Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Sun-god creator in the form of a scarab beetle.

The image of the scarab is almost synonymous with Ancient Egypt. The choice of an insect to convey one of the forms of the sun-god illustrates the keen eye of the Egyptian in observing nature and his imagination in trying to understand the universe. Khepri is the sun-god at dawn on the eastern horizon. His iconography is that of the scarab beetle (of which there are numerous varieties in Egypt) pushing the disk of the sun upwards from the Underworld to journey across the sky. In their own local environment the Egyptians would have noticed the scarabs busily rolling balls of dirt across the ground and translated this method of propulsion into an explanation of the sun’s circuit. However, the analogy did not stop there. Observing that out of the ball emerged a scarab, apparently spontaneously, it was logical to see the insect as Khepri – ‘he who is coming into being’, i.e. self-created of his own accord without undergoing the natural cycle of reproduction. The creator sun-god was therefore aptly manifest in the ‘scarabaeus sacer’ or dung beetle.

Inscriptional evidence for Khepri occurs in the pyramids of the Old Kingdom: a wish is expressed for the sun to come into being in its name of Khepri. The priesthood of the sun-god combined his different forms to assert that ATUMKhepri arises on the primeval mound in the mansion of the BENU in Heliopolis. Referring to the myth of the sun-god’s journey through the hours of night, Khepri is said to raise his beauty into the body of NUT the sky-goddess. From noticing the somewhat slimy consistency of the scarab beetle’s dirt-ball, the earth is made from the spittle coming from Khepri.

From about the Middle Kingdom representations of Khepri, as the ovoid scarab, regularly occur in three-dimensional form carved as the amuletic backing of seals. These scarabs, by implication, connect the wearer with the sun-god. The underside could be incised, not just with the titles and name of an official, but also with good-luck designs, deities and the names of royalty used for their protective power. Kings would use the undersides of large scarabs to commemorate specific events – Amenhotep III (Dynasty XVIII) has left a number of these news bulletins which inter alia give information on his prowess at lion hunting and celebrate the arrival of a Syrian princess into his harem. The scarab could form the bezel of a ring or be part of a necklace or bracelet – the tomb of Tutankhamun has provided us with splendid examples of scarabs made of semi-precious stones like lapis lazuli set in gold. One of the young king’s pectorals in particular stresses the dominance of Khepri the sun-god as well as being a masterpiece of the jeweller’s craft: in the centre of the design is a scarab carved from chalcedony combined with the wings and talons of the solar hawk, representing Khepri who, as controller of celestial motion, is shown here pushing the boat of the moon-eye.

Paintings in funerary papyri show Khepri on a boat being lifted up by the god NUN, the primeval watery chaos. In some depictions Khepri coalesces with other conceptions of the sun-god to present the appearance of a ram-headed beetle. On a wall of the interior chamber in the tomb of Petosiris (fourth century BC) at Tuna el-Gebel, Khepri was carved quite naturalistically in low relief, painted lapis lazuli blue, wearing the ‘atef’ crown of OSIRIS. Less frequently Khepri could be shown as an anthropomorphic god to the shoulders with a full scarab beetle for a head. Bizarre as it might seem, the Egyptian artist has left some magnificent depictions of Khepri in this form – e.g. in the tomb of Nefertari (Dynasty XIX) in the Valley of the Queens.

Although relatively few examples are extant in museums or in Egypt, it seems likely that the major temples each possessed a colossal hard-stone statue of Khepri. Raised on a plinth, the scarab symbolised architecturally the concept that the temple was the site where the sun-god first emerged to begin the creation of the cosmos.

Self-Identification with Deity and Voces Magicae in Ancient Egyptian and Greek Magic

By Laurel Holmstrom

Occultists and esotericists , such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn [1], have theorized that ancient Egyptian magic is a primary source for western magic practice and ideas. Since we know that the Hermetica and Neo-platonic theurgy have had a profound influence on later European magical traditions [2], an inquiry into possible relationships between Egyptian and Greek magical ideas would be useful in exploring the veracity of the occultists’ claim. This paper focuses on one set of ancient texts, the Greek Magical Papyri, which offer considerable potential for investigating this relationship.

The PGM (Papryi Graecae Magicae) [3] is the name given to a cache of papryi of magical spells collected by Jean d’Anastaisi in early 1800’s Egypt. Hans Deiter Betz, in his introduction to the newest English translation, speculates that these papyri may have been found in a tomb or temple library and the largest papyri may have been the collection of one man in Thebes.[4 ]However, the exact provenance for the PGM is unknown. Betz states that through literary sources it is known that quite a number of magical books of spells were collected in ancient times, most of which were destroyed.[5] Thus, the PGM are a very important source for first-hand information about magical practices in the ancient Mediterranean.

The PGM spells run the gamut of magical practices from initiatory rites for immortality to love spells and healing rites. Most of the papyri are in Greek and Demotic with glosses in Old Coptic and are dated between the 2nd century BC and the 5th century AD. The spells call upon Greek, Egyptian, Jewish, Gnostic and Christian deities.  Two of the most intriguing aspects of these texts are the practice of self-identification with deity and the use of voces magicae in performing magical rituals. In many of the spells, the practitioner is told to use “I am” with a specific deity name to empower or work the spell. PGM I 247-62, a spell for invisibility, states ‘I am Anubis, I am Osirphre, I am OSOT SORONOUIIER, I am Osiris whom Seth destroyed. .”[6] The use of specific magical language in these texts, the voces magicae, is abundant. Most of these words are considered “untranslatable” by the scholars working with the papyri [7].  Words of power in the incantations are composed of long strings of vowels, A EE EEE IIII OOOOO, YYYYYY, OOOOOOO, alone or with special names of deities or daimons which are often palindromes and significantly lengthy as in IAEOBAPHRENEMOUNOTHILARIKRIPHIAEYEAIPIRKIRALITHONUOMENE RPHABOEAI. [8] The exact pronunciation of these voces magicae was key to the success of the spells.

Since Egyptian funerary texts clearly identify the deceased with deity and the power of words and language is a predominant feature of Egyptian magic, these notions found in the PGM appeared to provide a possible link between ancient Egyptian and Greek magic.

Throughout the funerary literature of ancient Egypt, from the Pyramid Texts to the Book of the Dead, there is abundant evidence that ancient Egyptians thought that human beings could become deities. Deities were seen as possessing heku, magic, an aspect of the original creative power that formed the cosmos. [9] Thus, magic was perceived to be an intrinsic part of reality and the divine. [10] The Coffin Texts provide a guide book for the deceased to help her or him retain what magic they already possess and to gain more. Naming is extremely important in this experience and it is the ability to name all the gods and objects encountered that proves one has acquired enough magic to sit with the gods. [11] In these texts, the deceased is clearly identified with the god Osiris. By using historaloe the deceased will successfully navigate the journey to the afterlife as did Osiris. The use of historaloe in magical practice was common, particularly in healing rites. [12] By knowing the names of all encountered in the afterlife and establishing a link with a deity that had already been successful in this realm, the deceased was well prepared for the journey.

