Egypt Magic - Magical Figures

Magical Figures

It has been said above that the name or the emblem or the picture of a god or demon could become an amulet with power to protect him that wore it, and that such power lasted as long as the substance of which it was made lasted, if the name, or emblem, or picture was not erased from it. But the Egyptians went a step further than this, and they believed that it was possible to transmit to the figure of any man, or woman, or animal, or living creature, the soul of the being which it represented, and its qualities and attributes. The statue of a god in a temple contained the spirit of the god which it represented, and from time immemorial the people of Egypt believed that every statue and every figure possessed an indwelling spirit. When the Christianized Egyptians made their attacks on the "idols of the heathen" they proved that they possessed this belief, for they always endeavoured to throw down the statues of the gods of the Greeks and Romans, knowing that if they were once shattered the spirits which dwelt in them would have no place wherein to dwell, and would thereby be rendered homeless and powerless. It will be remembered that it is stated in the Apocryphal Gospels that when the Virgin Mary and her Son arrived in Egypt there "was a movement and quaking throughout all the land, and all the idols fell down from their pedestals and were broken in pieces." Then all the priests and nobles went to a certain priest with whom "a devil used to speak from out of the idol," and they asked him the meaning of these things; and when he had explained to them that the footstep of the son of the "secret and hidden god" had fallen upon the land of Egypt, they accepted his counsel and made a figure of this god. The Egyptians acknowledged that the new god was greater than all their gods together, and they were quite prepared to set up a statue of him because they believed that in so doing they would compel at least a portion of the spirit of the "secret and hidden god" to come and dwell in it. In the following pages we shall endeavour to describe the principal uses which the Egyptians made of the figures of gods, and men, and beasts, to which magical powers had been imparted by means of the performance of certain symbolic ceremonies and the recital of certain words of power; and how they could be employed to do both good and evil.

One of the earliest instances of the use of a magical figure is related in the Westcar Papyrus,1 where we read that Prince Khf-R told Khufu (Cheops) a story of an event which had happened in the time of Neb-ka or Neb-kau-Ed, a king of the IIIrd dynasty, who reigned about B.C. 3830. It seems that this king once paid a visit to one of his high officials called ba-aner, whose wife fell violently in love with one of the soldiers in the royal train. This lady sent her tirewoman to him with the gift of a chest of clothes, and apparently she made known to him her mistress's desire, for he returned with her to ba-aner's house. There he saw the wife and made an appointment to meet her in a little house which was situated on her husband's estate, and she gave instructions to one of the stewards of ba-aner to prepare it for the arrival of herself and her lover. When all had been made ready she went to the house and stayed there the whole day drinking and making love with the man until sunset; and when the evening had come he rose up and went down to the river and the tirewoman bathed him in the water thereof. But the steward, who had made ready the house, declared that he must make the matter known unto his master, and on the following morning as soon as it was light, he went to ba-aner and related to him everything which had happened. The official made no answer to his servant's report, but ordered him to bring him certain materials and his box made of ebony and precious metal. Out of the box he took a quantity of wax, which was, no doubt, kept there for purposes similar to that to which a portion of it was now to be put, and made a model of a crocodile seven spans long, and then reciting certain magical words over it, he said, "When the man cometh down to bathe in my waters seize thou him." Then, turning to the steward, he gave the wax crocodile to him and said, "When the man, according to his daily wont, cometh down to wash in the water thou shalt cast the crocodile in after him"; and the steward having taken the wax crocodile from his master went his way.

And again the wife of ba-aner ordered the steward who had charge of the estate to make ready the house which was in the garden, "for," she said, "behold, I am coming to pass some time therein." So the house was made ready and provided with all good things, and she came with the man and passed some time with him there. Now when the evening was come the man went down to the water to wash according to his daily wont, and the steward went down after him and threw into the water the wax crocodile, which straightway turned into a living crocodile seven cubits (i.e., about twelve feet) in length, and seized upon the man and dragged him down in the water.

Meanwhile ba-aner tarried with his king Neb-kau-R for seven days, and the man remained in the depths of the water and had no air to breathe. And on the seventh day ba-aner the kher heb1 went out with the king for a walk, and invited His Majesty to come and see for himself a wonderful thing which had happened to a man in his own days; so the king went with him. When they had come to the water ba-aner adjured the crocodile, saying, "Bring hither the man," and the crocodile came out of the water bringing the man with him. And when the king remarked that the crocodile was a horrid looking monster, ba-aner stooped down and took it up into his hand, when it straightway became a waxen crocodile as it was before. After these things ba-aner related to the king what had happened between his wife and the man whom the crocodile had brought up out of the water, whereupon the king said to the crocodile, "Take that which is thine and begone"; and immediately the crocodile seized the man and sprang into the water with him, and disappeared in its depths. And by the royal command ba-aner's wife was seized, and having been led to the north side of the palace was burnt, and her ashes were cast into the stream. Here then we have already in the IIIrd dynasty the existence of a belief that a wax crocodile, over which certain words had been said, could change itself into a living reptile at pleasure, and that a man could be made by the same means to live at the bottom of a stream for seven days without air. We may also notice that the great priestly official, the kher heb, was so much in the habit of performing such acts of magic that he kept in a room a box of materials and instruments always ready for the purpose; and, apparently, neither himself, nor his king, nor his servant, thought the working of magic inconsistent with his high religious office.

