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More on Words of Power

“The written word has been regarded in the East with reverence from time immemorial, and a copy of a sacred writing or text is worn or carried about to this day with much the same ideas and beliefs about its power to protect as in the earliest times.

In ancient Egypt the whole Book of the Dead, as well as the various sections of it which are usually copied on papyri, consisted of a series of “words of power,” and the modern Egyptian looks upon the Koran in the same light as his ancestor looked upon the older work. (In a similar way the Arabs attach as much importance to the Fatha, or opening chapter, and to the chapter which declares the Unity of God (CXII.), as to the rest of the Koran).

A curious passage in the text inscribed on the inside of the pyramid of Unas reads (1. 583), “The bone and flesh which possess no writing are wretched, but, behold, the writing of Unas is under the great seal, and behold, it is not under the little seal.”

It is difficult to explain the passage fully, but there is no doubt that we have here an allusion to the custom of placing writings believed to be possessed of magical powers with the dead.

Certain passages or sections of the religious books of ancient nations have always been held to be of more importance than others, and considering the great length of such compositions this is not to be wondered at.

Among the Egyptians two forms of the LXIVth Chapter of the Book of the Dead were in use, and there is no doubt whatever that the shorter form, as far back as the Ist dynasty, about B.C. 4300, was intended to be a summary of the whole work, and that the recital of it was held to be as efficacious as the recital of all the rest of it. (See Chapter of Coming Forth by Day, p. 70).

It is a remarkable fact that this form is called “The Chapter of knowing the ‘Chapters of Coming Forth by Day‘ in a single Chapter,” and that it is declared to date from the time of Hesepti, a king of the Ist dynasty, about B.C. 4300, whilst the “finding” of the longer form is attributed to the reign of Men-kau-Râ (Mycerinus), a king of the IVth dynasty, about B.C. 3600.

It is interesting to note how persistently certain chapters and formulæ occur in funeral papyri of different periods, and the explanation seems to be that a popular selection was made at an early date, and that this selection was copied with such additions or omissions as the means of the friends of the deceased allowed or made necessary.

One thing is quite certain: every man in Egypt died in the firm belief that in the course of his journey into the next world he would be provided with words of power which would enable him to make his way thither unhindered, and give him abundance of meat and drink.”

E.A. Wallis Budge, Egyptian Magic, London, 1901. Pp. 124-6.

The Seven Hathors

“It is probable that Chapters CLXIL-CLXV were composed at a comparatively late date.

Yet another example of the magical pictures of the Book of the Dead must here be given. The vignette of Chapter CXLVIII. contains pictures of seven cows “and their bull,” and of four rudders; the seven cows have reference to the seven Hathor goddesses, the bull is, of course, a form of Râ, and the four rudders refer to the four quarters of the earth and to the four cardinal points.

The text of the Chapter contains the names of the cows and of the bull, and of the rudders, and certain prayers for sepulchral offerings. Now the deceased would be provided with “abundance of food regularly and continually for ever,” if the following things were done for him.

Figures of the cows and of their bull and of the rudders were to be painted in colours upon a board (?), and when Râ, the Sun-god, rose upon them the friends of the deceased were to place offerings before them; these offerings would be received mystically by the gods and goddesses whom the figures represented, and in return they would bestow upon the deceased all the offerings or gifts of meat and drink which he would require.

Moreover, “if this be done,” we are told, “Râ shall be a rudder for the deceased, and he shall be a strength protecting him, and he shall make an end of all his enemies for him in the underworld, and in heaven, and upon earth, and in every place wherever he may enter.”

We have seen above, in the description of the amulets which the Egyptians used, how both the substance of the amulet and the words which were inscribed upon it possessed magical powers, but we may learn from several instances given in the papyri that the written words alone were sufficient in some cases to produce remarkable effects.

This is, of course, a very natural development, and charms or words of power which needed nothing but to be written on papyrus or linen to produce a magical effect would be popular with all classes of men and women, and especially among the poor and the ignorant.”

E.A. Wallis Budge, Egyptian Magic, London, 1901. Pp. 123-4.

Keeping Secrets from the Underworld God Sukati

The words of power which form the CLXIVth Chapter to be effectual had to be recited over a figure of the goddess Mut which was to have three heads.