In the Pyramid texts, the initial Utterances appear to be a script directing the different Egyptian deities to recite specific formulas on the deceased king’s behalf. Utterance 1 begins “recitation by Nut, the greatly beneficent”, utterance 2, “recitation by Geb” and so forth. [13] Evidence that these utterances were spoken during funeral rites are the notes after the recitations which give directions saying, for example, “pour water”(ut 23) and “cold water and 2 pellets of natron”( ut 32). The priests and priestesses are taking the role of the deities in preparing the deceased to join the gods in the afterlife as well as the deceased being identified with Osiris. Self-identification with deity is an “authentically Egyptian trait”. [14]

Language, and particularly naming, carries substantial magical power in Egyptian thought. The goddess Isis, once she learns Ra’s true name, is then able to cure him of snake bite. [15] One of the oldest cosmologies of the Egyptians from Memphis (approx. 2700 BC) describes the god Ptah creating by his mind (heart) and word (tongue) [16]. Thus, words contain a primal substance and the act of speaking mirrors original creation. Speaking creates reality. Writing was given to humans by the god Thoth and the Egyptians called their langauge “words of the gods” and hieroglyphs “writing of the sacred words.” [17]

The Pyramid Texts, Coffin Text and the Book of the Dead all exhibit the Egyptian belief in the power of language to affect the world. Words, spoken or written were not just symbols, but realities in themselves. [18] Hieroglyphs held particular resonance with magical power and most of the funerary texts were written in hieroglyphs. The Egyptians clearly believed that humans have energetic doubles in the world beyond the physical and it seems reasonable to suspect that the hieroglyphs were thought to have a similar existence since they were written on the inside of the pyramid tombs or coffins or on scrolls placed inside the coffins for the deceased to use. Further evidence of the reality of the images themselves comes from the practice of cutting particular hieroglyphs in half to diminish their potential effect. [19]

Vowel chanting is also found in Egyptian religious practice as reported by Demetrius in his Roman treatise, De Eloutione:
“in Egypt the priests, when singing hymns in praise of the gods, employ the 7 vowels which they utter in due succession and the sound of these letters is so euphonious that men listen to it in place of the flute and lyre” [20] The distinction between religion and magic in scholarly discourse breaks down in the context of Egyptian religion and it is reasonable to suspect that vowel chanting could be used for more than hymns of praise by Egyptian priests.

Thus, self-identification with deity and use of a specific kind of magical language found in the PGM places Egyptian magical notions within a Greek magical context. The question then becomes, can evidence be found that Greek magic, prior to the PGM, included these practices and do they appear in later Greek magical material that we know to have influenced the European tradition.

Betz states in the Encyclopedia of Religion that “magic was an essential part of Greco-Roman culture and religion.” [21] In classical Greece, Egypt and Thessaly were considered prime sources of magical knowledge, but by 323 BC magical material in Greece had increased considerably. Betz further states that it was “Hellenistic syncretism that produced the abundance of material available today.” [22] Greek magical practitioners distinguished different types of magic; goeteia - lower magic, mageia - general magic and theourgia - higher magic. Theourgia, appears to be the most likely place to find self-identification with deity and the use of voces magicae Self-identification with deity in magical acts as part of ancient Greek magical practice prior to the PGM is not evident. The Greeks speculated that humans and gods “had the same mother”, but a huge gap existed between them. From ancient times to the latest date of the PGM, Greek notions about the relationship between human existence and divine existence took a variety of forms [23,] but never followed the Egyptian pattern of the possibility of declarative divine identity. The ancient Greeks believed that communion with the gods was possible as in the Eleusian and Dionysian mysteries [24] and Empedocles declared he had the knowledge to make himself immortal. [25] But, the Greek idea of a divine spark within the human soul which can be activated, contemplated and re-united with the gods still assumes an other-ness of deity and validates the fundamental separateness of human existence from the divine.  For the Egyptians, the divine appears to be immanent in the world. The world of humans and gods were not seen as being decidedly different. Human activity continued after death and Gods, embodied as the Pharoah, lived in human society. Magical practice was merely clarifying what already exists. For the Greeks, magic was a conduit for communication and communion with deity or a process whereby the soul could be purified through direct contact with the Divine. Egyptians had only to affirm a state of being through speech to create the sought reality. “Repeated commands or assertions that a desired state of affairs was already in being, are a common feature of Egyptian spells.” [26]

However, there are references to the voces magicae in ancient Greek material aside from the PGM. Early, are the Ephesia grammata, ( ASKION, KATASKION, LIX, TETRAX, DAMNAMENEUS, AISIA ) mystic letters that were supposedly inscribed on the statue of Artemis at Ephesus used verbally and written to avert evil. A lead tablet inscribed with the Ephesia grammata dates to the 4th c BC and they were said to be used spoken as an apotropiac charm while walking in a circle around newlyweds.  [27 ]

Peter Kingsley, writing of Empedocles’ magical worldview, states “there is nothing that is not vibrantly and knowingly alive. For him [Empedocles] - everything - even the words spoken by a man of understanding has an existence, intelligence and consciousness of its own.” [28] This notion appears close to the Egyptian ideas that words are not symbols, but realities.

Orpheus healed human pathos with poems and the lyre, while Pythagoras could chant his disciples to sleep and heal body and soul through musical words. [29] Fox argues that the PGM are carrying forward this “shamantic” tradition of magical musical charms. For the actual author(s) of the PGM, the notion of the magical potency of language could have been very strong indeed coming out of both the Egyptian and Greek magical traditions.

The use of voces magicae continues into later Coptic texts. For a spell invoking a “thundering power to perform every wish” the practitioner should say: “I invoke you. .  .who is addressed with the great secret name HAMOUZETH BETH ATHANABASSETONI .” [30] Vowel incantations are also found in these Coptic texts in figures typical of the PGM: [31]
Voces magicae are also referred to in the Chaldean Oracles which are contemporary with the PGM and they appear to be an intrinsic part of the theurgist’s ritual. What is intriguing, for this study, about the Chaldean Oracles, is the relationship between the voces magicae and the process of immortalization of the soul, which is the goal of theurgy. These texts provide the closest approximation to self-identification with deity in a non-Egyptian context. According to the Chaldeans, the soul, in its descent to the body gathers impure substances. Through theurgistic rites, the soul can re-ascend, encounter the Divine and be purified of these impure substances and attain immortality.  The voces magicae invoke the assistant spirits that will help the soul to ascend without fear of being dragged down into Hades. [32] However, even though immortalization is the goal, self-identification with deity is not declared and only the soul can attain such a state.