But at the time when ba-aner was working magic by means of wax figures, probably to the harm and injury of his enemies, the priests were making provision for the happiness and well-being of the dead also by means of figures made of various substances. According to one very early belief the dead made their way to a region called Sekhet-Aaru, where they led a life which was not very different from that which they had led upon earth. From the pictures of this place which are painted on coffins of the XIth dynasty, we see that it was surrounded by streams of water, and that it was intersected by canals, and that, in fact, it was very much like an ordinary well-kept estate in the Delta. The beings who lived in this place, however, had the same wants as human beings, that is to say, they needed both food and drink, or bread-cakes and ale. The existence of bread and ale presupposed the existence of wheat and barley, and the production of these presupposed the tilling of the ground and the work of agricultural labourers. But the Egyptian had no wish to continue the labours of ploughing and reaping and preparing the ground for the new crops in the world beyond the grave, therefore he endeavoured to avoid this by getting the work done vicariously. If words of power said over a figure could make it to do evil, similarly words of power said over a figure could make it to do good. At first a formula1 was composed, the recital of which was supposed to relieve the deceased from the necessity of doing any work whatsoever, and when the deceased himself had said, "I lift up the hand of the man who is inactive. I have come from the city of Unnu (Hermopolis). I am the divine Soul which liveth, and I lead with me the hearts of the apes," his existence was thought to be without toil. But, since the inhabitants of Sekhet-Aaru needed food and drink, provision must be made for their production, and the necessary labours of the field must, in some manner, be performed. To meet the difficulty a small stone figure of the deceased was buried with him, but before it was laid in the tomb the priests recited over it the words of power which would cause it to do for the deceased whatever work he might be adjudged to perform in the kingdom of Osiris, Later, these words were inscribed upon the figure in hieroglyphics, and later still the figure was provided with representations of the rope basket, and plough

, and flail

, such as were employed by the Egyptian labourer in carrying field produce, and in ploughing, and in threshing grain. The formula1 or words of power which were inscribed on such figures varied at different periods, but one of the oldest, which was in use in the XVIIIth dynasty, makes the deceased say to the figure, which was called "Shabti":--

"O thou Shabti figure of the scribe Nebseni, if I be called, or if I be adjudged to do any work whatsoever of the labours which are to be done in the underworld by a man in his turn--behold, any obstacles (or opposition) to thee will be done away with there--let the judgment fall upon thee instead of upon me always, in the matter of sowing the fields, of filling the water-courses with water, and of bringing the sands from the east to the west." After these words comes the answer by the figure, "Verily I am" here, and [will do] whatsoever thou biddest me to do." The Egyptians were most anxious to escape the labours of top-dressing2 the land, and of sowing the seed, a work which had to be done by a man standing in water in the sun, and the toilsome task of working the shadf, or instrument for raising water from the Nile and turning it on to the land. In graves not one figure only is found, but several, and it is said that in the tomb of Seti I., king of Egypt about B.C. 1370, no less than seven hundred wooden ushabtiu inscribed with the VIth Chapter of the Book of the Dead, and covered with bitumen, were found. The use of the shabti figure continued unabated down to the Roman period, when boxes full of ill-shaped, uninscribed porcelain figures were buried in the tombs with the dead.

