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Egyptian Book of the Dead

The burial chambers of the early pyramids had bare walls but by the end of the Fifth Dynasty some were covered with hieroglyphic inscriptions. They are the earliest written spells we have - magic for the dead.

They are not at all easy to understand. There are over 750 individual spells in all. Basically they are short statements or collections of statements probably intended to be read aloud or chanted at the royal funeral ceremonies. In essence, they are designed to urge the soul of the dead pharaoh to go to its eternal resting place.

Eye of Horus
Picture: Eye Of Horus Pendant

They express fully developed ideas and it is likely that the spells existed in oral tradition for a least a millennium before they were written down.

The soul of the king was regarded as a conqueror and as such had the right to come into the presence of the gods, and to conqueror them. The spells used by the ancient Egyptian embalmers are collected in the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Here are a few spells. Unlike the practical everyday spells known to the early belief systems of Europe, the whole amount of the Egyptian ones are more or less to do with death and afterlife.

Ancient Egyptian Spells

Spell 21
I split open your mouth for you, I split open your eyes for you. O king, I open your mouth for you with the adze of iron which split open the mouths of the gods.

Spell 214
Your limbs are the two children of Atum, O imperishable one. You shall not perish. And your ka shall not perish, for you are a ka.

Spell 43
Take the two eyes of Horus, the black and I the white; taken them to your face so that they roay light up your face - the lifting up of a white jar and a white jar.


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