The idea that the Egyptian language specifically held magical power is seen in the writings of people of the time. In the Hermetica (CH xvi) there is a passage which states that Greeks will not understand the Hermetica when translated into their language as Greek does not contain the power of Egyptian. [33] The Chaldean Oracles state “do not ever alter the foreign names (of the gods)”. Lewy elaborates further, “It is impossible to translate the magical formula, because its power it not due to its external sense.” [34] Iamblichus, describing the difficulty of translating the Hermetica from Egyptian to Greek says “. . .for the very quality of the sounds and the [intonation] of the Egyptian words contain in itself the force of things said.” [35] Invocation of deities by their secret names is also characteristic of Egyptian magic prior to the PGM according to Pinch, but unfortunately she does not give examples. [36]

Scholars have identified other potential sources beside Egyptian for specific voces magicae. The glossary in the Betz edition of the PGM speculates on a few of the voces magicae.  Jewish and Greek origins are offered as well as Egyptian for the eight names considered. Betz finds a intricate syncretism of Greek, Egyptian and Jewish elements in the texts. [37] To tease out the various strands and definitively locate the origin of specific voces magicae is yet to be done and will be difficult. What we may be seeing in the voces magicae is a general and wide-spread ancient Mediterranean magical practice. It could be that ABRACADABRA is a cousin to the voces magicae in the PGM.

Further questions to be asked regarding the voces magicae are: what were the potential avenues of magical communication between Egypt and Greece in the 4th century BCE where the earliest evidence of specific magical words is found in the Ephesia grammata? Is there evidence of specific voces magicae, other than vowel chanting, in Egyptian magical practice prior to the PGM? If the specific form comes from Greek notions, why are the voces magicae in the PGM glossed into Old Coptic in many spells where the main body of the text is in Greek?

In conclusion, the claim that the roots of European magic can be traced to Egyptian magic appears highly suspect in regard to the notions discussed. Egyptian ideas and practices of self-identification with deity do not seem to be compatible with Greek notions of the relationship between the human and divine worlds. Through the voces magicae there is evidence of a generalized magical tradition in the ancient Mediterranean from which the European tradition may draw, but not specifically from Egypt.

1. Flying Roll no. XVI “The History of the Rosicrucian Order” states “Know then, O
Aspirant, that the Order of the Rose and Cross hath existed from time immemorial and that its mystic rites were practised and its hidden knowledge communicated in the initiations of the various races of Antiquity. Egypt, Eleusis, Samothrace, Persia, Chaldea and India alike cherished these mysteries, and thus handed down to posterity the Secret Wisdom of the Ancient Ages. . .” Flying Rolls were semi-official internal documents of the Order of an instructional and theoretical nature. see King, Frances.  Ritual Magic of the Golden Dawn. Rochester, VT: Destiny Books, 1987 & 1997, p.  105. See also Ramacharaka. The Kybalion: a study of the Hermetic philosophy of ancient Egypt and Greece. Chicago:”The Yogi Publication Society.
2. see "Occultism" in The Encyclopedia of Religion, Mircea Elidae, ed.
3. I am using Betz, Hans Deiter. The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation including the Demotic spells. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986. Papyri Graecae Magicae refers to the original title of the Preisendanz edition.
4. see Betz, Introduction to the PGM, p. xlii.
5. Ibid, p xli.
6. PGM I, 140, 195.
7. Betz, p. xliii.
8. Betz, p. 332
9. Pinch, p. 6.
10. In hieroglyphics, the word for magician uses the symbol for a god as the determinative. Personal communication with Dr. W. Poe, 11/24/97.
11. Brier, p. 125
12. Pinch, p. 23 and Kotansky, Roy. "Incantations and Prayers for Salvation on Inscribed Greek Amulets." in Faraone & Obbink, eds. Magika Hiera.
13. Faulkner, p.1, 4 and 6.
14. Fowden, p. 26.
15. Pinch p. 7.
16. Eliade, p. 89.
17. Personal communication with Dr. W. Poe, 11/24/97.
18. Barb, p. 155
19. Ibid
20. Fowden, p. 118.
21. see "MAGIC: Magic in Greco-Roman Antiquity" in The Encyclopedia of Religion.
22. Ibid.
23. see Corrigan, K. "Body and Soul in Ancient Religious Experience" in Armstrong, A.H. ed. Classical Mediterranean  Spirituality.
24. Willoughby
25. Kingsley, p. 233-38.
26. Pinch, P. 72. For another perspective on this problem, I asked subscribers to ARCANA, a listserv devoted to the scholarly study of the occult if they know of any examples of self-identification with deity in Western magical practice outside of theurgy. Aleister Crowley’s works and the writings of the Golden Dawn were mentioned several times. One writer specifically wrote: “In all their initiatiory rituals, the officers [of the Golden Dawn] took on the forms and powers of various Egyptian gods and directed that force at the initiate” (Benjamin Rowe, Oct 6, 1997 email correspondence, see also He also suggested that John Dee’s Enochian magic included self-identification with deity implicitly in it’s “Angelic Calls”.  The significance of Dee’s use of this particular magical practice is beyond the scope of this paper. However, it is fascinating that the Golden Dawn associated Egyptian magical practice with divine self-identification. Exactly how this association was made is also not our topic, but it apparently did not come through the Greek magical tradition.
27. Kotansky, p. 111.
28. Kingsley, p. 230
29. see Fox, Patricia. "In Praise of Nonsense" in Armstrong, A.H. Classical Mediterranean Spirituality.
30. Meyer & Smith, p. 239.
31. Ibid, p. 234 and PGM I, 15-20.
32. Lewy, p. 227-257.
33. see Fowden, chapter 1.
34. Lewy, p. 240.
35. Fowden, p. 30.
36. Pinch, p. 23.
37. Betz, p. xliii