The next instance worth mentioning of the use of magical figures we obtain from the official account of a conspiracy against Rameses III., king of Egypt about B.C. 1200. It seems that a number of high officials, the Overseer of the Treasury included, and certain scribes, conspired together against this king apparently with the view of dethroning him. They took into their counsels a number of the ladies attached to the court (some think they belonged to the harm), and the chief abode of these ladies became the headquarters of the conspirators. One official was charged with "carrying abroad their words to their mothers and sisters who were there to stir up men and to incite malefactors to do wrong to their lord"; another was charged with aiding and abetting the conspiracy by making himself one with the ringleaders; another was charged with being cognizant of the whole matter, and with concealing his knowledge of it; another with "giving ear to the conversation held by the men conspiring with the women of the Per-khent, and not bringing it forward against them," and so on. The conspiracy soon extended from Egypt to Ethiopia, and a military official of high rank in that country was drawn into it by his sister, who urged him to "Incite the men to commit crime, and do thou thyself come to do wrong to thy lord"; now the sister of this official was in the Per-khent, and so she was able to give her brother the latest information of the progress of the disaffection. Not content with endeavouring to dethrone the king by an uprising of both soldiers and civilians, Hui, a certain high official, who was the overseer of the [royal] cattle, bethought him of applying magic to help their evil designs, and with this object in view he went to some one who had access to the king's library, and he obtained from him a book containing formul of a magical nature, and directions for working magic. By means of this book he obtained "divine power," and he became able to cast spells upon folk. Having gained possession of the book he next looked out for some place where he could carry on his magical work without interruption, and at length found one. Here he set to work to make figures of men in wax, and amulets inscribed with words of magical power which would provoke love, and these he succeeded in introducing into the royal palace by means of the official Athirm; and it seems as if those who took them into the palace and those who received them were under the magical influence of Hui. It is probable that the love philtres were intended for the use of the ladies who were involved in the conspiracy, but as to the object of the wax figures there is no doubt, for they were intended to work harm to the king. Meanwhile Hui studied his magical work with great diligence, and he succeeded in finding efficacious means for carrying out all the "horrible things and all the wickednesses which his heart could imagine"; these means he employed in all seriousness, and at length committed great crimes which were the horror of every god and goddess, and the punishment of such crimes was death. In another place Hui is accused of writing books or formul of magical words, the effect of which would be to drive men out of their senses, and to strike terror into them; and of making gods of wax and figures of men of the same substance, which should cause the human beings whom they represented to become paralysed and helpless. But their efforts were in vain, the conspiracy was discovered, and the whole matter was carefully investigated by two small courts of enquiry, the members of which consisted, for the most part, of the king's personal friends; the king's orders to them were that "those who are guilty shall die by their own hands, and tell me nothing whatever about it." The first court, which consisted of six members, sat to investigate the offences of the husbands and relatives of the royal ladies, and those of the ladies themselves, but before their business was done three of them were arrested because it was found that the ladies had gained great influence over them, that they and the ladies had feasted together, and that they had ceased to be, in consequence, impartial judges. They were removed from their trusted positions before the king, and having been examined and their guilt clearly brought home to them, their ears and noses were cut off as a punishment and warning to others not to form friendships with the enemies of the king. The second court, which consisted of five members, investigated the cases of those who were charged with having "stirred up men and incited malefactors to do wrong to their lord," and having found them guilty they sentenced six of them to death, one by one, in the following terms:--"Pentaura, who is also called by another name. He was brought up on account of the offence which he had committed in connexion with his mother Thi when she formed a conspiracy with the women of the Per-khent, and because he had intent to do evil unto his lord. He was brought before the court of judges that he might receive sentence, and they found him guilty, and dismissed him to his own death, where he suffered death by his own hand." The wretched man Hui, who made wax figures and spells with the intent to inflict pain and suffering and death upon the king, was also compelled to commit suicide.1

The above story of the famous conspiracy against Rameses III. is most useful as proving that books of magic existed in the Royal Library, and that they were not mere treatises on magical practices, but definite works with detailed instructions to the reader how to perform the ceremonies which were necessary to make the formul or words of power efficacious. We have now seen that wax figures were used both to do good and to do harm, from the IIIrd to the XXth dynasty, and that the ideas which the Egyptians held concerning them were much the same about B.C. 1200 as they were two thousand five hundred years earlier; we have also seen that the, use of ushabtiu figures, which were intended to set the deceased free from the necessity of labour in the world beyond the grave, was widespread. That such figures were used in the pre-dynastic days when the Egyptians were slowly emerging into civilization from a state of semi-barbarism is not to be wondered at, and it need not surprise us that they existed as a survival in the early dynasties before the people generally had realized that the great powers of Nature, which they deified, could not be ruled by man and by his petty words and deeds, however mysterious and solemn. It is, however, very remarkable to find that the use of wax figures played a prominent part in certain of the daily services which were performed in the temple of the god Amen-R at Thebes, and it is still more remarkable that these services were performed at a time when the Egyptians were renowned among the nations of the civilized world for their learning and wisdom. One company of priests attached to the temple was employed in transcribing hymns and religious compositions in which the unity, power, and might of God were set forth in unmistakable terms, and at the same time another company was engaged in performing a service the object of which was to free the Sun, which was deified under the form of R, and was the type and symbol of God upon earth, from the attacks of a monster called pep!

It will be remembered that the XXXIXth Chapter of the Book of the Dead is a composition which was written with the object of defeating a certain serpent, to which many names are given, and of delivering the deceased from his attacks. In it we have a description of how the monster is vanquished, and the deceased says to him, "R maketh thee to turn back, O thou that art hateful to him; he looketh upon thee, get thee back. He pierceth thy head, he cutteth through thy face, he divideth thy head at the two sides of the ways, and it is crushed in his land; thy bones are smashed in pieces, thy members are hacked from off thee, and the god Aker hath condemned thee, O pep, thou enemy of R. Get thee back, Fiend, before the darts of his beams! R hath overthrown thy words, the gods have turned thy face backwards, the Lynx hath torn open thy breast, the Scorpion hath cast fetters upon thee, and Mat hath sent forth thy destruction. The gods of the south, and of the north, of the west, and of the east, have fastened chains upon him, and they have fettered him with fetters; the god Rekes hath overthrown him, and the god Hertit hath put him in chains."1 The age of this composition is unknown, but it is found, with variants, in many of the copies of the Book of the Dead which were made in the XVIIIth dynasty. Later, however, the ideas in it were developed, the work itself was greatly enlarged, and at the time of the Ptolemies it had become a book called "The Book of Overthrowing pep," which contained twelve chapters. At the same time another work bearing the same title also existed; it was not divided into chapters, but it contained two versions of the history of the Creation, and a list of the evil names of pep, and a hymn to R.2 Among the chapters of the former work was one entitled, "Chapter of putting the fire upon pep," which reads, "Fire be upon thee, pep, thou enemy of R! The Eye of Horus prevails over the accursed soul and shade of pep, and the flame of the Eye of Horus shall gnaw into that enemy of R; and the flame of the Eye of Horus shall consume all the enemies of the Mighty God, life! strength! health! both in death and in life. When pep is given to the flame," says the rubric, "thou shalt gay these words of power:--Taste thou death, O pep, get thee back, retreat, O enemy of R, fall down, be repulsed, get back and retreat! I have driven thee back, and I have cut thee in pieces.

