible is one where a man can sit around all day doing nothing but writing. All the other trades one could practice are presented as endless toil and suffering in a life which is too short and precious to waste on them.

The motif of the father advising his son on the best course in life is used in a number of other works. The Instruction of Amenemhat features the ghost of the assassinated king warning his son not to trust those close to him because people are not always what they seem to be the best course is to keep one's own counsel and be wary of everyone else. Amenemhat's ghost tells the story of how he was murdered by those close to him because he made the mistake of believing the gods would reward him for a virtuous life by surrounding him with those he could trust. In Shakespeare's Hamlet Polonius advises his son, "Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried/ Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel/ But do not dull thy palm with entertainment of each new-hatched, unfledged courage" (I.iii.62-65). Polonius here is telling his son not to waste time on those he barely knows but to trust only those who have proven worthy. Amenemhat I's ghost makes it clear that even this is a foolish course:

Put no trust in a brother,

Acknowledge no one as a friend,

Do not raise up for yourself intimate companions,

For nothing is to be gained from them.

When you lie down at night, let your own heart be watchful over you,

For no man has any to defend him on the day of anguish. (Simpson, 168)

The actual king Amenemhat I (c. 1991-1962 BCE) was the first great king of the 12th Dynasty and was, in fact, assassinated by those close to him. The Instruction bearing his name was written later by an unknown scribe, probably at the request of Senusret I (c. 1971-1926 BCE) to eulogize his father and vilify the conspirators. Amenemhat I is further praised in the work Prophecies of Neferti which foretell the coming of a king (Amenemhat I) who will be a savior to the people, solve all the country's problems, and inaugurate a golden age. The work was written after Amenemhat I's death but presented as though it were an actual prophecy pre-dating his reign.

This motif of the "false prophecy" - a vision recorded after the event it supposedly predicts - is another element found in Mesopotamian Naru literature where the historical "facts" are reinterpreted to suit the purposes of the writer. In the case of the Prophecies of Neferti, the focus of the piece is on how mighty a king Amenemhat I was and so the vision of his reign is placed further back in time to show how he was chosen by the gods to fulfil this destiny and save his country. The piece also follows a common motif of Middle Kingdom literature in contrasting the time of prosperity of Amenemhat I's reign, a "golden age", with a previous one of disunity and chaos.

The Admonitions of Ipuwer touches on this theme of a golden age more completely. Once considered historical reportage, the piece has come to be recognized as literature of the order vs. chaos didactic genre in which a present time of despair and uncertainty is contrasted with an earlier era when all was good and life was easy. The Admonitions of Ipuwer is often cited by those wishing to align biblical narratives with Egyptian history as proof of the Ten Plagues from the Book of Exodus but it is no such thing.

Not only does it not - in any way - correlate to the biblical plagues but it is quite obviously a type of literary piece which many, many cultures have produced throughout history up to the present day. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that everyone, at some point in his or her life, has looked back on the past and compared it favorably to the present. The Admonitions of Ipuwer simply records that experience, though perhaps more eloquently than most, and can in no way be interpreted as an actual historical account.

In addition to these prose pieces, the Middle Kingdom also produced the poetry known as The Lay of the Harper (also known as The Songs of the Harper), which frequently question the existence of an ideal afterlife and the mercy of the gods and, at the same time, created hymns to those gods affirming such an afterlife. The most famous prose narratives in Egyptian history - The Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor and The Story of Sinuhe both come from the Middle Kingdom as well. The Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor holds Egypt up as the best of all possible worlds through the narrative of a man shipwrecked on an island and offered all manner of wealth and happiness he refuses, however, because he knows that all he wants is back in Egypt. Sinuhe's story reflects the same ideal as a man is driven into exile following the assassination of Amenemhat I and longs to return home.

The complexities Egypt had experienced during the First Intermediate Period (2181-2040 BCE) were reflected in the literature which followed in the Middle Period. Contrary to the claim still appearing in history books on Egypt, the First Intermediate Period had not been a time of chaos, darkness, and universal distress it was simply a time when there was no strong central government. This situation resulted in a democritization of art and culture as individual regions developed their own styles which were valued as greatly as royal art had been in the Old Kingdom.

The Middle Kingdom scribes, however, looked back on the time of the First Intermediate Period and saw in it a clear departure from the glory of the Old Kingdom. Works such as The Admonitions of Ipuwer were interpreted by later Egyptologists as accurate accounts of the chaos and disorder of the era preceding the Middle Kingdom but actually, if it were not for the freedom of exploration and expression in the arts the First Intermediate Period encouraged, the later scribes could never have written the works they produced.

