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Myths and Legends of Ancient Egypt

Page: 118

Spells

The use of spells was universal. In the most primitive times the magician seems to have imagined that all that was necessary for him to do was to inform the evil demon that he intended to exorcize it. To the dead who haunted a certain house and brought illness into it he threatens destruction of their graves and deprivation of food-offerings. To a disease which has attacked a patient he explains that it has fastened upon a most unlikely subject, who would probably do it more harm than good. Later, however, we find the magician requesting the aid of the gods. He invokes Ra, begging that he will keep watch over the evil spirits, and relates to that god their delinquencies. Occasionally he himself takes the name of a divinity, and hurls his thunders at the demon or the malady that threatens his client, saying, for example, "Thou hast not the upper hand over me; I am Amen; I am the Great One, the Lord of Might." The magician was often guided in his choice of a guardian deity by episodes that occurred in the legends connected with him. For example, a god who had once triumphed over serpents would probably be the best protection against them. We find a certain spell which was supposed to cure scorpion stings desiring Ra to remove the poison as the goddess Bast the Cat was cured—an incident in the history of the goddess. But we find that the deities who were nearest humanity, and should typify in their legends the life of a man, were most generally invoked. The crocodile, for example, will hurry off when he is told how the body of Osiris lay in the water and was guarded by the gods. Isis and Horus at one time hid in the swamps of the Delta, and if this[Pg 265] be recalled it will act as a safeguard against the sting of a scorpion, an insect which haunts the swamp-lands.


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