R triumphs over pep. Taste thou death, pep.
R triumphs over pep. Taste thou death, pep.
R triumphs over pep. Taste thou death, pep.
R triumphs over pep. Taste thou death, pep."

These last sentences were said four times, that is to say, once for each of the gods of the cardinal points. The text continues, "Back, Fiend, an end to thee! Therefore have I driven flame at thee, and therefore have I made thee to be destroyed, and therefore have I adjudged thee to evil. An end, an end to thee! Taste thou death! An end to thee! Thou shalt never rise again." Such are the words of power, and these are followed by the directions for performing the ceremony, which read thus:--

"If thou wouldst destroy pep, thou shalt say this chapter over a figure of pep which hath been drawn in green colour upon a sheet of new papyrus, and over a wax figure1 of pep upon which his name hath been cut and inlaid with green colour; and thou shalt lay them upon the fire so that it may consume the enemy of R. And thou shalt put such a figure on the fire at dawn, and another at noon, and another at eventide when R setteth in the land of life, and another at midnight, and another at the eighth hour of the day, and another towards evening; [and if necessary] thou mayest do thus every hour during the day and the night, and on the days of the festivals and every day. By means of this pep, the enemy of R, shall be overthrown in the shower, for R shall shine and pep shall indeed be overthrown." And the papyrus and the figure "having been burnt in a fire made of khesau grass, the remains thereof shall be mixed with excrement and thrown upon a fire; thou shalt do this at the sixth hour of the night, and at dawn on the fifteenth day [of the month]. And when the figure of pep is placed in the fire thou shalt spit upon him several times each hour during the day, until the shadow turneth round. Thou shalt do these things when tempests rage in the east of the sky as R setteth, in order to prevent the coming onward of the storms. Thou shalt do this and so prevent the coming of a shower or a rain-storm, and "thereby shall the sun be made to shine."

In another part of this book the reciter is told to say the following "firmly with the mouth":-- "Down upon thy face, O pep, enemy of R! The flame which cometh forth from the Eye of Horus advanceth against thee. Thou art thrust down into the flame it of fire and it cometh against thee. Its flame is deadly to thy soul, and to thy spirit, and to thy words of power, and to thy body, and to thy shade. The lady of fire prevaileth over thee, the flame pierceth thy soul, it maketh an end of thy person, and it darteth into thy form. The eye of Horus which is powerful against its enemy hath cast thee down, it devoureth thee, the great fire trieth thee, the Eye of R prevaileth over thee, the flame devoureth thee, and what escapeth from it hath no being. Get thee back, for thou art cut asunder, thy soul is shrivelled up, thy accursed name is buried in oblivion, and silence is upon it, and it hath fallen [out of remembrance]. Thou hast come to an end, thou hast been driven away, and thou art forgotten, forgotten, forgotten," etc. To make these words to be of effect the speaker is told to write the names of pep upon a new papyrus and to burn it in the fire either when R is rising, or at noon, or at sunset, etc. In another part of the work, after a series of curses which are ordered to be said over pep, the rubric directs that they shall be recited by a person who hath washed himself and is ceremonially clean, and when this has been done he is to write in green colour upon a piece of new papyrus the names of all the fiends who are in the train of pep, as well as those of their fathers, and mothers, and children. He must then make figures of all these fiends in wax, and having inscribed their names upon them, must tie them up with black hair, and then cast them on the ground and kick them with the left foot, and pierce them with a stone spear; this done they are to be thrown into the fire. More than once is it said, "It is good for a man to recite this book before the august god regularly," for the doing of it was believed to give great power "to him, both upon earth and in the underworld." Finally, after the names of pep are enumerated, be who would benefit by the knowledge of them is bidden to "make the figure of a serpent with his tail in his mouth, and having stuck a knife in his back, cast him down upon the ground and say, "'pep, Fiend, Betet.'" Then, in order to destroy the fiends who are in the train of pep, other images or figures of them must be made with their hands tied behind them; these are to be called "Children of inactivity." The papyrus then continues, "Make another serpent with the face of a cat, and with a knife stuck in his back, and call it 'Hemhem' (Roarer). Make another with the face of a crocodile, and with a knife stuck in his back, and call it 'Hauna-aru-her-hra.' Make another with the face of a duck, and with a knife stuck in his back, and call it 'Aluti.' Make another with the face of a white cat, and with a knife stuck in his back, and tie it up and bind it tightly, and call it 'pep the Enemy.'" Such are the means which the Egyptians adopted when they wanted to keep away rain and storm, thunder and lightning, and mist and cloud, and to ensure a bright clear sky wherein the sun might run his course.

