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Practical Egyptian Magical Spells

Presented at the 1998 Oriental Institute Annual Dinner

Robert K. Ritner

1) Grace before a Meal from Edfu (excerpts)

The dining table is identifed with the creator Atum, and Pharaoh with his eldest son Shu, created from saliva. Atum produces food-stuffs; the king offers them back on the altar, and ultimately consumes them (temple procedure in miniature, known as reversion of offerings).

To be spoken by His Majesty when partaking of a meal:

O table god, you have spat forth Shu from your mouth ... O table god, may he give to you all that he will have dedicated , since he has become a god who is an emanation, alert, worshipful and powerful. May he dedicate to you every good thing which you will give him, since he has become Heka. May he dedicate to you every good thing, food-offerings in abundance. May he set them before you and may you be content with them, may your spirit be content with them and may your heart be content with them forever....

Retranslated from: A. M. Blackman, "The King of Egypt's Grace before Meat," Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, vol. 31 (1945): 57-73.

2) Protection against Food Poisoning

Copies at Edfu, Esna, and Kom Ombo
Principle of "talion"/retribution; turn curse/poison upon
offending enemy.

O Sakhmet of yesterday, Wadjet of today,
You have come and replenished this table of -Your name here-
Just as you did for your father Re, when you came forth from the cult city
of Pe.
Protect -Your name here- with that papyrus wand of life which is in your
hand, in that name of yours of Wadjet.
Shoot your arrow against all the food of him who shall speak against -Your
name here- by means of any evil matters. Let a slaughter be made of them
like that time when you overpowered the enemies of Re in the primordial age
in that name of yours of Sakhmet.
Your offerings belong to -Your name here-
He is Re from whom you came forth.
So long as he exists, you will exist, and vice versa!

Retranslated from: Blackman, above; and Jean-Claude Goyon, "Une formule solennele de purification des offrandes dans les temples ptolémaïques," Chronique d'Égypte, vol. 45, no. 90 (1970): 267-81.

3) Spell for swallowing a fishbone caught in the throat

The Unique One (= creator) belongs to me as my servant! The Unique One belongs to me! My bread is in town, my portion of meals is in the field - bone get right! A man should say this spell over a cake, to be swallowed by the man in whose throat is the fishbone.

Retranslated from: Alessandro Roccati, Papiro Ieratico n. 54003, Turin: 1970, p. 36 (no. 11, verso, cols. 15-18).

4) Spell for drinking Beer (prophylaxis for Hangover)

Hail to you Lady of Hetepet (Hathor, goddess of drunkenness)! There is no restraining Seth when he has set his heart on conquering a heart in that name of his of "Beer," to confuse a heart, to conquer the heart of an enemy, a fiend, a male ghost, a female ghost, etc. This spell is said during the drinking of beer; to be spat up. Truly effective, (proved) millions of times!

Retranslated from: J. F. Borghouts, The Magical Texts of P. Leiden I 348, Leiden: 1971, p. 27 (no. 24) and pl. 13 (col. 13/3-5).

5) Remedy for Headache (Patient as Horus; theme of reversal)

"My head, my head," said Horus. "The half of my head (= migrane), the half of my head," said Thoth. "Act for me, mother Isis and aunt Nephthys! Give me your head in exchange for my head, the half of my head!" (Isis speaks): "Just as I have seen these people (= human sufferers), so = I have heard these gods (Horus and Thoth) saying to me on behalf of my son Horus: 'Let there be brough to me your head in exchange for my head.' Let threads be brought from the edge of a garment, having been made into seven knots, placed on the left foot of -Your name here- born of -Mother's name here. What is placed below will cure what is above, for I have elevated what the gods seek.

This spell is to be said over seven threads of a garment, made into seven knots, placed on the left foot of a man.

Retranslated from: Borghouts, p. 18 (no. 8) and pls. 3-4 (cols. 3/8-4/3).

6) Spell for Protecting a Book

As for any man, even of any foreign land, whether of Nubia, Cush, or Syria, who shall remove this book, carrying it off from me - their corpse shall not be buried; they shall not receive cool water; their incense shall not be inhaled; no son or daughter shall wait upon them to pour water offerings to them; their name shall not be remembered anywhere on earth; they shall not see the rays of the solar disk. But, as for any servant who shall see this book, when he has caused that my soul and my name be enduring with praises - there shall be done the like for him after death ("mooring") in exchange for what he has done for me.

Retranslated from: R. O. Faulkner, "The Bremner-Rhind Papyrus - II," Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, vol. 23 (1937): 11.

7) "Lost" Oracular Amuletic Papyrus (OIM 25622) for Lady Taibakhori, spoken by the Goddess Nekhbet:

"...I shall keep her healthy in her flesh and her bones. I shall protect her and I shall look after her. I shall be between her and any sickness. I shall grant her life, health, and a great and goodly old age. I shall cause her eyes to see; I shall cause her ears to hear; I shall cause her strength to flourish. I shall open her mouth to eat and I shall open her mouth to drink. I shall cause her to eat in order to live and I shall cause her to drink in order to be healthy. I shall cause her to be completely satisfied with a happy life on earth."

Retranslated from: I. E. S. Edwards, Oracular Amuletic Decrees of the Late New Kingdom, Hieratic Papyri in the British Museum, vol. IV, London: 1960, p. 107; with gratitude to Ray Tindel for his assistance in rediscovering this errant papyrus.

Revised: February 7, 2007

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