The royal autobiographies and Offering Lists of the Old Kingdom, only available to kings and nobles, were made use of in the First Intermediate Period by anyone who could afford to build a tomb, royal and non-royal alike. In this same way, the literature of the Middle Kingdom presented stories which could praise a king like Amenemhat I or present the thoughts and feelings of a common sailor or the nameless narrator in conflict with his soul. The literature of the Middle Kingdom opened wide the range of expression by enlarging upon the subjects one could write about and this would not have been possible without the First Intermediate Period.

Following the age of the 12th Dynasty, in which the majority of the great works were created, the weaker 13th Dynasty ruled Egypt. The Middle Kingdom declined during this dynasty in all aspects, finally to the point of allowing a foreign people to gain power in lower Egypt: The Hyksos and their period of control, just like the First Intermediate Period, would be vilified by later Egyptian scribes who would again write of a time of chaos and darkness. In reality, however, the Hyksos would provide valuable contributions to Egyptian culture even though these were ignored in the later literature of the New Kingdom.

Literature in the New Kingdom

Between the Middle Kingdom and the era known as the New Kingdom falls the time scholars refer to as the Second Intermediate Period (c. 1782-c.1570 BCE). During this era rule in Egypt was divided between the foreign kings of the Hyksos in Lower Egypt at Avaris, Egyptian rule from Thebes in Upper Egypt, and control of the southern reaches of Upper Egypt by the Nubians. Egypt was united, and the Hyksos and Nubians driven beyond the borders, by Ahmose of Thebes (c. 1570-1544 BCE) who inaugurated the New Kingdom. The memory of the Hyksos "invasion" remained fresh in the minds of the Egyptians and was reflected in the political policies and the literature of the period.

The early pharaohs of the New Kingdom dedicated themselves to preventing any kind of incursion like that of the Hyksos and so embarked on a series of military campaigns to expand Egypt's borders this resulted in the Age of Empire for Egypt which was reflected in a broader scope of content in the literature and art. Monumental inscriptions of the gods of Egypt and their enduring support for the pharaoh became a vehicle for expressing the country's superiority over its neighbors, stories and poems reflected a greater knowledge of the world beyond Egypt's borders, and the old theme of order vs. chaos was re-imagined as a divine struggle. These larger themes were emphasized over the pessimistic and complex views of the Middle Kingdom. The Hyksos and the Second Intermediate Period did the same for New Kingdom art and literature that the First Intermediate Period had for the Middle Kingdom it made the works richer and more complex in plot, style, and characterization. Rosalie David writes:

New Kingdom literature, developed in a period when Egypt had founded an empire, displays a more cosmopolitan approach. This is expressed in texts that seek to promote the great state god, Amun-Ra, as a universal creator and in the inscriptions carved on temple walls and elsewhere that relate the king's military victories in Nubia and Syria. (210)

This is true only of the monumental inscriptions and hymns, however. The inscriptions are religious in nature and focus on the gods, usually either on Amun or Osiris and Isis, the gods of the two most popular religious cults of the time. Stories and poems, however, continued to deal for the most part with the conflicts people faced in their lives such as dealing with injustice, an unfaithful spouse, and trying to live one's life fully in the face of death. These same themes had been touched on or fully dealt with during the Middle Kingdom but the New Kingdom texts show an awareness of other cultures, other values, outside of the Egyptian paradigm.

Middle Kingdom literature was now considered "classical" and studied by students learning to be scribes. An interesting aspect of New Kingdom literature is its emphasis on the importance of the scribal tradition. Scribes had always been considered an important aspect of Egyptian daily life and the popularity of The Satire of the Trades makes clear how readers in the Middle Kingdom recognized this. In the New Kingdom, however, in the works extant in the Papyrus Lansing and the Papyrus Chester Beatty IV, a scribe is not simply a respected profession but one who is almost god-like in the ability to express concepts in words, to create something out of nothing, and so become immortal through their work. Lichtheim comments on the Papyrus Chester Beatty IV:

Papyrus Chester Beatty IV is a typical scribal miscellany. The recto contains religious hymns the verso consists of several short pieces relating to the scribal profession. Among these, one piece is of uncommon interest. It is a praise of the writer's profession which goes beyond the usual cliches and propounds the remarkable idea that the only immortality man can achieve is the fame of his name transmitted by his books. Man becomes dust only the written word endures. (New Kingdom, 167)

