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Category: Magical Papyri

Lucky and Unlucky Days

“In magical papyri we are often told not to perform certain magical ceremonies on such and such days, the idea being that on these days hostile powers will make them to be powerless, and that gods mightier than those to which the petitioner would appeal will be in the ascendant.

There have come down to us, fortunately, papyri containing copies of the Egyptian calendar, in which each third of every day for three hundred and sixty days of the year is marked lucky or unlucky, and we know from other papyri why certain days were lucky or unlucky, and why others were only partly so (see Brit. Mus. Papyrus, No. 10,474).

Taking the month Thoth, which was the first month of the Egyptian year, and began, according to the Gregorian Calendar, on August 29th, we find that the days are marked as follows:—

The Egyptian Month of Thoth.

The Egyptian Month of Thoth.

Now the sign Egyptian Sign for Lucky means “lucky,” and Egyptian Sign for Unlucky means “unlucky”; thus at a glance it could be seen which third of the day is lucky or unlucky, and the man who consulted the calendar would, of course, act accordingly.

It must be noted that the priests or magicians who drew up the calendar had good reasons for their classification of the days, as we may see from the following example. The 19th day of Thoth is, in the above list, marked wholly lucky, i.e., each third of it is lucky, and the papyrus Sallier IV (see Chabas, Le Calendrier, p. 24) also marks it wholly lucky, and adds the reason:—

“It is a day of festival in heaven and upon earth in the presence of Râ. It is the day when flame was hurled upon those who followed the boat containing the shrine of the gods; and on this day the gods gave praises being content,” etc.

But in both lists the 26th day is marked wholly unlucky, the reason being, “This was the day of the fight between Horus and Set.” They first fought in the form of men, then they took the form of bears, and in this state did battle with each other for three days and three nights.

Isis aided Set when he was getting the worst in the fight, and Horus thereupon cut off his mother’s head, which Thoth transformed by his words of power into that of a cow and put on her body. On this day offerings are to be made to Osiris and Thoth, but work of any kind is absolutely forbidden.”

E.A. Wallis Budge, Egyptian Magic, London, 1901. Pp. 224-6.

Gnostic Magical Names From the Metternich Stele and the Harris Magical Papyrus

“The examples of the use of names possessing magical powers described above illustrate the semi-religious views on the subject of names which the Egyptians held, and we have now to consider briefly the manner in which the knowledge of a name was employed in uses less important than those which had for their object the attainment of life and happiness in the world to come.

In the famous magical papyrus (British Museum, No. 10,042) which Chabas published (Le Papyrus Magique Harris, Chalon-sur-Saône, 1860) we find a series of interesting charms and magical formulæ which were written to preserve its possessor from the attacks of sea and river monsters of every kind, of which the following is an example.

“Hail, lord of the gods! Drive away from me the lions of the country of Meru (Meroë?), and the crocodiles which come forth from the river, and the bite of all poisonous reptiles which crawl forth from their holes. Get thee back, O crocodile Mâk, thou son of Set! Move not by means of thy tail! Work not thy legs and feet! Open not thy mouth! Let the water which is before thee turn into a consuming fire, O thou whom the thirty-seven gods did make, and whom the serpent of Râ did put in chains, O thou who wast fettered with links of iron before the boat of Râ! Get thee back, O crocodile Mâk, thou son of Set!”

These words were to be said over a figure of the god Amen painted on clay; the rod was to have four rams’ heads upon one neck, under his feet was to be a figure of the crocodile Mâk, and to the right and left of him were to be the dog headed apes, i.e., the transformed spirits of the dawn, who sang hymns of praise to Râ when he rose daily. (See the scene in the rounded portion of the Metternichstele illustrated on p. 149, reproduced below).

Detail, Metternich stele. (Clippus of Horus, Metternichestele, ed. Golenischeff, plate 1.) Reproduced from E.A. Wallis Budge, Egyptian Magic, p. 149.

Detail, Metternich stele. (Clippus of Horus, Metternichestele, ed. Golenischeff, plate 1.)
Reproduced from E.A. Wallis Budge, Egyptian Magic, p. 149.

Again, let us suppose that some water monster wished to attack a man in a boat. To avoid this the man stood before the cabin of the boat and, taking a hard egg in his hand, he said, “O egg of the water which hath been spread over the earth, essence of the divine apes, the great one in the heaven above and in the earth beneath, who dost dwell in the nests which are in the waters, I have come forth with thee from the water, I have been with thee in thy nest, I am Amsu of Coptos, I am Amsu, lord of Kebu.”

When he had said these words he would appear to the animal in the water in the form of the god Amsu, with whom he had identified himself, and it would be afraid and flee.

At the end of the papyrus in which the above extracts occur we find a series of magical names which may be read thus:–Atir-Atisa, Atirkaha-Atisa, Samumatnatmu-Atisa, Samuanemui-Atisa, Samutekaari-Atisa, Samutekabaiu-Atisa, Samutchakaretcha-Atisa, Tâuuarehasa, Qina, Hama, Senentuta-Batetsataiu, Anrehakatha-sataiu, Haubailra-Haari.

From these and similar magical names it is quite certain that the Gnostics and other sects which held views akin to theirs obtained the names which they were so fond of inscribing upon their amulets and upon the so-called magical papyri.”

E.A. Wallis Budge, Egyptian Magic, London, 1901. P. 173-6.

Merkabah Gnosticism and Syncretistic Magical Papyri

” … But this representation of the demiurge proceeds from a thoroughly monotheistic conception and completely lacks the heretical and antinomian character it assumed when the Creator God had been opposed to the true God.

Here the throne of God is, in Jewish terminology, the home of the soul; it is there that the ascent of the ecstatic is completed. The world of the Merkabah into which he “descends” is closely related to the world of the pleroma of the Greek gnostic texts. However, in place of abstract concepts personified as aeons, we find the entities of the throne-world as they have entered into this tradition from the book of Ezekiel.

At the same time, there are direct contacts between these texts of Merkabah Gnosticism and the syncretistic world of the magical papyri. We possess Hebrew Merkabah texts that read as if they belonged to the literature of magical papyri. The boundaries, at least regarding Judaism, were not as well defined as those drawn by many recent authors writing on Gnosticism who were bent on differentiating between Christian Gnosticism and the syncretistic magic under discussion.”

–Gershom Scholem, Origins of the Kabbalah, 1987, pp. 22-3.

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