Ancient Egyptian Divination and Magic [NOOK Book]


Drawing from her own experiences and important works including The Leyden Papyrus and The Papyrus Ani, Harris explores the how's and whys of magical tools, amulets, words of power, divination, and magic of the Ancient Egyptian tradition. She also explains how the ancient temples and priesthoods functioned, and how students today can create their own working environment. Illustrated. Resource list. Bibliography. Index.

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Ancient Egyptian Divination and Magic

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Drawing from her own experiences and important works including The Leyden Papyrus and The Papyrus Ani, Harris explores the how's and whys of magical tools, amulets, words of power, divination, and magic of the Ancient Egyptian tradition. She also explains how the ancient temples and priesthoods functioned, and how students today can create their own working environment. Illustrated. Resource list. Bibliography. Index.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781609254162
  • Publisher: Red Wheel/Weiser
  • Publication date: 1/15/1998
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 806,009
  • File size: 2 MB

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By Eleanor L. Harris

Samuel Weiser, Inc.

Copyright © 1998 Eleanor Harris
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60925-416-2


Understanding Egyptian Religious and Magical Philosophy

Ignorance is Darkness—Egyptian proverb

From the earliest times, magic was developed largely by the Egyptians in relation both to the dead and the living. The belief in magic is older in Egypt than the belief in God. Egyptian religion was grounded in a firm and active belief in the importance of magic. Ancient Egyptians believed in, and aspired to use, the power of magical amulets, spells, scripts, names, and intricate ceremonies. To best understand Egyptian magic, you need to understand their religious and magical philosophy.

Religious Philosophy

The Egyptians did not maintain a universal system of religious belief. Dogma did not exist. There were no holy texts defining strict religious doctrines requiring conformity. In polytheism, there was tolerance. The ancient Egyptians were peaceful, kind, and very aware of family values. Their religious dealings reflected this in that there were no persecutions in the name of religion.

Egyptians revered and respected all of natural existence. They did not attempt to persuade or force non-Egyptians to worship their deities, nor did they degrade the beliefs of others. In fact, the Egyptians were open-minded and receptive to other cultures' belief systems.

Ancient Egyptian religion is puzzling to a degree; it resembles Judaism, Islam, and Christianity in that it propounded a belief in a central god, the Creator, but it was also polytheistic.

Whether polytheism grew from monotheism in Egypt, or monotheism from polytheism, will remain a mystery. The evidence of the pyramid texts shows that, already in the 5th Dynasty, monotheism and polytheism flourished side by side.

While the ancient Egyptians had a pantheon of gods and goddesses, they believed in one central god who was the Creator, invisible and eternal. This one god created all in existence. This god was divine, but had lived upon the Earth and had suffered a cruel death at the hands of his enemies. He had risen from the dead and had become the God and Pharaoh of the world beyond the grave. This god was Ausar.

The following outline of beliefs taken from native religious works, some calculated to be between six and seven thousand years old, describes the basic composition of Egyptian religious philosophy:

• A central god, the Creator;

• A company of gods and goddesses possessing humanlike emotion and human-animal characteristics;

• Divine truth, order, and judgment;

• Divine battle between Order and Chaos;

• Resurrection;

• Immortality.

From primitive times and well into more civilized periods, Egyptian religious beliefs remained much the same. The Egyptians were immaculate record keepers and very conservative in maintaining early traditions. New insights gained with the passage of time were merely added to the main body of beliefs.

Order and Chaos at War

The Egyptians believed the forces of primal chaos posed a continuous threat to the world. The creation of the world had occurred in conjunction with the creation of social order and kingship, and the harmony of the universe could be preserved by practicing the principal of maat; divine truth, justice, and order. The principal of maat was the basis of the Egyptian religion, and was symbolized by the goddess Maat. She reigned over the equilibrium of the universe, the divine order of all things, and the regular cycles of the Sun, the Moon, the stars, the seasons, and time itself.

Although it was clear these chaotic forces had been tamed, only the deities could protect and defeat the eternally present threat of chaos.

The Nine Bodies: A Religious Theory

Egyptians believed that humans and other living creatures consisted of nine "bodies." These nine bodies define why the Egyptians believed that it was possible to invoke a creature's life force into a statue, and thereby gain the creature's power. They believed in ghosts and apparitions, which were made possible by the existence of the "ka" body, and the "khu" body, discussed below. Through different bodies, the Egyptians communicated with the dead, projected out-of-body, assumed other creatures' power, and enjoyed other abilities that you can share today.