Under the heading of "Magical Figures" must certainly be included the so-called Ptah-Seker-Ausar figure which is usually made of wood; it is often solid, but is sometimes made hollow, and is usually let into a rectangular wooden stand which may be either solid or hollow. The three gods or trinity of Ptah, Seker (Socharis), and Ausar (Osiris), are intended to represent the god of the sunrise (Ptah), the god of the night sun (Seker), and the god of the resurrection (Osiris). The name Ptah means "Opener," and is usually applied to the sun as the "opener" of the day; and the name Seker means "He who is shut in," that is to say, the night sun, who was regarded as the sun buried temporarily. Now the life of a man upon earth was identified with that of the sun; he "opened" or began his life as Ptah, and after death he was "shut in" or "coffined," like it also. But the sun rises again when the night is past, and, as it begins a new life with renewed strength and vigour, it became the type of the new life which the Egyptian hoped to live in the world beyond the grave. But the difficulty was how to obtain the protection of Ptah, Seker, and Osiris, and how to make them do for the man that which they did for themselves, and so secure their attributes. To attain this end a figure was fashioned in such a way as to include the chief characteristics of the forms of these gods, and was inserted in a rectangular wooden stand which was intended to represent the coffin or chest out of which the trinity Ptah-Seker-Ausar came forth. On the figure itself and on the sides of the stand were inscribed prayers on behalf of the man for whom it was made, and the Egyptian believed that these prayers caused the might and powers of the three gods to come and dwell in the wooden figure. But in order to make the stand of the figure as much like a coffin as possible, a small portion of the body of the deceased was carefully mummified and placed in it, and it was thought that if the three gods protected and preserved that piece, and if they revivified it in due season, the whole body would be protected, and preserved, and revivified. Frequently, especially in the late period, a cavity was made in the side of the stand, and in this was laid a small roll of papyrus inscribed with the text of certain Chapters of the Book of the Dead, and thus the deceased was provided with additional security for the resurrection of his spiritual body in the world to come. The little rolls of papyrus

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are often inscribed with but short and fragmentary texts, but occasionally, as in the case of the priestess Anhai, a fine large papyrus,1 inscribed with numerous texts and illustrated with vignettes, was placed inside the figure of the god, who in this instance is in the form of Osiris only.2 It seems that the Ptah-Seker-Ausar figure was much used in the late period in Egypt, for many inscribed examples have been found which are not only illegible, but which prove that the artist had not the remotest idea of the meaning of the things which he was writing. It is possible that they were employed largely by the poor, among whom they seem to have served the purpose of the costly tomb.

Returning once more to the subject of wax figures, it may be wondered why such a very large proportion of the figures of the gods which were worn by the living and attached to the bodies of the dead as amulets are made of almost every kind of substance except wax. But the reason of this is not far to seek: wax is a substance which readily changes its form under heat and pressure, and it is also possible that the fact of its having been employed from time immemorial for making figures which were intended to work harm and not good to man, induced those who made amulets in the forms of the gods to select some other material. As a matter of fact, however, several figures of gods

Ptah-Seker-Ausar figure with cavity containing a portion of a human body mummified.
(British Museum, No. 9736).

made of wax to serve as protective amulets are known, and a set of four, representing the four children of Horus, now preserved in the British Museum, are worthy of notice. The four children of Horus, or the gods of the four cardinal points, were called Mestha, Hpi, Tuamutef, and Qebhsennuf, and with them were associated the goddesses Isis, Nephthys, Neith, and Serqet respectively. Mestha was man-headed, and represented the south, and protected the stomach and large intestines; Hpi was dog-headed, and represented the north, and protected the small intestines; Tuamutef was jackal-headed) and represented the east and protected the lungs and the heart; and Qebhsennuf was hawk-headed, and represented the west, and protected the liver and the gall-bladder. The various internal organs of men were removed from the body before it was mummified, and having been steeped in certain astringent substances and bitumen were wrapped up in bandages, and laid in four jars made of stone, marble, porcelain, earthenware, or wood. Each jar was placed under the protection of one of the four children of Horus, and as it was hollow, and its cover was made in the form of the head of the god who was represented by it, and as the jar by means of the inscription upon it became an abode of the god, it might well be said that the organ of the deceased which was put in it was actually placed inside the god. The custom of embalming the intestines separately is very old, and several examples of it in the XIth dynasty are known; even at that early period the four jars of mummified intestines were placed in a funeral chest, or coffer, which was mounted on a sledge, and drawn along in the funeral procession immediately after the coffin. In later times we find that many attempts were made to secure for the deceased the benefit of the protection of these four gods without incurring the expense of

The Four Children of Horus.

Osiris rising from the funeral chest holding the symbol of "life" In each hand.
(From the Papyrus of Ani, plate 8.)

stone jars; this could be done by burying with him four models or "dummy" jars, or four porcelain figures of

the four gods


or four wax ones.

For some unknown reason the set referred to above was made of wax.1 The four children of Horus played a very important part in the funeral works of the early dynasties; they originally represented the four supports of heaven, but very soon each was regarded as the god of one of the four quarters of the earth, and also of that quarter of the heavens which was above it. As the constant prayer of the deceased was that he should be able to go about wherever he pleased, both on earth and in heaven, it was absolutely necessary for his welfare that he should propitiate these gods and place himself under their protection, which could only be secured by the recital of certain words of power over figures of them, or over jars made to represent them.

