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Sunday, 30 September 2012

Egyptian Book of Dead

Egyptians believed in existence of spirits of deceased humans, deities and supernatural beings whose identities were never precisely defined. Egyptians gave a specific name and attributes to those beings rather than defining them as “ demons” In fact, no ancient Egyptian term exist that could be translated into demon, distinguishing demons from deities. Lucarelli interprets the demons of the Realm of the Dead as beings made of flesh and blood , as already proposed by Matthieu Heerma van Voss rather than as daimonen in the Greek mythology.

THE DAIMONES KHRYSEOI (Daemones Chrysei) were thirty thousand air-dwelling spirits who watched over the deeds of man and rewarded the just with with agricultural bounty. They were originally the Golden race of man who had lived a lfie of virtue in the time of Kronos (Cronus). After death the whole tribe was transformed into beneficient daimones. The Daimones Khryseoi (Golden Spirits) were superior to the Daimones Argeoi (or Silver Spirits)--the former resided in the air, while the latter dwelt within the earth.
The Book of the Dead of Hunefer, sheet 7

The existence of demons in Egyptian beliefs can be recognized by comparing demons and deities with respect to their function appearance and status as Egyptians gave names to the supernatural beings defining what those beings do and as such there were categorized as malevolent and benevolent. Consequently, two classes of demons were recognized wonderers and guardians. Wonderers who may act as emissaries for deities or on their own accord bring diseases, nightly terror, and misfortune. On the other hand, guardians who are tied to specific region protect from intrusion and pollution. In Ptolemaic and Roman Periods they were regarded as deities.

Anubis weighing the heart of Hunefer.
Demons being subordinate to gods posses special powers that is limited to a single task or they act under the command of a deity. Postulates that since demons act as emissaries of gods they are creation of gods. The Book of the Dead not only depicts individual demons occurring in isolated spells, but also classes of demons having collective names. Individual demons inhibit the netherworld. For instances, "the Fighters in Helio- polis" who threaten to take away the heart of the deceased in Ch. 28 of the Book of the Dead. Collective demons, on the other hand,inhibit both the netherworld and earth and can be found in the magical texts of the New Kingdom and later, which are concerned with daily magic and the world of the living. In the New Kingdom these demons were considered as having a stronger influence on earth than in the netherworld. There are hundreds of names and epithets of demons in the Book of the Dead. For instance, the"devourers" or "swallowers" are found rather often in the Book of the Dead. The act of devouring of human beings, animals or dead persons was a threat especially employed by demons of the ancient Egyptian netherworld. The most famous creature mentioned in the Book of the Dead that belongs to the devourers is "the devourer of the dead", a hybrid animal form and is said to swallow the deceased's heart. The devourers action is directed only against evil-doers and those who have no knowledge of the mysteries of the netherworld. The deceased faces the demon and his task is to avoid the demon's destructive power.

Disembodied spirits who may show demonic nature are manifestation of deceased humans in netherworld. They acquire supernatural status after transformation generated by death and ritual. In contrast to demons ( mwt) who are always malevolent, those spirits can be benevolent or malevolent.Both demons and spirits of the dead are listed in spells due to the fact that they both can be harmful to humans.

Demons act on the border of order and chaos. They can manifest as a single entity or in pair or in a group. Wonderers that may travel in groups are under control of Ra or Osiris and act upon the will of gods and bring punishment to the earth or netherworld. In other cases, they act upon own will and bring misfortune or cause chaos. Egyptians believed that the influence of demons can be tempered by the use of magic. Nevertheless, it can not be fully destroyed. Wandering demons can cause certain physical and mental diseases or symptoms. For example, the demon Sahqeq can cause headache. Nightmares were also understood a caused by demons. Egyptians believed that nightmare demons could enter a human body from the outside therefore they were considered as a subcategory of wandering demons.In this sense they can be considered as the Egyptian equivalent of medieval incubi and succubi.

However, the sexual assault that is characteristic to incubi and succubi is not explicit in Egyptian spells.
Demonic possession could not only happened during the night but also during awaking . Moreover, wondering demons could enter and haunt houses. In fact, magical spells contain a list of the parts of the house that can be defended against demons. Demons can move between the earth and beyond. When demons act as guardians of gates to the netherworld, they can be benevolent if the deceased possess the magic to face them.

Both gods and demons are messengers and can act against humankind. Demons may sent death plague by furies goddess Sakhmet and Bastet. “The slaughterers"- evil-bringers –are mainly related to Sekhmet in her aggressive and potentially destructive aspect The role of the slaughterers in relation to the deceased of the Book of the Dead is a rather terrifying one: he attempts to make them content by praising them.
An extremely important topic of the ancient Egyptian funerary literature of the New Kingdom, involves the protection of the heart, which indirectly recalls the final judgment, the moment in which destructive forces and dangers in general, as symbolized by demons,reached their apex in the Realm of the Dead and therefore the deceased needed the protection of funerary magic.

In the Late Period and Ptolemiac and Roman Periods as the astrology gained prominence in Egyptian religious thought a certain astral bodies if Northern constellation were demonized. For instance, a certain astral bodies that were depicted on the astronomical ceiling of temples and tombs corresponded with demonic inhibitants called “ mounds of netherworld” as were described in Spell 149 of the Book of the Dead.