The first head was like that of the goddess Pekhat and had plumes; the second was like that of a man and had upon it the crowns of the South and North; the third was like that of a vulture and had upon it plumes; the figure had a pair of wings, and the claws of a lion.

This figure was painted in black, green, and yellow colours upon a piece of anes linen; in front of it and behind it was painted a dwarf who wore plumes upon his head. One hand and arm of each dwarf were raised, and each had two faces, one being that of a hawk and the other that of a man; the body of each was fat.

These figures having been made, we are told that the deceased shall be “like unto a god with the gods of the underworld; he shall never, never be turned back; his flesh and his bones shall be like those of one who hath never been dead; he shall drink water at the source of the stream; a homestead shall be given unto him in Sekhet-Aaru; he shall become a star of heaven; he shall set out to do battle with the serpent fiend Nekau and with Tar, who are in the underworld; he shall not be shut in along with the souls which are fettered; he shall have power to deliver himself wherever he may be; and worms shall not devour him.” (See Chapters of Coming Forth by Day, p. 294).

Again, the words of power which form the CLXVth Chapter to be effectual were ordered by the rubric to “be recited over a figure of the God of the lifted hand, which shall have plumes upon its head; the legs thereof shall be wide apart, and the middle portion of it shall be in the form of a beetle, and it shall be painted blue with a paint made of lapis-lazuli mixed with qamai water.”

“And it shall be recited over a figure with a head like unto that of a man, and the hands and the arms thereof shall be stretched away from his body; above its right shoulder shall there be the head of a ram, and above its left shoulder shall there be the head of a ram.”

“And thou shalt paint the figure of the God of the lifted hand upon a piece of linen immediately over the heart of the deceased, and thou shalt paint the other over his breast; but let not the god Sukati who is in the underworld know it.”

If these things be done, “the deceased shall drink water from the source of the stream, and he shall shine like the stars in the heavens above.”

E.A. Wallis Budge, Egyptian Magic, London, 1901. Pp. 121-3.

Hypocephalus

Now the cow is, of course, Isis-Hathor, and both the words and the picture refer to some event in the life of Râ, or Horus. It is quite evident that the words of power, or charm, uttered by Isis-Hathor delivered the god out of some trouble, and the idea is that as it delivered the god, and was of benefit to him, even so will it deliver the deceased and be of benefit to him. The words of power read:—

“O Amen, O Amen, who art in heaven, turn thy face upon the dead body of thy son, and make him sound and strong in the underworld.”

And again we are warned that the words are “a great mystery” and that “the eye of no man whatsoever must see it, for it is a thing of abomination for [every man] to know it. Hide it, therefore; the Book of the lady of the hidden temple is its name.”

An examination of mummies of the late period shews that the Egyptians did actually draw a figure of the cow upon papyrus and lay it under the head of the deceased, and that the cow is only one figure among a number of others which were drawn on the same papyrus.

With the figures magical texts were inscribed and in course of time, when the papyrus had been mounted upon linen, it superseded the gold figure of the cow which was fastened to the neck of the deceased, and became, strictly speaking an amulet, though its usual name among archaeologists is “hypocephalus.” The figure on the opposite page well illustrates the object. It will be noticed that the hypocephalus is round; this is due to the fact that it represents the pupil of the Eye of Horus, which from time immemorial in Egypt was regarded as the source of all generative power, and of reproduction and life.

Ancient Egyptian Tomb Hypocephalus

Hypocephalus or object placed under the head.

 Hypocephalus or object placed under the head 
of the deceased Shai-enen to keep warmth in the body.

The first group of gods are:—

Nehebka offering to Horus his Eye, a goddess with the Eye of Horus for a head, the cow of Isis-Hathor described above, the four children of Horus, two lions, a member of the human body, the pylon of heads of Khnemu the god of reproduction, and Horus-Râ.

In the second are the boat of the Sun being poled along by Horus, and the boat of the Moon, with Harpocrates in the bow. In the other scenes we have the god Khepera in his boat, Horus in his boat, and Horus-Sept in his boat.