But of all the Egyptians who were skilled in working magic, Nectanebus, the last native king of Egypt, about B.C. 318, was the chief, if we may believe Greek tradition. According to Pseudo- Callisthenes, and the versions of his works which were translated into Pehlevi, Arabic, Syriac, and a score of other languages and dialects, this king was famous as a magician and a sage, and he was deeply learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. He knew what was in the depths of the Nile and of heaven, he was skilled in reading the stars, in interpreting omens, in casting nativities, in telling fortunes, and in predicting the future of the unborn child, and in working magic of every kind, as we shall see; he was said to be the lord of the earth, and to rule all kings by means of his magical powers.

Whenever he was threatened with invasion by sea or by land he succeeded in destroying the power of his enemies, and in driving them from his coasts or frontiers; and this he did by the following means. If the enemy came against him by sea, instead of sending out his sailors to fight them, he retired into a certain chamber, and having brought forth a bowl which he kept for the purpose, he filled it with water, and then, having made wax figures of the ships and men of the enemy, and also of his own men and ships, he set them upon the water in the bowl, his men on one side, and those of the enemy on the other. He then came out, and having put on the cloak of an Egyptian prophet and taken an ebony rod in his hand, he returned into the chamber, and uttering words of power he invoked the gods who help men to work magic, and the winds, and the subterranean demons, which straightway came to his aid. By their means the figures of the men in wax sprang into life and began to fight, and the ships of wax began to move about likewise; but the figures which represented his own men vanquished those which represented the enemy, and as the figures of the ships and men of the hostile fleet sank through the water to the bottom of the bowl, even so did the real ships and men sink through the waters to the bottom of the sea. In this way he succeeded in maintaining his power, and he continued to occupy his kingdom in peace for a considerable period. But it fell out on a day that certain scouts came and informed Nectanebus that a multitude of the nations of the East had made a league together against Egypt, and that their allied forces were at that moment marching against him. When the king heard the news he laughed, and having said some scornful words about his enemies, he went into his private chamber, and pouring water into the bowl began to work magic in the usual way. But when he had spoken the words of power, he looked at the wax figures, and saw, to his dismay, that the gods of Egypt were steering the enemies' ships, and leading their soldiers to war against himself. Now as soon as Nectanebus saw this, he understood that the end of the kingdom of Egypt was at hand, for hitherto the gods had been wont to hold converse with him readily, and to lend him their help whenever he had need of it. He then quitted the chamber hastily, and having shaved off his hair and his beard, and disguised himself by putting on common apparel, be took ship and fled to Pella in Macedonia, where he established himself as a physician, and as an Egyptian soothsayer.

Omitting, for the present, any reference to the contents of the IVth chapter of Pseudo- Callisthenes, in which the casting of the nativity of Olympias by Nectanebus is described, we come to the passage in which the story of the way in which he sent a dream to the queen by means of a wax figure is told. His object was to persuade the queen that the Egyptian god Amen would come to her at night. To do this he left her presence, and going out into the desert he collected a number of herbs which he knew how to employ in causing people to dream dreams, and having brought them back with him be squeezed the juice out of them. He then made the figure of a woman in wax, and wrote upon it the name of Olympias, just as the priest of Thebes made the figure of pep in wax and cut his name upon it. Nectanebus then lit his lamp, and, having poured the juice of the herbs over the wax figure of the queen, he adjured the demons to such purpose that Olympias dreamed a dream in which the god Amen came to her and embraced her, and told her that she should give birth to a man-child who should avenge her on her husband Philip. But the means described above were not the only ones known to Nectanebus for procuring dreams, for when he wanted to make Philip of Macedon to see certain things in a dream, and to take a certain view about what he saw, he sent a hawk, which he had previously bewitched by magical words, to Philip as he lay asleep, and in a single night the hawk flew from Macedonia to the place where Philip was, and coming to him told him what things he should see in his dream, and he saw them. On the morrow Philip had the dream explained by an expounder of dreams, and he was satisfied that the child1 to whom his wife Olympias was about to give birth was the son of the god Amen (or Ammon) of Libya, who was regarded as the father of all the kings who ascended the throne of Egypt, who did not belong to the royal stock of that country.2

Here, in connexion with the Egyptian use of wax figures, must be mentioned one or two stories and traditions of Alexander the Great which are, clearly, derived from Egyptian sources. The Arab writer, Abu-Shker, who flourished in the XIIIth century of our era, mentions a tradition that Aristotle gave to Alexander a number of wax figures nailed down in a box, which was fastened by a chain, and which he ordered him never to let go out of his hand, or at least out of that of one of his confidential servants. The box was to go wherever Alexander went, and Aristotle taught him to recite certain formul over it whenever he took it up or put it down. The figures in the box were intended to represent the various kinds of armed forces that Alexander was likely to find opposed to him. Some of the models held in their hands leaden swords which were curved backwards, and some had spears in their hands pointed head downwards, and some had bows with cut strings; all these were laid face downwards in the box. Viewed by what we know of the ideas which underlay the use of wax figures by the Egyptians and Greeks, it is clear that, in providing Alexander with these models and the words of power to use with them, Aristotle believed he was giving him the means of making his enemies to become like the figures in the box, and so they would be powerless to attack him.1