Works Cited
Armstrong, A.H., ed. Classical Mediterranean Spirituality: Egyptian, Greek and Roman. NY: Crossroads, 1980.
Barb. A.A. "Mystery, Myth and Magic" in Harris, J.R. The Legacy of Egypt, 2nd edition, London: Oxford University Press, 1971.
Betz, H.D. The Greek Magical Papyri in translation including the Demotic spells. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1986.
Brier, Bob. Ancient Egyptian Magic. New York: William Morrow & Co., 1980.
Eliade, Mircea. A History of Religious Ideas. vol. 1, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978.
Eliade, Mircea, ed. The Encyclopedia of Religion. New York: Macmillian, 1987.
Faraone, Christopher and Obbink, Dirk, eds. Magika Hiera: Ancient Greek Magic and Religion. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.
Faulkner, R. O., trans. The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts. London: University of Oxford, 1969.
Fowden, Garth. The Egyptian Hermes: a historical approach to the late pagan mind. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986.
Kingsley, Peter. Ancient Philosophy, Mystery and Magic: Empedocles and Pythagorean Tradition. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995.
Lewy, Hans. Chaldean Oracles and Theurgy: mysticism, magic and platonism in the later Roman empire. Le Caire: Impremerie De L'institut Francais D'Archeologie Orientale, 1956.
Meyer, Marvin and Smith, Richard, eds. Ancient Christian Magic: Coptic texts of ritual power. San Francisco: Harper, 1994.
Pinch, Geraldine. Magic in Ancient Egypt. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1994.
Willoughby, Harold R. Pagan Regeneration: a study of mystery initiations in the Graeco-Roman world. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1929.
Other Works Consulted
Johnston, S.I. Hekate Soteria: a study of Hekate's role in the Chaldean Oracles and related literature. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1990.
Majercik, Ruth. The Chaldean Oracles: text, translation and commentary. Leiden and New York: E.J. Brill, 1989.
Parrott, Douglas, ed. Nag Hammadi Codices 5:2-6 and 6 with papyrus Beronliensis 8502, 1 and 4. Leiden: Brill, 1979.
Shaw, G. Theurgy and the Soul: the neoplatonism of Iamblichus. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995.

The Life of An Egyptian Initiate

In ancient Egypt there were many degrees of Initiation and many Levels of Priesthoods. Some of the priests were born into families of Priests or Priestesses where it was assumed they would follow the path of the family bloodline. Secrets were told within the families about the mystery teachings and the Rites-Passages of Initiation. One could also become a Priest or Priestess after a long course of study, fasting, and ritual.
High Priests were initiated by Ra, himself, in the Great Pyramid when the Sun aligned with the capstone by exact degree.
These Priests would study for many years to achieve this level of spiritual accomplishment. They would forfeit all personal goals and belongings living a life of semi-solitude and worship of the Great Gods and Goddesses of Egypt. For the most part they were men, but there were High Priestesses.
At the time of the Initiation of the High Priests and Priestesses, a stillness would befall the land. Night would become day as the Sun would be seen directly over the capstone of the Great Pyramid of the Sun God Ra.
Once inside the Great Initiation Pyramid the illusions would begin.
The Initiates would enter a secret Chamber in the Pyramid where anything could happen. It was often a test of their endurance. They were to discern what was real and what was illusion. Not everyone passed the tests even after years of study.
Only the very few would witness the appearance of the Sun God, Ra, who would give them the sacred teachings of creation. When their course of study was complete Ra would give them special rods and powers. Next they would then be sent out to Teach, to heal, and to Initiate those who would follow them.
There were times when Ra would be accompanied by a Goddess, Isis or Hathor. It was not unusual to present gifts to the Gods and Goddesses who came to initiate the Priests and Priestesses.
A list was kept of those who passed the tests and became part of the Great White Brotherhood of the Thoth or Isis Mystery Schools.
The High Priests and Priestesses would Initiate others novices who one day hope to expire to greatness working with the Gods.
These novices spend forty days and nights in fasting, prayer and study of the Mysteries.
The fasting consisted of abstaining from all pleasures of the table, to eat no living thing, and to drink no wine.
Part of their study was the memorization of long lines of text given by the priests and magicians of our Inner Mystery School Circle and the reciting of certain magic formulae, declarations, incantations, spells, litanies and some funerary liturgy.
Also the curriculum included certain riddles and mind puzzles of an esoteric nature, bearing a resemblance in form, but not in content, to those commonly used these days as pass times in certain intellectual upper classes. 
At the Midwinter evening ten aspirants gathered by the altar between the paws of Hu [Sphinx's paws] waiting for their entrance into an antechamber located underneath the colossus' belly.
It was a fresh peaceful evening still reflecting on the pyramids the crimson afterglow of the sun Aton, "to Whom all creation worship".
The candidates, talked among themselves about their sacrifices and earnest preparation and fasting prior to the ceremony.
Some stepped at the Thothmes stele at the Sphinx's breast and read some of its lines.
The thrill in anticipation filling their hearts was perceived in their words as they recalled especially the last two weeks of work. As time passed, all quieted and sat absorbed in their own thoughts and expectations.
To some, the answering of the Sphinx's riddle, as a password to get admittance into the temple, seemed a little bit scary. "Could I actually answer it correctly?"
It was known that some students had failed to give the right answer and with embarrassment were asked to return home.
Even if successfully answering the riddle, it was still that fear of the imminent trials, knowing that some past initiates, not using right judgment, did not survive the experience.
They waited patiently between the paws, in silence, that same silence of secrecy of initiation that Hu [the Sphinx] symbolized.
As the initiates waited outside, a mantra was barely heard coming from inside.
The Thothmes stele slowly and mysteriously moved half way sideways as if supported by invisible hinges. An entryway with a cleverly hinged bronze door was revealed at which they saw a torchbearer standing.
He was carrying aloft a torch.
The boy looked about 18 years old and reflected a clear determined countenance.
His voice sounded so confident for a boy of his age. Actually he was a devout student of the Art and dedicated to practice it.
He asked the students this question: "Art thou, dwellers of the outer darkness where ignorance dwelleth, praying admittance into our sacred Temple to seek the Light of Initiation?"
The candidates nodded affirmatively responding: "Yes, we are".
Then he said, "The Path to initiation is treacherous and filled with trials and temptation.
Art thou willing to take it?” They again responded affirmatively.
Next he asked them to make a line and escorted the first in.
The interior passageway was dark as night and musty.
He stepped inside the passageway, closed the door and with a soft voice asked the prospective initiate the following question: "What is that animal which in the morning has four legs, two at noon, and three in the evening?"
 The postulant gazed at the floor as he tried to find an answer to this strange and puzzling riddle he had never heard before.
That description did not seemed to reflect the pattern of any living animal he has ever known.
After some time of thinking, he murmured an answer to the torchbearer who nodded in affirmation and guided the initiate into a small chamber.
Then he returns to bring the next initiate in.
 Seven students were able to answer the riddle: four men and three women. Seven! the number of the perfect man!
After the stone slab was slowly closed at the Sphinx's breast and also the bronze door, they walked down a spiral staircase into a soundless passage that led them to the antechamber where all gathered, murmuring among themselves the answer in excitement: "it was man!".
Underneath the Sphinx is located the Sphinx's Antechamber, annex to a colonnaded Circular Temple. Also, the Sphinx is connected to the Pyramids through subterranean passageways.
The tunnel passage from the Sphinx to the Temple of Aten [Great Pyramid] is commonly taken by the initiates during various ceremonies. Other hallways and rooms exist not to be mentioned here.
The Antechamber was illumined by six torches mounted on holders located five feet above the ground, three torches on the East wall and three on the West.
 The yellowish lights were mellow and flickering.
The initiates, sitting on chairs located against the walls, had just started a short period of meditation when the torchbearer came in and invited the women to follow him to an annex room furnished with four beds and a desk with papyrus scrolls.
The walls were decorated with Holy Scriptures and prayers.
The men were conducted to a separate and similar room.
Both groups were bade to rest and wait.
That night some students had unusual dreams of a prophetic nature anticipating the coming initiation.
The student that referred to me the story, described that... "at about midnight, I saw a floating glowing circle in the middle of the room, the circle slowly turned into a snake with a glittering back and a dark belly that had written a final letter on her tail and a first letter on her head.
Her head was constantly eating her tail without diminishing the size of her body. As I stared at the symbol, big Egyptian hieroglyphs were appearing on top of the symbolic snake stating:
'Every End is the Beginning of a New Cycle'.