The concept of the sacred nature of words had a long history in Egypt. The written word was thought to have been given to humanity by the god of wisdom and knowledge, Thoth. Worship of Thoth can be dated to the late Pre-Dynastic Period (c. 6000-c. 3150 BCE) when Egyptians first began to discover writing. During the 2nd Dynasty of the Early Dynastic Period, Thoth received a consort: his sometimes-wife/sometimes-daughter Seshat. Seshat was the goddess of all the different forms of writing, patroness of libraries and librarians, who was aware of what was written on earth and kept a copy of the scribe's work in the celestial library of the gods.

Seshat ("the female scribe"), as part of her responsibilities, also presided over accounting, record-keeping, census-taking, and measurements in the creation of sacred buildings and monuments. She was regularly invoked as part of the ceremony known as "the stretching of the cord" in which the king would measure out the ground on which a temple was built. In this capacity she was known as Mistress of Builders who measured the land and lay the foundation of temples. Egyptologist Richard H. Wilkinson writes, "she appears to have had no temple of her own, but by virtue of her role in the foundation ceremony, she was part of every temple building" (167). Her involvement in a temple complex did not end with its inception, however, as she continued to inhabit a part of the temple known as the House of Life. Rosalie David explains the function of this part of the temple:

The House of Life appears to have been an area of the temple that acted as a library, scriptorium, and higher teaching institution, where the sacred writings were produced and stored and where instruction was given. Medical and magical texts as well as religious books were probably compiled and copied there. Sometimes this institution may have been situated within the temple itself, but elsewhere it was probably located in one of the buildings within the temple precinct. Very little is known of its administration or organization but it is possible that every sizable town had one. They are known to have existed at Tell el-Amarna, Edfu, and Abydos. (203)

The name of the institution reflects the value Egyptians placed on the written word. The House of Life - a school, library, publishing house, distributor, and writer's workshop combined - was presided over by Seshat who made sure to keep copies of all that was produced there in her own celestial library.

During the New Kingdom these works were largely hymns, prayers, instructions in wisdom, praise songs, love poems, and stories. The Egyptian love poem of the New Kingdom is remarkably similar on many levels to the biblical Song of Solomon and the much later compositions of the troubadors of 12th century CE France in their evocation of a beloved who is beyond compare and worthy of all devotion and sacrifice. The same sentiments, and often imagery, used in these New Kingdom love poems are still recognizable in the lyrics of popular music in the present day.

The narrative structure of the prose work of the time, and sometimes even plot elements, will also be recognized in later works. In the story of Truth and Falsehood (also known as The Blinding of Truth by Falsehood), a good and noble prince (Truth) is blinded by his evil brother (Falsehood) who then casts him out of the estate and assumes his role. Truth is befriended by a woman who falls in love with him and they have a son who, when he discovers the noble identity of his father, avenges him and takes back his birthright from the usurper. This plot line has been used, with modifications, in many stories since. The basic plot of any adventure tale is utilized in the story known as The Report of Wenamun which is a story about an official sent on a simple mission to procure wood for a building project. In the course of what was supposed to be a short and easy trip, Wenamun encounters numerous obstacles he needs to overcome to reach his goal and return home.

Two of the best known tales are The Prince Who Was Threatened by Three Fates (also known as The Doomed Prince) and The Two Brothers (also known as The Fate of an Unfaithful Wife). The Doomed Prince has all the elements of later European fairy tales and shares an interesting similarity with the story of the awakening of the Buddha: a son is born to a noble couple and the Seven Hathors (who decree one's fate at birth) arrive to tell the king and queen their son will die by a crocodile, a snake, or a dog. His father, wishing to keep him safe, builds a stone house in the desert and keeps him there away from the world. The prince grows up in the isolation of this perfectly safe environment until, one day, he climbs to the roof of his home and sees the world outside of his artificial environment. He tells his father he must leave to meet his fate, whatever it may be. On his journeys he finds a princess in a high castle with many suitors surrounding the tower trying to accomplish the feat of jumping high enough to catch the window's edge and kiss her. The prince accomplishes this, beating out the others, and then has to endure a trial to win the father's consent. He marries the princess and later meets all three of his fates - the crocodile, snake, and dog - and defeats them all. The end of the manuscript is missing but it is assumed, based on the narrative structure, that the conclusion would be the couple living happily ever after.

