Magic and Corruption

In the Life of Ancient Egypt


magic in ancient egypt

Ancient Egypt Magic and Corruption


The gods themselves used magic and charms against one another.

The literature of Egypt is full of magicians of wizards who dry up lakes with a word, or cause severed limbs to jump back into place, or raise the dead.

The king had magicians to help or guide him; and he himself was believed to have a magical power to make the rain fall, or the river rise.

Life was full of talismans, spells, divinations; every door had to have a god to frighten away evil spirits or fortuitous strokes of bad luck.

Children born on the twenty-third of the month of Thoth would surely die soon; those born on the twentieth of Choiakh would go blind.

"Each day and month," says Herodotus, "is assigned to some particular god; and according to the day on which each person is born, they determine what will befall him, how he will die, and what kind of person he will be."

In the end the connection between morality and religion tended to be forgotten; the road to eternal bliss led not through a good life, but through magic, ritual, and generosity to the priests.

Let a great Egyptologist express the matter:

    "The dangers of the hereafter were now greatly multiplied, and for every critical situation the priest was able to furnish the dead with an effective charm which would infallibly cure him.

    Besides many charms which enabled the dead to reach the world of the hereafter, there were those which prevented him from losing his mouth, his head, his heart; others which enabled him to remember his name, to breathe, eat, drink, avoid eating his own foulness, to prevent his drinking-water from turning into flame, to turn dark¬ness into light, to ward off all serpents and other hostile monsters, and many others. . . .

    Thus the earliest moral development which we can trace in the ancient East was suddenly arrested, or at least checked, by the detestable devices of a corrupt priesthood eager for gain.

Such was the state of religion in Egypt when Ikhnaton, poet and heretic, came to the throne, and inaugurated the religious revolution that destroyed the Empire of Egypt.


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