The real Count Almasy

By Sandy Mitchell
I could usually produce a cup of tea within 10 minutes in the desert," says Brigadier Rupert Harding Newman, 94, dashing from his drawing room to switch on the kettle. He strides back - tea made in five minutes flat - with a cup on a gleaming salver inscribed with the words "British Military Mission, Egypt, 1939".

He is the only surviving member of the Zerzura Club - a small, legendary group of desert explorers and soldiers formed in North Africa before World War II. Members included men who went on to lead the Special Air Service and set up the Long Range Desert Group, as well as a tall, reserved Hungarian whom they suspected was a Nazi spy.

Count Laszlo Almasy was the most compelling of all in that mysterious time and place; it is his story that inspired Michael Ondaatje's romantic novel, and the subsequent film, The English Patient, which in turn prompted a debate about the true Almasy.

Was he really a German secret agent? Did he betray his best friend in the explorers' club by seducing his new wife? Did he pretend he was English when shot down in flames and captured, his face and body grotesquely charred?

"Almasy?" says Harding Newman, stiffening in his armchair at the mention of the name. "Bloody man," he splutters. He has been prompted to share his memories by the publication of a book, by Dr Saul Kelly, on the desert war, thick with new information drawn from British, German and Italian military intelligence files, and dedicated to "young Rupert". It reveals the count to have been a far more treacherous and exotic figure than fictional accounts have allowed, or the brigadier ever knew.

"At the beginning, what we were doing in the desert had no connection with any military purpose. That came later. It was just fun!"

In 1932, he was a young Royal Tank Corps officer, posted to Egypt. The invitation to join the first British desert expedition as a mechanic and cook offered an escape from routine duties. So he joined the tiny group of army officers, led by Major Ralph Bagnold, as they drove several thousand kilometres into the unexplored sea of sand stretching across southern Egypt and Libya.

The tribes on the desert's fringes could only report that the interior held evil djinns, or spirits, and a tiny scattering of freshwater springs, among them one they could give no help locating - the Wadi Zerzura or "Oasis of the Birds".

There were no maps. No one had flown over the desert. No portable radios were capable of transmitting a signal for help across this vast emptiness. If a man fell sick? "We had aspirin and Dettol," says the brigadier.
Even motorised expeditions could not carry enough water for a complete crossing unless they found oases. Explorers, like Harding Newman, heard the dry crack of bones beneath their truck tyres: bleached skeletons of all the slaves and camels who, for centuries, had perished from thirst. Temperatures hit 76 Celsius.

For all that, Harding Newman found the desert a seductive place. "You could feel the silence on your skin. There were no smells and no flies, which was remarkable in that part of the world." But the Wadi Zerzura oasis eluded them.

Halfway back to civilisation, they stopped at an outpost used by the British-led Sudanese Defence Force. "We were invited to dinner in the officers' mess. Almasy was there in a corner waiting. I drank a gin and tonic and shook his hand."

Harding Newman and his colleagues were wary. "We knew Almasy's reputation. We were always a band of brothers, either brother officers or friends. He had no friends, and was also reckless by our standards. It was our absolute golden rule never to go out alone in case you broke down. Almasy drove hundreds of miles across the desert by himself. And he never carried a mirror." In the crystalline air, a mirror could be used to flash emergency signals to an aeroplane 80 kilometres away.

When Bagnold and his party finally reached a cafe in a decrepit oasis village, on a whim they founded the Zerzura Club. It had just one rule: members must have taken part in the hunt for the lost oasis. Almasy automatically qualified.

It became an annual tradition for members within reach of London to gather at the Royal Geographical Society, where they would swap tales of their discoveries, and later dine at the Cafe Royal.

At the time of the 1936 dinner, Almasy was still in Egypt, so Bagnold read a paper the count had written for the occasion. The Hungarian - it seemed - had discovered Wadi Zerzura in the very heart of the desert, and thus beaten some of the most determined officers in the British Army to the great prize. They congratulated him.

Within three years, those same gentlemen in dinner jackets had become covert soldiers, and their Cafe Royal gossip about desert routes was suddenly classified as critical military intelligence. Only 1600 kilometres of sand and rock separated Italian-held Libya from the Suez Canal, the jugular of the British Empire. Anyone who could find a way through the dunes, a route from oasis to oasis, could perhaps lead an army across the desert.

Harding Newman was in charge of coordinating behind-the-lines raids by the SAS and the Long Range Desert Group (which had been founded by Bagnold). And Almasy?

"I never heard a thing about him during the war," says the brigadier - hardly surprising, given the clandestine world the count had joined.

The new history of the desert war uncovers the full story. When the Hungarian arrived in North Africa in 1926 he was 31 and penniless, a bitter survivor of World War I in which he had served with the defeated Austro-Hungarian air force.

In North Africa, the count's only asset was a connection with some wealthy Egyptian princelings whom he had met on shooting parties in Hungary. They were keen to enjoy some hunting and adventure in the desert to the south of their country, and turned to the veteran pilot for help. Silent film of Almasy's first venture into the desert shows a giraffe-like man with a slight stoop and a very long nose. He is no screen idol. As he pitches camp wearing baggy shorts he looks about as dangerous as a boy scout who has lost his penknife.

But even then, Almasy was passing his hand-drawn maps to grateful officers of Mussolini's army in Libya. By 1940, he was fully involved with the Abwehr - German military intelligence - and proposed a plan directly to its chief in Berlin to provoke an uprising in British-occupied Egypt, led by a local pasha who was one of his pre-war contacts. The plan came to nothing when the pasha crashed his plane into a palm tree as he headed to Germany for his briefing.

By the summer of 1942, Rommel's Afrika Korps was pushing to within hours of Cairo, and the count seized his chance to impress with his boldest plan yet. He would motor with a small convoy 3370 kilometres across the great desert from Libya, entirely through enemy territory, using his own sketch maps. When he reached the Nile he would drop off two agents, then head back the same way. He achieved this stupendous feat of endurance, and Rommel personally promoted him to the rank of major.