The nine bodies are defined and discussed below. By learning the principles of each, you will understand their uses in magic that are described in later chapters.

Khat, the natural body: which is translated as something which is able to decay. It is the physical body. The word also applies to the mummified body in a tomb. Funeral ceremonies on the day of burial have the power to transform the khat into the spiritual body, the "sahu." The physical body was given to the Earth upon death but the soul resided in heaven. This proves Egyptians believed in an afterlife, eternal life, and resurrection.

Sahu, the spiritual body: describes a physical body that has obtained a degree of knowledge, power, and glory. It evolves thereby into the sahu, which is everlasting and incorruptible. The sahu has the ability to become related to the soul and to communicate with it. When the physical body changes into the sahu body, it ascends into the heavens to dwell with the gods and the righteous.

Ab, the heart body: the heart. Considered the core power of life, it houses the abstract personality, or the characteristic attributes of the per son. It is the instrument of good and evil thoughts. This body can move freely by separating itself from, or uniting with, the physical body at will. It also enjoys life with the gods in heaven.

Ka, the double body: literally describes a "double" of image and genius. Considered a copy of the physical body, (compare to contemporary "astral body"), the ka was offered meat, wine, and other delicacies at funeral ceremonies to sustain it after physical death. The ka dwelt within the deceased's statue, just as the ka of a deity dwells within its statue. Someone who wished to communicate with the deceased read a message, left a written message on papyrus in the tomb, or tied a statue of the deceased in the tomb. Since the ka lived therein, it could, of course, observe and understand.

There was a priesthood in Egypt, termed Priests of Ka, who performed services, worshipped, and left offerings for the ka in a special chamber within the tomb, called the "ka chapel." After physical death, the ka required offerings of food and drink. If food and drink were scarce, the ka was given offerings painted upon the walls of the tomb. Magical intent transformed the pictures into suitable nourishment.

Ba, the soul body: means something roughly equivalent to "sublime," or "noble." The ba dwells in the ka. It continues to possess both substance and form after death. It is depicted in hieroglyphs as a human-headed hawk and its nature is ethereal. The ba can revisit the body in the tomb, re-animate it, and converse with it. It can take any shape desired and passes into heaven to dwell eternally with other perfect souls. Like the ka, the ba needs food and drink to sustain itself. It also partook of funeral offerings.

Khaibit, the shadow body: is the shadow of the human that connects with the ka and ba as they ingest funeral offerings and visit the tomb at will. The khaibit is associated to the soul, because it is believed to always be near it. The Egyptians considered it part of the human economy. It has an independent existence and is able to separate from the body to move as it pleases.

Khu, the spirit body: means translucent or shining and indicates the intangible casing of the body. It can be compared to the aura. The khu represents the intelligence, but in many hieroglyphic texts, it is spoken of as what we understand to be the spirit, which is why experts term it "the spirit body." The khus of the gods reside in heaven. Human khus, during funeral ceremonies, are surrounded by the khus of the gods and assisted to heaven. The khu is imperishable. A special magical formula prepared by the ancient priests enabled the khu of the deceased to pass from the tomb and into the realm of the gods.

The collected bodies of a man or woman, once in heaven, were attributed to Ausar. Like Ausar, the deceased had walked among the living ones and then, at death, resurrected to become a son/daughter of the Creator. The Egyptians believed in deification of the spiritual body.

Sekhem, the form body: represents the form of power of a man or woman. The word has been associated with the soul and the khu. At death, the sekhem is called to come among the khus in heaven.

The Egyptian Sun god, Ra, was often referred to as "sekhem ur," which means Great Sekhem or Great Power. In many contemporary Egyptian practices, the sekhem is considered very much a part of human life. It represents the power of the individual that can be built up and directed in magic.

Ren, the name body: though rarely mentioned in books, describes the name by which the deceased was called in heaven. Egyptians believed that great power resided in words and names. They believed the gods knew the name of the deceased. The name of a person, deity, or creature was considered sacred and never-changing.

Humans and other creatures thus consisted of a physical body, a spiritual body, a heart, a double, a soul, a shadow, an intelligence/intangible ethereal casing, a form, and a name. All of these bodies were bound together, and the welfare of one concerned the welfare of all.