In the Grco-Roman period2 wax figures were used in the performance of magical ceremonies of every kind, and the two following examples indicate that the ideas which underlay their use had not changed in the least. If a lover wished to secure the favours of his mistress, he is directed to make a figure of a dog in wax mixed with pitch, gum, etc., eight fingers long, and certain words of power are to be written over the place where his ribs should be. Next it was necessary to write on a tablet other words of power, or the names of beings who were supposed to possess magical powers; on this tablet the figure of the dog must be placed, and the tablet is made to rest upon a tripod. When this has been done the lover must recite the words of power which are written on the dog's side, and also the names which have been inscribed on the tablet, and one of two things will happen: i.e., the dog will either snarl and snap at the lover, or he will bark. If he snarls and snaps the lover will not gain the object of his affections, but if he barks the lady will come to him. In the second example the lover is ordered to make two waxen figures; one in the form of Ares, and the other in the form of a woman. The female figure is to be in the posture of kneeling upon her knees with her hands tied behind her, and the male figure is to stand over her with his sword at her throat. On the limbs of the female figure a large number of the names of demons are to be written, and when this has been done, the lover must take thirteen bronze needles, and stick them in her limbs, saying as he does so, "I pierce" (here he mentions the name of the limb) "that she may think of me." The lover must next write certain words of power on a leaden plate, which must be tied to the wax figures with a string containing three hundred and sixty-five knots, and both figure and plate are to be buried in the grave of some one who has died young or who has been slain by violence. He must then recite a long incantation to the infernal gods, and if all these things be done in a proper manner the lover will obtain the woman's affections.'

From Egypt, by way of Greece and Rome, the use of wax figures passed into Western Europe and England, and in the Middle Ages it found great favour with those who interested themselves in the working of the "black art," or who wished to do their neighbour or enemy an injury. Many stories are current of how in Italy and England ignorant or wicked-minded people made models of their enemies in wax and hung them up in the chimney, not too close to the fire, so that they might melt away slowly, and of how the people that were represented by such figures gradually lost the power over their limbs, and could not sleep, and slowly sickened and died. If pins and needles were stuck into the wax figures at stated times the sufferings of the living were made more agonizing, and their death much more painful.

Sharpe relates1 that about the end of the VIIth century king Duffus was so unpopular that "a company of hags roasted his image made of wax upon a wooden spit, reciting certain words of enchantment, and basting the figure with a poisonous liquor. These women when apprehended declared that as the wax melted, the body of the king should decay, and the words of enchantment prevented him from the refreshment of sleep." The two following extracts from Thomas Middleton's The Witch2 illustrate the views held about wax figures in England in the time of this writer.3

"Heccat. Is the heart of wax

Stuck full of magique needles?"

Stadlin. 'Tis done Heccat.

Heccat. And is the Farmer's picture, and his wives,

Lay'd downe to th' fire yet?

Stadlin. They are a roasting both too.

Heccat. Good:

Then their marrowes are a melting subtelly

And three monethes sicknes sucks up life in 'em."

(Act i., scene 2.)


"Heccat. What death is't you desire for Almachildes?

Duchesse. A sodaine and a subtle.

Heccat. Then I have fitted you.

Here lye the guifts of both; sodaine and subtle:

His picture made in wax, and gently molten

By a blew fire kindled with dead mens' eyes

Will waste him by degrees."

(Act v., scene 2)

Mr. Elworthy in his very interesting book "The Evil Eye"1 relates some striking examples of the burning of hearts stuck full of pins for magical purposes in recent years. Thus an old woman at Mendip had a pig that fell ill, and she at once made up her mind that the animal had been "overlooked"; in her trouble she consulted a "white witch," i.e. a "wise" man, and by his orders she acted thus. She obtained a sheep's heart, and having stuck it full of pins1 set it to roast before a fire, whilst her friends and neighbours sang:--

It is not this heart I mean to burn.

But the person's heart I wish to turn,

Wishing them neither rest nor peace

Till they are dead and gone."

At intervals her son George sprinkled salt on the fire which added greatly to the weirdness of the scene, and at length, when the roasting had been continued until far into the night, a black cat jumped out from somewhere and was, of course, instantly declared to be the demon which had been exorcised. Again, in October, 1882, a heart stuck full of pins was found in a recess of a chimney in an old house in the village of Ashbrittle; and in 1890 another was found nailed up inside the "clavel" in the chimney of an old house at Staplegrove.