Almasy survived the desert campaigns and continued to work for the Abwehr in Turkey, until he sensed he was again on the losing side of a world war. This time he fed his secrets to the British. Even so, when the war ended, he was sent by the Allies to Hungary and imprisoned in a Russian camp. He escaped with the help of friends in the Egyptian royal family, and was bundled into an aeroplane bound for Cairo.

In real life, the "English patient" was never shot down, burnt or captured in the desert.

What of the other escapades attributed to him? In the film, Almasy seduces his friend's young wife (Kristin Scott Thomas). "Such absolute rot. I couldn't watch it," snaps Harding Newman. Apparently, the count's sexual adventures were common gossip in Cairo, and they were not of a kind to threaten anyone's wife. He was homosexual.

And his discovery of the Wadi Zerzura? "It was just a fantasy. There never was an Oasis of the Birds," says the brigadier, and quotes from a book written by Bagnold after the war: "I like to think of Zerzura as an idea for which we have no apt word in English, meaning something waiting to be discovered in some out-of-the-way place. As long as any part of the world remains uninhabited, Zerzura will be there."

Almasy died in 1951, of dysentery in a Salzburg sanatorium. He was 54. His tombstone in the local cemetery was inscribed in Arabic, "The Father of the Sands", a title coined before the war by an old camel-rustler. He was given a less grandiose epitaph by a British member of the Zerzura Club: "A Nazi but a sportsman."
"I suppose whatever one thought of him," says the brigadier, "he was the most extraordinary man."

The Hunt for Zerzura by Saul Kelly is published by John Murray.

Siwa and Zerzura Oasis

Great Sand Sea and the “Lost Oasis” Zerzura: The “Lost Oasis” Zerzura: The “Lost Oasis”
With the “discovery” by motorized explorers of Selima, Merga and the Forty Day Road’s water holes, the number of unlocated oases diminished until only the “Lost Oasis” of Zerzura remained. First mentioned in 1246 as an abandoned village in the desert southwest of the Fayoum, it reappeared as a fabulous city in the fifteenth-century treasure-hunters’ Book of Hidden Pearls: This city is white like a pigeon, and on the door of it is carved a bird. Enter, and there you will find great riches, also the king and queen sleeping in their castle. Do not approach them, but take the treasure. Citing native sources, the first European reference to Zerzura (1835) placed the oasis “five days west of the road from El-Hayiz to Farafra”, or “two or three days due west from Dakhleh”. Murray’s Handbook (1891) reported an “Oasis of the Blacks also called Wady Zerzura” to the west of Farafra, and described it quite matter-of-factly. But Zerzura was still unlocated, and the stories placing it west of Dakhla gained credibility after Europeans “discovered” Kufra Oasis in Libya, which the same tales had mentioned. However, both the Rohlfs and Harding-King expeditions heard accounts of black men who periodically raided Dakhla from an oasis seven or eight days’ journey to the southwest. Having weighed the evidence for various speculative locations in the last chapter of Libyan Sands, Bagnold demarcated three zones. The “northern” one – encompassing the whole Sand Sea, but rating the areas west of Dakhla and Farafra as likeliest – was propounded by de Lancey Forth, citing the story of a town with iron gates, seven days’ camel journey to the south, in the Siwan Manuscript; plus tales of Bedouin chancing upon unknown oases while pursuing missing camels. Unfortunately, similar yarns also pointed towards the far south – that vast wilderness between Dakhla and the Selima and Merga oases in Sudan. Dr Ball and Newbold favoured this area, largely free of dunes and often low enough to approach the subterranean water table; in addition, Newbold thought he glimpsed an oasis during a flight over the desert (one of several by the Hungarian aviator Count Läszlö Almassy). The third, “central” zone extended southwest from Dakhla as far as Jebel Uwaynat. Championed by Harding-King, it rested largely on native accounts of incursions by “strange cows”, Tibbu raiders and a “black giantess”. When Ball discovered a cache of Tibbu water jars 200km southwest of Dakhla in 1917, it supported the stories but argued against an oasis; if a water source existed, why bother to maintain a depot in the middle of nowhere? Accepting Ball’s theory of a consistent water level beneath the Libyan Desert, Bagnold argued that Zerzura could only exist in low-lying areas or deep, wind-eroded hollows. As the desert was surveyed, the possibility of such sites escaping notice diminished, and Bagnold doubted that an undiscovered oasis existed. Perhaps Zerzura might once have been a water hole or an area favoured with periodic rainfall, but the fabled oasis of palms and ruins must be a figment of wishful thinking: a Bedouin Shangri-la that tantalized foreign explorers.

Great Sand Sea and the “Lost Oasis”
The Great Sand Sea that laps Siwa and floods the Libyan–Egyptian border still has areas beyond the “limits of reliable relief information” on Tactical Pilotage Charts, but its overall configuration is known. From thick “whalebacks” and a mass of transverse dunes near Siwa, it washes south in parallel ridges (oriented north–south, with a slight northwest–southeast incline) as far as the eye can see. Although its general existence was known at the time of Herodotus, the extent to which it stretched southwards wasn’t realized until the Rohlfs expedition of 1874 headed west from Dakhla into the unknown. With seventeen camels bearing water and supplies, they soon met the erg’s outermost ranges: “an ocean” of sand-waves over 100m high, ranked 2–4km apart. Rohlfs estimated that their camels could scale six dunes and advance 20km westwards on the first and second days, but that their endurance would rapidly diminish thereafter, so with no prospect of water or an end to the dunes they were forced to turn north-northwest and follow the dune lanes towards Siwa. Their isolation was intense: If one stayed behind a moment and let the caravan out of one’s sight, a loneliness could be felt in the boundless expanse such as brought fear even in the stoutest heart … Nothing but sand and sky! At sea the surface of the water is moved, unless there is a dead calm. Here in the sand ocean there is nothing to remind one of the great common life of the earth but the stiffened ripples of the last storm; all else is dead. By the eighteenth day the expedition could no longer water every camel and the animals began dying, yet it wasn’t until the thirty-sixth day that the party reached Siwa. They had trekked 675km, 480 of them across the waterless dunes. The feat wasn’t repeated until 1921–24, when Colonel de Lancey Forth entered the Sand Sea twice by camel from Dakhla and Siwa. Beneath a layer of sand he found campfires, charred ostrich eggs, flint knives and grinders from Neolithic times, when the desert was lush savannah. Meanwhile, Ball and Moore had managed to round the Sand Sea’s southeastern tip (near latitude 24) by car in 1917. However, it was an Egyptian, Hassanein Bey, who circumvented the Sand Sea’s western edge (1923) as part of an extraordinary 3550-kilometre camel journey from Sollum on the Mediterranean to El-Fasher in Sudan’s Darfur Province. He also confirmed the existence of the hitherto legendary massif, Jebel Uwaynat, whose water source encouraged motorized explorers of the 1920s to seek new routes to the southwest. For Prince Kemal al-Din in his fleet of caterpillar-tracked Citroens, and Ralph Bagnold and Co. – who found customized Model-T Fords more effective – the next obstacle was the Gilf Kebir: a vast limestone plateau south of the Sand Sea, which barred the way to remoter Libyan oases.