The Two Brothers tells the story of the divine siblings Anubis and Bata who lived together with Anubis' wife. The wife falls in love with the younger brother, Bata, and tries to seduce him one day when he returns to the house from the fields. Bata refuses her, promising he will never speak of the incident to his brother, and leaves. When Anubis returns home he finds his wife distraught and she, fearing that Bata will not keep his word, tells her husband that Bata tried to seduce her. Anubis plans to kill Bata but the younger brother is warned by the gods and escapes. Anubis learns the truth about his unfaithful wife - who goes on to cause more problems for them both - and must do penance before the brothers are united and the wife is punished.

From this same period comes the text known as The Contendings of Horus and Set, although the actual story is no doubt older. This tale is a divine version of the Middle Kingdom order vs. chaos motif in which Horus (champion of order) defeats his uncle Set (symbolizing chaos) to avenge his father Osiris and restore the kingdom which Set has usurped. Horus, the prince, must avenge the murder of his father by his uncle and, to do this, must endure a number of trials to prove himself worthy of the throne. This is the basic paradigm of what scholar Joseph Campbell calls "the hero's journey" and can be seen in myths around the world and throughout history. The enduring popularity of George Lucas' Star Wars films is their adherence to the narrative form and symbolism of this type of tale.

The Contendings of Horus and Set, although likely never read by later authors, is a precursor to two of the best-loved and most popular plots in western literature: Hamlet and Cinderella. American author Kurt Vonnegut has pointed out that both of these stories have been re-imagined with great success multiple times. The story of the disenfranchised who wins back what is rightfully theirs, sometimes at great cost, continues to resonate with audiences in the present day just as The Contendings of Horus and Set did for an ancient Egyptian audience.

Probably the best-known piece of literature from New Kingdom texts, however, is The Book of Coming Forth by Day, commonly known as The Egyptian Book of the Dead. Although the concepts and spells in The Egyptian Book of the Dead originated in the Early Dynastic Period and the book took form in the Middle Kingdom, it became extremely popular in the New Kingdom and the best preserved texts we have of the work date to that time. The Egyptian Book of the Dead is a series of "spells" which are instructions for the deceased in the afterlife to help them navigate their way through various hazards and find everlasting peace in paradise. The work is not an "ancient Egyptian Bible", as some have claimed, nor is it a "magical text of spells". As the afterlife was obviously an unknown realm, The Egyptian Book of the Dead was created to provide the soul of the deceased with a kind of map to help guide and protect them in the land of the dead.

The literature of ancient Egypt would be a contender as the basis for later works but for the fact that the texts were lost and the language forgotten for centuries. The best one can argue is that the Hebrew scribes who wrote the biblical narratives may have been acquainted with some versions of these texts and later writers took plots and motifs from there but this is speculation. Different cultures come to similar conclusions, without any apparent contact, many times throughout history as best exemplified by the pyramid form of the Maya, Egyptians, and Chinese. It is possible, however, that Egyptian texts inspired or at least lent certain aspects to biblical narratives which were then borrowed by later writers in their works. It is, of course, equally possible that the story of the hero who triumphs over the forces of darkness and disorder simply resonates on a very deep level with humanity and there need be no original work later writers borrowed from.

Following the New Kingdom came the era known as the Third Intermediate Period (c. 1069-525 BCE) and then the Late Period (525-323 BCE) and the Ptolemaic Dynasty (323-30 BCE) after which Egypt was annexed by Rome. Around the 4th century CE Christianity rose to prominence in Egypt and the Christian Egyptians (known as Copts) developed their own script, a kind of hybrid of demotic Egyptian and Greek, and the old texts of hieroglyphic and hieratic script were forgotten. Inscriptions on monuments and temples, and all the texts in the libraries and Houses of Life, became incomprehensible until the discovery of the Rosetta Stone in 1798 CE and the breakthrough in deciphering hieroglyphics it enabled by Jean-Francois Champollion in 1824 CE. By the time Champollion unlocked the mystery of the ancient text a whole world of literature had been created without the benefit of the ancient Egyptian works and yet the plots of these forgotten stories and poems appear in texts all over the world testament to the primal and powerful nature of these themes to touch upon the most resonant aspects of the human experience.