Spell 151

Guardian, on the other hand, can be benevolent toward those who have the secret knowledge of their names as well as the knowledge how to face them. They attached to a specific places like pool, river or mauntain from where they attack the passerby. Similarly, other system of beliefs, for example Hellenistic world recognized the existence of such demons. Their aggressive nature is a result of the need to protect their abode. Thus, they differ from disease demons who attack the human body or places that don’t belong to them. They are described in the spells 144-147 of the Book of dead and the book of netherworld. Their dreadful nature made them suitable to protect sacred places and as such they took on the role of temple genni in Late and Ptolemaic Periods. Guardian demons have hybrid human animal appearance. In ancient Egypt teriomorphic traits accentuate most fearful aspects of demons stress those beings “otherness” Snakes, feline, reptailes, bulls, goats, scorpions, falcons or vultures can be a part of demonic body. This iconography is similar to deities depicted in animal or hybrid forms. Typical of demonic iconography are fantastic animals or monstrous iconographies that combine 2 or 3 animal and humans into one body, for example Ammut crocodile, leo and hippo“the devourer of the dead” Funerary compositions depict demons with snakes and anthropomorphic legs, multiple heads or wings. Those demons serve as benevolent or malevolent guardians. Gigantic python, Apep, is their prototype. But Apep is not considered as demon due to his cosmic role of being the enemy of Ra.

Book of the Dead spell 87 and 88 from the Papyrus of Ani

A minor demon, Qed-Her had the head of a cat from which two serpents emerge and Knife Wielding demons seated before gates of the netherworld.

Detail from the papyrus of Hunefer; the sun god represented as a cat kills the serpent of darkness with a knife.

Detail from the papyrus of Hunefer; the sun god represented as a cat kills the serpent of darkness with a knife.
The guardians of the Book of the Dead are representation of a hybrid creature with human body and animal head. Even though their appearance is not different from gods depicted in hybrid forms, the repertoire of the animals is more varied reptiles, felines, canines, donkeys, baboons, hippopotami, goats, bulls, insects, scorpions, and birds such as falcons and vultures. The role of the guardian-demons is that of opening the gates of the netherworld for Osiris. In fact, the private funerary sphere to which the Book of the Dead spells refer gains an amplified cosmogonical and ritual dimension that concerns the rebirth and power of Osiris in the netherworld.

Both funerary magic that involves opening the gates of the netherworld and temple ritual where the rituals were performed are based on ‘opening the way’ through gates and doors that separate different domains (earth/netherworld, pure/impure, sacred/profane).

The guardian demons become therefore the link among funerary and daily ritual magic. In BD 145 the deceased declares in front of the gates
‘Make way for me, since I know you, I know your name, I know the name of the god who guards you.’

Besides the fantastic creatures, the netherworld was the abode of animals considered as dangerous such as reptiles or insects or impure such as pigs or donkey that belong to the destructive god Seth. A spell s in Pyramid text or coffin text aim at protecting against snakes considered as an enemy of sun god. Magical and ritual objects depict demons being submitted and controlled by anthropomorphic deities who act as protectors. The example is Horus stele or Horus Shed.

Encounters with creatures who watch over passages that are represented as gates, portals are described in Book of Dead 144-147. Doors or door watchers of the netherworld can also be found in other ancient Egyptian funerary text such as Book of gate or Book of Night.

Ch. 144-147 show a series of creatures guarding the doors of the netherworld, defined as more than genii, and as demons. They are potentially harmful for whoever is not provided with the appropriate knowledge to face them. They also have a positive function for the sacred place they guard, namely the doors and portals of the netherworld. The doorkeepers of the Book of the Dead are depicted with animal head and human body.

144 Lists the names of the creatures serving as keeper, guard, and announcer at each of seven gates. their names are fairly terrifying, for instance "He who lives on snakes", or "Hippopotamus-faced, raging of power". By knowing these gates, the deceased can persuade them to let him through. to the guardians the deceased says:

O you gates, you who keep the gates because of Osiris, O you who guard them and who report the affairs of the Two Lands to Osiris every day; I know you and I know your names.
—Book of the Dead, spell 144

If uttered correctly, this spell ensures "he will not be driven off or turned away at the portals of the Netherworld".

145 An alternative form of 146.

146 Describes twenty-one 'portals of the House of Osiris in the Field of Reeds', each with a deity and a door-keeper. The names and descriptions of these entities are more elaborate and just as terrifying as those in 144.

147 A gate spell
Doors or door watchers of the netherworld can also be found in other ancient Egyptian funerary text such as Book of gate or Book of Night.

Demons play a central role in protecting sacred places that are located between earth and netherworld, the role that is confirmed in religions of Mesopotamia, Buddhism or Hinduism. However, the Book of Dead spells is unique in a sense that describes the interaction of deceased with demons.
Finally, among the demonic beings of the Book of the Dead there are also animals, which also populate the earth. Egyptians considered certain kinds of animals particularly dangerous and therefore associated with demonic forces. In fact, reptiles and some mammals like the pig, the donkey, the dog and the jackal were seen as negative manifestations of Seth.

Lucarelli, Rita ( 2010), Demons (benevolent and malevolent).
UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology
Rita Lucarelli, Leiden, Demons in the Book of the Dead
Book of the Dead: Closing vignettes (to spells 185 and 186) from the Papyrus of Ani

Fichier:Ani LDM 82 87 88.jpg
This is an excellent example of one of the many fine vignettes (illustrations) from the Book of the Dead of Hunefer.

Book of the Dead of Hunefer (Hw-nfr) ; sheet 8; fully coloured vignettes; coloured border. Spell 17.

Part of the Book of the Dead of the scribe Nebqed, under the reign of Amenophis III (1391-1353 BC), 18th dynasty. Followed by his mother Amenemheb and his wife Meryt, Nebqed meets the Egyptian god of the dead, Osiris.