The lost oasis of Zerzura is a legend that has spurred many on to explore the Western Desert over the years but has always remained elusive. Mentioned by medieval Arab travellers and written about as a site of buried treasure in the Book of Hidden Pearls, Zerzura has excited imaginations over the centuries. Maspero, a famous curator of the Egyptian Museum, was so frustrated by the haphazard damage being done to Egyptian monuments he decided to get the Book of Hidden Pearls officially translated into French, in 1907. He mistakenly believed that by putting a stop to the flow of inaccurate translations, which were causing treasure hunters to wildly speculate as to the actual site of Zerzura, he would put an end to the belief in the myth of Zerzura.

Zerzura was thought to be 5 or 6 days west from Farafra but no-one could find it. Even the generally level-headed were seduced by the prospect of finding the fabled oasis. All the respected explorers of the time had their own theory about the location of Zerzura. Rohlfs was convinced it lay to the west of Dakhla, Almasy thought it was in the Gilf Kebir itself. A Zerzura Club was formed and the Royal Geographical Society even sponsored trips to find the oasis. Only Bagnold remained practical calling Zerzura the wish oasis and writing that the world needed an idea like Zerzura to spur people on to explore remote parts but that eventually it would have to be admitted that Zerzura was just a fantasy.


Heka, god of magic (far left), stands with the goddess Maat behind the throne of Osiris. Funerary papyrus of the priestess Nesitanebetisheru, c. 950 BC.
Magician's wand in the form of a bronze cobra. From a Theban burial, 16th century BC. Such wands may represent the goddess Weret Hekau, 'the great of magic'.

Egypt has long been considered a land of mystery and magic. This has led some commentators, ancient and modern, to brand the Egyptians as an irrational, morbid and superstitious race. Professional Egyptologists prefer to distance themselves from the popular image of Egypt as the source of occult knowledge. They tend to stress the numerous practical achievements of Egyptian civilization and those Egyptian writings that expound a pragmatic and cheerful philosophy of life. This may tip the balance too far. Many of the practices described in this book seem weird, foolish, or even repulsive from the viewpoint of Western rationalism, but if they are ignored our picture of Egyptian society is incomplete.

The evidence for ancient Egyptian magic spans about four and a half thousand years. Amulets go back as far as the early fourth millennium BC; while magical texts occur from the late third millennium BC until the fifth century AD. Written spells are the main source material, but objects sometimes provide evidence for types of magic scarcely recorded in the texts. These objects would have been even more useful if all early archaeologists had appreciated the need to record the exact context of their finds. The large number of well-preserved tombs and the sheer quantity of tomb objects on view in museums have ensured that funerary magic has been the subject of much research. Ritual magic performed in temples and everyday magic - the spells and rites enacted for individuals in life - have been studied far less. These three types of magic were closely related and influences passed back and forth between them. The insights that everyday magic can give into the personal lives of the ancient Egyptians make it of far more than marginal interest.

The Egyptian word usually translated as 'magic' is heka. This was one of the forces used by the creator deity to make the world. In Egyptian myth, the primeval state was chaos. Before creation there was only a dark, watery abyss known as the Nun. In the Nun existed the great serpent or dragon Apep (Apophis) who embodied the destructive forces of chaos. When the first land, the Primeval Mound, rose out of the Nun, the spirit of the creator had a place in which to take shape. The creator made order out of chaos. This divine order was personified by a goddess called Maat. The word maat also meant justice, truth and harmony. Finally, the creator made deities and humans.

These deities included the god Heka, who was depicted in human form, sometimes with the signs that write his name on his head. Heka could be identified with the creator himself, particularly when the latter appeared in child form to symbolize the emergence of new life. Heka is also described as the ba (the soul or manifestation) of the sun god. He was the energy which made creation possible and every act of magic was a continuation of the creative process.

Some Egyptian deities were merely personifications of abstract concepts or natural phenomena and were never the focus of cult worship or private devotion. No major temples were built for Heka, but he did have a priesthood and shrines were dedicated to him in Lower (northern) Egypt. There was also a goddess called Weret Hekau 'Great of Magic'. Originally this was just an epithet, applied to a number of goddesses. As a goddess in her own right, Weret Hekau was usually shown in cobra form. She was one of the goddesses who acted as a foster-mother to the divine kings of ancient Egypt and she was the power immanent in the royal crowns. The snake-shaped wands used by magicians probably represent her.

All deities and lesser supernatural beings, including the forces of chaos, had their own heka. It was considered as much a part of them as their bodies or their names. Egyptian kings automatically had heka. People who were abnormal in some way, such as dwarfs, might also be thought to possess this quality. All the dead were credited with a certain degree of heka. This ancient concept is comparable with the modern Arabic barraka, a force possessed by many types of being and by some places and objects. Anything strange, exotic or ancient can be credited with barraka1 and it was the same with heka.

Another Egyptian word for magical power is akhu. This is sometimes translated as 'enchantments', 'sorcery' or 'spells'. Deities and stars used akhu power, but it was particularly associated with the blessed dead. Like heka, akhu was neither good or bad in itself. Both were powers which could be channelled towards creation or destruction. This book is primarily about the ways in which the Egyptians used these powers.

Some past studies of Egyptian magic have been contemptuous in tone. According to one scholar 'Magic, after all, is only the disreputable basement in the house of religion'. Another scholar peppered his book on Egyptian religion with references to magic as a form of senile imbecility. This judgemental attitude was partly based on the outdated theory that magic and religion must be seen as opposites. Most definitions of magic concentrate on trying to distinguish it from religion. It is paradoxical that, while Egypt is famous as a source of magical knowledge, many of the best known theories about magic do not easily fit the Egyptian evidence.

In his famous book The Golden Bough, Sir James Frazer defined magic as the manipulation of supernatural beings by a human who expects that the correct sequence of words or actions will automatically bring about the desired result. This, Frazer held, was in contrast to religion, in which humans were dependent on the divine will and supplicated deities to grant their requests. He did recognize that the same supernatural beings might be involved in both magic and religion, but he saw magicians and priests as belonging to rival groups.