The god with two faces represents the double aspect of the sun in setting and rising, and the god with the rams’ heads, who is being adored by apes, is a mystical form of Khnemu, one of the great gods of reproduction, who in still later times became the being whose name under the form of Khnumis or Khnoubis occupied such an important position among the magical names which were in use among the Gnostics.

The two following prayers from the hypocephalus will illustrate the words of power addressed to Amen, i.e., the Hidden One, quoted above:—

1. “I am the Hidden One in the hidden place. I am a perfect spirit among the companions of Râ, and I have gone in and come forth among the perfect souls. I am the mighty Soul of saffron-coloured form.

“I have come forth from the underworld at pleasure. I have come. I have come forth from the Eye of Horus. I have come forth from the underworld with Râ from the House of the Great Aged One in Heliopolis.

“I am one of the spirits who come forth from the underworld: grant thou unto me the things which my body needeth, and heaven for my soul, and a hidden place for my mummy.”

2. “May the god, who himself is hidden, and whose face is concealed, who shineth upon the world in his forms of existence, and in the underworld, grant that my soul may live for ever!

“May the great god in his disk give his rays in the underworld of Heliopolis! Grant thou unto me an entrance and an exit in the underworld without let or hindrance.”

Chapter CLXIII. of the Book of the Dead was written to prevent the body of a man mouldering away in the underworld, and to deliver him from the souls which were so unfortunate as to be shut in the various places thereof, but in order to make it thoroughly efficacious it was ordered to be recited over three pictures:

(1) a serpent with legs, having a disk and two horns upon its head;

(2) an utchat, (see above, p. 55) or Eye of Horus, “in the pupil of which shall be a figure of the God of the lifted hand with the face of a divine soul, and having plumes and a back like a hawk”;

(3) an utchat, or Eye of Horus, “in the pupil of which there shall be a figure of the God of the lifted hand with the face of the goddess Neith, and having plumes and a back like a hawk.”

If these things be done for the deceased “he shall not be turned back at any gate of the underworld, he shall eat, and drink, and perform the natural functions of his body as he did when he was upon earth; and none shall rise up to cry out against him; and he shall be protected from the hands of the enemy for ever and ever.” (See Chapters of Coming Forth by Day, p. 292).

E.A. Wallis Budge, Egyptian Magic, London, 1901. Pp. 115-21.

Vignettes From the Papyrus of Ani

soul_of_ani_visiting_his_body_in_the_bier

The soul of the scribe Ani visiting his mummified body 
as it lies on its bier in the tomb. 
(From the Papyrus of Ani, plate 17.)

“Many of the pictures or vignettes carry their own interpretations with them, e.g., the picture of the soul hovering over the dead body which lies beneath it on the bier at once suggests the reunion of the soul with the body; the picture of the deceased walking away from a “block of slaughter” and a knife dripping with blood suggests escape from a cruel death; the picture of a soul and spirit standing before an open door suggests that the soul has freedom to wander about at will; and the picture of the soul and the shadow in the act of passing out through the door of the tomb indicates clearly that these parts of man’s economy are not shut up in the tomb for all eternity.

Anubis with Ani

Anubis holding the mummy of the scribe Ani.

Anubis holding the mummy of the scribe Ani; 
by the door of the tomb stand the soul and spirit of the deceased 
in the form of a human-headed hawk and bennu bird respectively. 
(From the Papyrus of Ani, plate 16.)

But the ideas which prompted the painting of other vignettes are not so clear, e.g., those which accompany Chapters CLXII-CLXV in the late or Säite Recension of the Book of the Dead, although, fortunately, the rubrics to these chapters make their object clear.

Thus the picture which stands above Chapter CLXII. is that of a cow having upon her head horns, a disk, and two plumes, and from the rubric we learn that a figure of it was to be made in gold and fastened to the neck of the deceased, and that another, drawn upon new papyrus, was to be placed under his head.

If this be done “then shall abundant warmth be in him throughout, even like that which was in him when he was upon earth. And he shall become like a god in the underworld, and he shall never be turned back at any of the gates thereof.”

Ani Leaving the Tomb

Ani Passing Through the Door of His Tomb

The scribe Ani passing through the door of the tomb. 
Outside are his shadow and his soul in the form of a human-headed bird. 
(From the Papyrus of Ani, plate 18.)