The art of making such figures King James I. attributes to the "Divell," and says in describing the things which witches are able to "effectuate by the power of their master1":--"To some others at these times hee teacheth, how to make pictures of waxe or clay: That by the roasting thereof, the persons that they beare the name of, may be continually melted or dried away by continuall sicknesse. . . . They can bewitch and take the life of men or women, by roasting of the pictures, as I spake of before, which likewise is verie possible to their Maister to performe, for although (as I said before) that instrument of waxe have no vertue in that turne doing, yet may hee not very well, even by the same measure that his conjured slaves, melts that waxe at the fire, may hee not, I say at these same times, subtily, as a sprite, so weaken and scatter the spirites of life of the patient, as may make him on the one part, for faintnesse, so sweate it out the humour of his bodie: And on the other parte, for the not concurrence of these spirites, which causes his digestion, so debilitate his stomacke, that this humour radicall continually sweating out on the one part, and no new good sucke being put in the place thereof, for lacke of digestion on the other, he at last shall vanish away, even as his picture will die at the fire? And that knavish and cunning workeman, by troubling him, onely at sometimes, makes a proportion, so neere betwixt the working of the one and the other, that both shall end as it were at one time." Thus we have seen that the belief in the efficacy of wax figures is at least six thousand years old, and judging from passages in the works of modern writers its existence is not unknown in our own country at the present time.

This chapter may be fittingly ended by a notice of the benefits which accrued to a Christian merchant in the Levant from the use of a wax figure. According to an Ethiopic manuscript in the British Museum1 this man was a shipowner as well as a merchant, and be was wont to send his goods to market in his own ships; in his day, however, the sea was infested with pirates, and he lost greatly through their successful attacks upon his vessels. At length he determined to travel in one of his own ships with a number of armed men, so that he might be able to resist any attack which the pirates might make, and punish them for their robberies in times past. . Soon after he had sailed he fell in with a pirate vessel, and a fight at once took place between his crew and the robbers, in the course of which he was shot in the eye by an arrow; he stopped the combat and then sailed for a port which was situated near a monastery, wherein the Virgin Mary was reported to work miracles by means of a picture of herself which was hung up in it. When the merchant arrived in port he was so ill through the wound in his eye that he could not be moved, and it was found that a portion of the arrow which had struck him remained embedded in it; and unless he could obtain the Virgin's help speedily he felt that his death was nigh. In this difficulty a certain Christian came to the ship and made a wax figure of the merchant, and, having stuck in one eye a model of the arrow which had struck him, carried the figure to the monastery, which was some miles off, and caused the monks to allow him to bring it nigh to the picture of the Virgin. When this had been done, and prayers had been made to her, the figure of the Virgin stretched out its hand, and straightway pulled the model of the arrow out of the eye of the wax figure of the merchant in such a way that no broken fragment remained behind. When the wax figure had been taken back to the ship, it was found that the piece of broken arrow had been extracted from the merchant's eye at the very moment when the Virgin had drawn out the arrow from the eye of the wax figure. The merchant's eye then healed, and he recovered his sight.

Magical Stones or Amulets Home Magical Pictures and Formule, Spells, Etc.


67:1 Ed. Erman, pp. 7 and 8.

69:1 I.e., the priestly official who performed the most important of the funeral ceremonies; he was always a man of great learning, and generally of high rank.

71:1 I.e., Chapter V. of the Book of the Dead.

72:1 I.e., Chapter V. of the Book of the Dead.

72:2 This is, 1 think, the meaning of bringing the sand from the east to the west.

77:1 See Devria, Le Papyrus Judiciaire de Turin in Journal Asiatique, 1865; and Chabas, Le Papyrus Magique Harris, p. 169 ff.

79:1 See Chapters of Coming Forth by Day, p. 89.

79:2 I have given a hieroglyphic transcript of both works, with translations, in Archologia, Vol. LII.

81:1 Theocritus has preserved for us a proof that the Greeks made use of wax figures at an early date. Thus in Pharmakeutria (1. 27 ff.) the lady spinning her wheel and addressing the Lynx says, "Even as I melt this wax, with the god to aid, so speedily may he by love be molten!" (Lang's Translation, p. 12).

86:1 This papyrus is preserved in the British Museum (No. 10,472).

86:2 British Museum, No. 20,868.

90:1 Nos. 15,563, 15,564, 15,573, and 15,578 in the Second Egyptian Room.

95:1 i.e., Alexander the Great.

95:2 For further mention of dreams, see the last chapter in this book.

96:1 See my Life and Exploits of Alexander the Great (one volume edition), p. xvi.

96:2 The Greeks used incantations at an early date, as we may see from Pindar, Pythia, iv. 213; this writer lived in the first half of the fifth century before Christ.

97:1 I owe the facts of these two examples of the use of wax figures and the two spells for procuring visions and dreams (see p. 96), and the example of the use of the sphere of Democritus (p. 230), to Mr. F. G. Kenyon, Assistant Keeper in the Dept. of MSS., British Museum.

98:1 See C. K. Sharpe, Witchcraft in Scotland, London, 1884, p. 21.

98:2 London, 1778.

98:3 Born about 1570, died about 1626.

99:1 London, 1895, pp. 53, 56.

100:1 In the Worth Riding of Yorkshire evil influences were averted by means of a living black cock which "was pierced with pins and roasted alive at dead of night, with every door, window, and cranny and crevice stuffed up" (see Blakeborough, Wit, Character, Folk-lore and Customs of the North Riding of Yorkshire, London, 1898, p. 205).

101:1 The following words are put into the mouth of Epistemon in Dmonologie, in Forme of one Dialogue, London, 1603, Second Booke, Chap. V. pp. 44, 45.

102:1 Oriental 646, fol. 29b ff.