In Egypt, magic and religion enjoyed a symbiotic relationship. Rituals which would count as magic under Frazer's definition, were more commonly performed by priests than by any other group. Magicians are often said to be distinguishable from priests because they have clients instead of a congregation, and because they are not expected to exercise any moral authority. However, this description would also cover most ancient Egyptian priests, who were paid specialists in ritual rather than moral teachers. The theory that magic is always unorthodox and subversive, part of a religious and political counterculture, does not seem to apply in Egypt where ritual magic was practised on behalf of the state for at least three thousand years.

Some Egyptian priests used magic for private purposes, even when it involved practices that might seem blasphemous from a religious viewpoint. Egyptian spells may plead with and command a deity to carry out the magician's desire. Other spells go as far as threatening the gods with sacrilegious acts and cosmic catastrophe. One such spell was owned by a priest named Hor, who lived in the second century BC, yet he was an exceptionally pious man who dedicated his life to the service of the god Thoth after receiving divine visions. Frazer's categories of manipulation and supplication are distinct, but the same person might approach a deity in both these ways.

Frazer's theory that magic involved a sequence of words and actions which, if performed correctly, would bring an automatic response is still useful, but it could be a general definition of ritual rather than just magic. The daily cult performed in every major temple in ancient Egypt might be considered just such a ritual. The Polish anthropologist, Bronislav Malinowski, suggested that ritual action in general, and magic in particular, were resorted to when a society reached the limits of its technological capability. This sounds very plausible, but the Egyptians did employ magic to deal with health problems that their medical technology was capable of treating. They also used magic against foreign enemies whom they could and did defeat with their military technology. Parallel practical and ritual action aimed at the same problem seem characteristic of Egyptian culture. These two types of action were obviously expected to work in different ways, or perhaps on different planes of existence.

Malinowski argued that magic is usually aimed at solving a specific problem, while religion is, or can be, an end in itself. Another anthropologist, Mischa Titiev, defines religion as 'calendrical' and magic as 'critical'. In other words, religion is concerned with regular rites carried out on behalf of the community, while magic is mainly performed for individuals at times of crisis. The primary concern of the state-run temples of ancient Egypt was to benefit society as a whole, not to cater to the religious needs of the individual. This benefit was achieved by means of the daily ritual and through a calendar of religious festivals. However, the principle of crisis was built into Egyptian theology. Each setting of the sun was a cosmic crisis which required ritual action. These rituals were often very similar to acts of private magic and they were performed by the same type of priest who might work magic for individuals.

It is true that in the private sphere many Egyptian magical practices were associated with standard life-crises, such as the dangers of childbirth, or with sudden disasters, such as an accident or an infectious disease. Magic may be a form of 'crisis management', but it was not only resorted to when a crisis had already happened. A high proportion of Egyptian magic was prophylactic. It aimed to prevent trouble by setting up a magical defence system for an individual, a group or a place.

The wishes of an individual can conflict with the welfare of society as a whole, but examples of 'anti-social' magic are quite rare in the Egyptian record before the period of Roman rule. Many cultures have divided magic into acceptable and unacceptable types. When unacceptable magic is mentioned in Egyptian sources it is usually attributed to foreigners.

In medieval Europe, a distinction was made between Demonic and Natural Magic. The former relied on invoking demons to carry out the magician's commands. Demonic Magic was held to be bad because dealings with such beings inevitably led to the moral corruption of the magician. Natural Magic, on the other hand, simply utilised natural phenomena, such as astral energy, and could therefore be used by Christians. Most ancient Egyptian magic would have to be classed as Demonic, since it invoked all manner of supernatural beings including the fearsome inhabitants of the underworld In Egyptian theology, however, few of these beings were regarded as evil, so communication with them involved no spiritual danger. A type of Natural Magic, partly based on the principle of analogy, was practised in Egypt, but usually in conjunction with Demonic Magic. Either type of magic could be used in a defensive or an aggressive manner, according to the intentions of the magician.

Many of the ideas behind Egyptian magic are difficult to comprehend from the viewpoint of Western rationalism. Feats of engineering such as the Giza pyramids suggest that the Egyptians understood a great deal about the scientific laws of cause and effect, but these laws would not have been regarded as the only ones by which the world worked. A belief in the creative power of words and images was central to Egyptian magic. The magician also strove to discern the true nature of beings and objects and the connections between them. These connections were created by shared properties such as colour, or the sound of a name. Similarities which seem irrelevant to our classification systems were considered significant by the Egyptians. Once a pairing had been established, it was thought possible to transfer qualities from one component to the other, or to produce an effect on the one by actions performed on the other. Heka was the force that turned these connections into a kind of power network.

Magic is sometimes interpreted as primitive science, but science proceeds by experiment to verify a single cause for each effect. Magic tends to multiply causality. A dozen possible causes for a problem may be listed within a single spell, and natural phenomena are credited with complex motives and intentions. Bizarre as this may seem, it had distinct psychological advantages.

The magical approach was primarily concerned with anticipating or diagnosing the ultimate causes of misfortune. The source of a disease, for example, might be traced to the anger of a deity, the magic of a foreign sorcerer, or the malice of a demon or ghost. Magic therefore answered the question which is so often asked when disaster strikes, 'why me?'. The religious answer to such a question might be that the afflicted person had sinned, or that suffering was the general lot of humanity. Magic gave the more comforting answer that there was some accidental but specific cause, conceptualized in an understandable form. Magical texts often make the afflicted party the innocent victim of circumstances. Ritual action might be required to repair the damage, but repentance was unnecessary. Some magical texts went further and laid the blame for human suffering on the gods. Magic then became a legitimate defence for humanity.

The appeal of magic was twofold: it identified the cause of your troubles and it promised hope in even the most desperate situation. Magic was described by Malinowski as ritualized optimism. In the sense that it satisfied the participants, Egyptian magic worked. Protective magic presumably gave people the comfort of believing that they had taken all possible precautions. This may have made tragedies such as the death of a child a little easier to bear.

In a text known as the Instruction for Merikara,, which may have been written as early as 2000 BC, heka is described as a gift from the creator to humanity 'to ward off the blows of fate'. In magical texts at least, even the gods were subject to fate and needed their heka to overcome misfortunes. The next sentence in the Instruction for Merikara names kingship as another gift to humanity. Magic and the institution of kingship helped humanity to order their world and deal with natural and supernatural forces.

In Egypt, magic and religion were part of the same belief system. Much that is usually classified as religion could equally be regarded as magic. Ancient writers refer to the daily ritual performed in Egyptian temples to 'animate' divine statues, as an exalted form of magic. This does not make it morally inferior. Temple magic was believed to be a great work performed for the benefit of all Egyptians. Indeed, one esoteric text claims that the land of Egypt was 'the temple of the whole world'.

Magic, Science, and Religion and Other Essays Illinois, 1948. J. NEUSNER et al. Religion, Science and Magic: In Concert and In Conflict Oxford, 1989. S.J. TAMBIAH Magic, science, religion, and the scope of rationality Cambridge, 1990.