Myths and Legends of Ancient Egypt
Page: 120A Game of Draughts with the Dead
But the god Thoth was angry with him for what he had done, and acquainted Ra with the sacrilegious act. Ra at once decided that Nefer-ka-Ptah, his wife and child, should never return to Memphis; and whilst returning to Coptos, Ahura and her son fell into the[Pg 268] river and were drowned. Shortly afterward Nefer-ka-Ptah himself met a like fate. All that they could say, however, could not prevail with Setne, who had made up his mind to possess the book. The disembodied Nefer-ka-Ptah proposed, however, that its ownership should be settled by playing a game of draughts, the winner to retain the volume. To this Setne agreed. Nefer-ka-Ptah did his best to win, first honestly, and then by fraud, but in the end he lost the game. Setne requested his brother, who had accompanied him into the mausoleum, to ascend to the place above and bring him his magical writings. This was done, and the spells in question were laid upon Setne, who grasped the wonderful book of Thoth and ascended to heaven with marvellous swiftness. As he departed, however, Nefer-ka-Ptah remarked to his wife that he would soon make him return. The prophecy of Ahura that Setne would be unlucky if he persisted in keeping the volume was fully borne out, for he fell in love with a beautiful woman who worked him much woe, and such were his troubles that the Pharaoh commanded him to return the book to the keeping of Nefer-ka-Ptah.
Magic very naturally played a large part in the practice of Egyptian medicine. Many illnesses were supposed to be caused by demoniac possession, and the only cure was the expulsion of the evil spirit who had taken up his abode in the body of the afflicted person. The Egyptian physician could not have found the practice of his art very arduous, for he theoretically divided the human body into thirty-six parts, each of which was presided over by a certain demon, and if the demon who attacked a specific part was properly invoked, it[Pg 269] was considered that a cure should result. There were gods of healing for each of the bodily divisions. Several medical papyri are in existence which contain formulæ to be employed against the demons of disease, as well as prescriptions for the remedies to be used in specified cases of illness. Prayers were prescribed to be spoken while preparing the drugs. Often the unfortunate patient had to swallow the prescription written upon papyrus. Amulets were regarded as most efficacious in cases of illness. It is said that the peculiar letter which figures before modern medical prescriptions, and which physicians interpret as implying the word 'recipe,' is in reality an invocation to the god Ra, whose symbol it is, and that it signifies "in the name of Ra," or "O Ra, God of Light and Health, inspire me."