Religion in Early Egypt

Religion in Early Egypt had a profound and deep influence on the pharoanic magic practices and in fact, both existed side by side in a peaceful coexistence for many thousands of years. In reality, the magical powers exclusively belonged to men of religion and the one who was skilled in the art, science of magic was invincible, and his or her capacity was almost boundless and eternal. The domain of Egyptian witchcraft and occult was divine and surreal a person who was an expert in the field was an immortal both by the deeds and by life.

Men of magic in Ancient Egypt used to utter or recite some important words in a systematic manner and deep intonation to heal sick people, by curing the incurable diseases, spell off the ghost residing in the body and restore the dead soul back into the physical body. They could even converse with the dead souls to provide them power to get rid of their guilt and sins to become saner bodies!

An ancient Egyptian magician or a sorcerer was proficient in many things like:

  • Enabling mortal humans to assume various others forms and their souls into weird animals and creatures
  • Converting non living things and images to become living and making them act as per magician’s wishes
  • To make powers of natures like wind, the rain, storms, hurricanes, rivers, sea, volcanoes, dangerous diseases and ultimate death, to work on behalf of a magician, and to make them wreak havoc and cause considerable trouble to all enemies
  • Uttering the most powerful word of the day “thoth”, to which everyone gave respect including godly things
  • To invoke most powerful gods to help them achieve things those are beyond normal people’s comprehension.

Ancient Egyptian religion was a wonderful mix of amazing gods, holy rituals and a fair amount of pure magic! It was surprising to see that Egyptians never differentiated between religion and magic! It id true as that well-known Egyptian writer, Clement, proudly said, “Egypt was the mother of magicians”! Ancient Egyptians also believed that the extreme power that lay behind magic and occult was heka. Old Egyptians also believed in one God who as eternal and omnipresent was unfathomable to human beings.

Neter was the name given to the unknown divine power and Neter means “god”, “divine”, “supreme”, “great”, “strength” and “renewal”

All old-world Egyptian magicians worked and performed magical rituals by identifying themselves with a particular deity or lesser god. In other words, a magician assumed the god form by attaching himself or herself with the god.Magic used quite a bit of things from the religion like utterances, holy chants and prayers. The polytheism of Egyptian religion meant that Neter himself manifested in those local and lesser deities.

Fact: The great Goddess Isis was solely responsible for the creative force of Neter, while the God Thoth was Neter’s intellectual repository and the God Horus was Neter’s strength!
Did you know? That another name for magician was a theurgist or “god-worker?”

Medical Texts

The medical texts of ancient Egypt were considered as effective and reliable in their time as any modern day equivalent. They were written by physicians for physicians and presented practical and magical cures and treatments. They were written on papyrus scrolls which were kept in the part of the temple known as the Per-Ankh (‘House of Life’), but copies must have been carried by individual doctors who frequently made house calls.

These texts today are all known by the names of the individuals who discovered, purchased, or donated them to the museums where they are housed. The primary texts are:

The Kahun Gynaecological Papyrus (c. 1800 BCE) deals with conception and pregnancy issues as well as contraception.

The London Medical Papyrus (c. 1782-1570 BCE) offers prescriptions for issues related to the eyes, skin, burns, and pregnancy.

The London Medical Papyrus (c. 1629 BCE) is among the oldest medical texts in the world / British Museum, Wikimedia Commons

The Edwin Smith Papyrus (c. 1600 BCE) is the oldest work on surgical techniques.

The Ebers Papyrus (c. 1550 BCE) treats cancer, heart disease, diabetes, birth control, and depression.

The Berlin Medical Papyrus (also known as the Brugsch Papyrus, dated to the New Kingdom, c. 1570 – c. 1069 BCE) deals with contraception, fertility, and includes the earliest known pregnancy tests.

The Hearst Medical Papyrus (dated to the New Kingdom) treats urinary tract infections and digestive problems.

The Chester Beatty Medical Papyrus, dated c. 1200 BCE, prescribes treatment for anorectal diseases (problems associated with the anus and rectum) and prescribes cannabis for cancer patients (predating the mention of cannabis in Herodotus, long thought to be the earliest mention of the drug).

The Demotic Magical Papyrus of London and Leiden (c. 3rd century CE) is devoted entirely to magical spells and divination.

Each doctor had his or her own area of specialization and would consult the text corresponding to their field.

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Elegua is a powerful spirit from African initatory traditions. He is often invoked in Santeria and Voodoo variations because he can provide powerful assistance in many areas of life. He is considered.