The words of the chapter have great protective power (i.e., are a charm of the greatest importance) we are told, “for it was made by the cow for her son Râ when he was setting, and when his habitation was surrounded by a company of beings of fire.”

E.A. Wallis Budge, Egyptian Magic, London, 1901. Pp. 113-6.

Men Attaining the Form of the Radiance of Ra

“Elsewhere it is ordered that the boat of Râ be painted “in a pure place,” and in the bows is to be painted a figure of the deceased; but Râ was supposed to travel in one boat (called “Âtet “) until noon, and another (called “Sektet”) until sunset, and provision had to be made for the deceased in both boats.

How was this to be done? On one side of the picture of the boat a figure of the morning boat of Râ was to be drawn, and on the other a figure of the afternoon boat; thus the one picture was capable of becoming two boats. And, provided the proper offerings were made for the deceased on the birthday of Osiris, his soul would live for ever, and be would not die a second time. (Ibid., p. 212).

According to the rubric to the chapter (i.e., CXXX) in which these directions are given, the text of it is as old, at least, as the time of Hesepti, the fifth king of the Ist dynasty, who reigned about B.C. 4350, and the custom of painting the boat upon papyrus is probably contemporaneous.

The two following rubrics from Chapters CXXXIII. and CXXXIV., respectively, will explain still further the importance of such pictures:–

1. “This chapter shall be recited over a boat four cubits in length, and made of green porcelain [on which have been painted] the divine sovereign chiefs of the cities; and a figure of heaven with its stars shall be made also, and this thou shalt have made ceremonially pure by means of natron and incense.

And behold, thou shalt make an image of Râ in yellow colour upon a new plaque and set it at the bows of the boat. And behold, thou shalt make an image of the spirit which thou dost wish to make perfect [and place it] in this boat, and thou shalt make it to travel about in the boat [which shall be made in the form of the boat] of Râ; and he shall see the form of the god Râ himself therein.

Let not the eye of any man whatsoever look upon it, with the exception of thine own self, or thy father, or thy son, and guard [this] with great care. Then shall the spirit be perfect in the heart of Râ, and it shall give unto him power with the company of the gods; and the gods shall look upon him as a divine being like unto themselves; and mankind and the dead shall fall down upon their faces, and he shall be seen in the underworld in the form of the radiance of Râ.”

E.A. Wallis Budge, Egyptian Magic, London, 1901. Pp. 111-2.

Secrets of the Winds in the Tuat, Sailing in the Boat of Millions of Years

“But yet another “exceeding great mystery” had to be performed if the deceased was to be enabled to enter into heaven by its four doors at will, and to enjoy the air which came through each.

The north wind belonged to Osiris, the south wind to Râ, the west wind to Isis, and the east wind to Nephthys; and for the deceased to obtain power over each and all of these it was necessary for him to be master of the doors through which they blew.

This power could only be obtained by causing pictures of the four doors to be painted on the coffin with a figure of Thoth opening each. Some special importance was attached to these, for the rubric says, “Let none who is outside know this chapter, for it is a great mystery, and those who dwell in the swamps (i.e., the ignorant) know it not.”

“Thou shalt not do this in the presence of any person except thy father, or thy son, or thyself alone; for it is indeed an exceedingly great mystery which no man whatever knoweth.” (Ibid., p. 212).

One of the delights coveted by the deceased was to sail over heaven in the boat of Râ, in company with the gods of the funeral cycle of Osiris; this happiness could be secured for him by painting certain pictures, and by saying over them certain words of power.

On a piece of clean papyrus a boat is to be drawn with ink made of green âbut mixed with ânti water, and in it are to be figures of Isis, Thoth, Shu, and Khepera, and the deceased; when this has been done the papyrus must be fastened to the breast of the deceased, care being taken that it does not actually touch his body.

Then shall his spirit enter into the boat of Râ each day, and the god Thoth shall take heed to him, and he shall sail about with Râ into any place that he wisheth. (See Chapters of Coming Forth by Day, p. 162).

E.A. Wallis Budge, Egyptian Magic, London, 1901. Pp. 110-1.

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