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The term derives from Late Latin succuba "paramour" from succubare "to lie beneath" (sub- "under" and cubare "to lie"), [1] used to describe this female supernatural being's implied sexual position relative to the male sleeper's position. The English word succubus dates from the late 14th century. [2] [3]

As depicted in the Jewish mystical work Zohar and the medieval rabbinical text Alphabet of Ben Sira, Lilith was Adam's first wife, who later became a succubus. [4] [ unreliable source ] She left Adam and refused to return to the Garden of Eden after she mated with the archangel Samael. [5] In Zoharistic Kabbalah, there were four succubi who mated with the archangel Samael. There were four original queens of the demons: Lilith, Eisheth, Agrat bat Mahlat, and Naamah. [6] A succubus may take a form of a beautiful young girl but closer inspection may reveal deformities of her body, such as bird-like claws or serpentine tails. [7] Folklore also describes the act of sexually penetrating a succubus as akin to entering a cavern of ice, and there are reports of succubi forcing men to perform cunnilingus on their vulvas, which drip with urine and other fluids. [8] In later folklore, a succubus took the form of a siren.

Throughout history, priests and rabbis, including Hanina Ben Dosa and Abaye, tried to curb the power of succubi over humans. [9] However, not all succubi were malevolent. According to Walter Map in the satire De Nugis Curialium (Trifles of Courtiers), Pope Sylvester II (999–1003) was allegedly involved with a succubus named Meridiana, who helped him achieve his high rank in the Catholic Church. Before his death, he confessed of his sins and died repentant. [10]

According to the Kabbalah and the school of Rashba, the original three queens of the demons, Agrat Bat Mahlat, Naamah, Eisheth Zenunim, and all their cohorts give birth to children, except Lilith. [11] According to other legends, the children of Lilith are called Lilin.

According to the Malleus Maleficarum, or "Witches' Hammer", written by Heinrich Kramer (Institoris) in 1486, succubi collect semen from men they seduce. Incubi, or male demons, then use the semen to impregnate human females, [12] thus explaining how demons could apparently sire children despite the traditional belief that they were incapable of reproduction. Children so begotten—cambions—were supposed to be those that were born deformed, or more susceptible to supernatural influences. [13] While the book does not address why a human female impregnated with the semen of a human male would not produce regular human offspring, an explanation could be that the semen is altered before being transferred to the female host. However in some lore, the child is born deformed because the conception was unnatural. [ citation needed ]

King James in his dissertation titled Dæmonologie refutes the possibility for angelic entities to reproduce and instead offered a suggestion that a devil would carry out two methods of impregnating women: the first, to steal the sperm out of a dead man and deliver it into a woman. If a demon could extract the semen quickly, the substance could not be instantly transported to a female host, causing it to go cold. This explains his view that succubi and incubi were the same demonic entity only to be described differently based on the tormented sexes being conversed with. The second method was the idea that a dead body could be possessed by a devil, causing it to rise and have sexual relations with others. However, there is no mention of a female corpse being possessed to elicit sex from men. [14]

Buddhist canon Edit

A Buddhist scripture regarding prayer to Avalokiteśvara, the Dharani Sutra of Amoghapāśa, promises to those who pray that "you will not be attacked by demons who either suck your energy or make love to you in your dreams." [15]

Arabian culture Edit

In Arabian mythology, the qarînah ( قرينة ) is a spirit similar to the succubus, with origins possibly in ancient Egyptian religion or in the animistic beliefs of pre-Islamic Arabia. [16] A qarînah "sleeps with the person and has relations during sleep as is known by the dreams". [17] They are said to be invisible, but a person with "second sight" can see them, often in the form of a cat, dog, or other household pet. [16] "In Omdurman it is a spirit which possesses. . Only certain people are possessed and such people cannot marry or the qarina will harm them." [18] To date, many African myths claim [ citation needed ] that men who have similar experience with such principality (succubus) in dreams (usually in form of a beautiful woman) find themselves exhausted as soon as they awaken often claiming spiritual attack upon them. Local rituals/divination are often invoked in order to appeal the god for divine protection and intervention.

In the field of medicine, there is some belief that the stories relating to encounters with succubi bear resemblance to the contemporary phenomenon of people reporting alien abductions, [19] which has been ascribed to sleep paralysis and hallucinations from their contemporary culture. Furthermore, the experience of nocturnal emissions or "wet dreams" may explain the sexual aspect of the phenomenon. [20] [21]

Throughout history, succubi have been popular characters in music, literature, film, television, and more.