In contemporary circles, it is debated whether the ab, ka, or khaibit equates to the astral body. The Egyptians practiced shape-shifting, which is similar to astral projection. In certain texts, the ka is mentioned. In others, a particular body is not named. In chapter 4, you will learn how to shape-shift using the ka/double body.

Early Formation of Gods

Early Egyptians believed inanimate objects were endowed with magical and mystical power. Fossil belemnites, arrows, and a scepter were among the many objects recognized. Stones, such as red jasper, were regarded as sacred. Wood was sacred in Egypt, because trees were scarce. Egyptian traders are thought to have traded gold for wood to be used in the manufacture of their ritual tools and as the core of their statues.

Egyptians of the prehistoric era eventually began to give human form to their sacred animals and objects, perhaps because inanimate or animal deities cannot converse easily with humans. A closer relationship was possible if the gods developed more human characteristics. Many gods and goddesses were equipped with a human body, but kept an animal head or other animal features. Later still, the deities were given full human form, but remained associated with, and at times were portrayed as, the original animal of their divinity.

The Creation of Animal Gods

Egyptians did not worship animals as animals; animals were thought to be incarnations of particular gods or goddesses. The animal was considered as the deity's manifestation upon Earth. This was no different than their belief that the Pharaoh was a visible incarnation of Ra, the Sun god.

Animal gods were localized. One province might worship a cat deity and another a bull god. An animal was chosen, it is believed, for special powers it possessed, or because of the fear that it caused. Although these characteristics played an important part, it may also have been a factor whether the animal was rare or abundant in a given area. Egyptologists are uncertain exactly why each animal god or goddess was chosen.

The practice of animism gave way to magical and mystical ideas about the objects and animals admired and revered. It was thought that their magical and powerful qualities could be invoked, absorbed by the magician-priest, and worked to obtain desires through magical formulas. It was believed that magicians could shape-shift into the chosen object, animal, or deity, could literally be transformed in mind, body, and soul in order to achieve magical goals. (You will learn how to shape-shift in chapter 4).

A Hierarchy of Gods

We can organize Egyptian deities into three categories:

Universal gods: cosmic deities who, as the central figures in Egyptian myths, were worshipped by cult temples. The Sun, Moon, storm, wind, and so on, were represented by gods and goddesses who became divine beings of intellectual understanding and worship. Cosmic gods were not fully developed until the Historic Era (post-3000 B.C.), when the Sun in particular became a universal god, worshipped throughout the land. Around 2500 B.C., the Sun god was elevated to the position of state god.

Local gods: living creatures, associated with particular towns that were the earliest of Egyptian deities. Personal gods. Each town had its own local god.

Personal gods: objects or creatures that an individual believed sacred. Personal gods were very important to the average Egyptian, who was not allowed entrance into a temple. Much like the solitary pagan practitioners of today, these individuals were very content with worshipping through personal beliefs, working personal magic, and constructing their own shrines.

The Egyptians created and revered numerous deities by what they saw as beautiful and sacred qualities in the animals and environment. Every animal was considered a divine manifestation and were created into human-animal deities that each had a devoted following.

The creation of numerous deities is really not so peculiar. If you asked an Egyptian if he or she had seen their cat-goddess Bast, they would say yes, for they witnessed a cat in their daily lives and in their temples. Not many religions have followers that can claim to actually see a manifestation of their deities, much less maintain such a closeness with them.

Several gods and goddess were revered simultaneously, and the individual was free to worship whichever he/she preferred.

Countless books exist detailing the gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt. Due to the fact that there are an estimated thousand or more, we will refrain from an in-depth examination of them here. The gods and goddesses discussed throughout this book are defined in the Glossary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses, and within each chapter.

Magical Philosophy

Egyptian magic dates from the time when the predynastic and prehistoric dwellers in Egypt believed that the Earth, the underworld, the air, and the sky were peopled with countless beings, visible and invisible, that were potentially friendly or unfriendly to man, according to the operations of nature which they directed. Primitive Egyptians believed these beings had attributes and personalities similar to their own: human emotions, desires, and weaknesses. These gods and goddesses for which Egyptian religion is best known, provided the foundation for Egyptian magic, whose objective was to provide humankind control and dominance over these beings for the purpose of assuming their powers to carry out tasks and desires through magic.

Friendly beings were coaxed to assist the magician with offerings and attractive gifts. Unfriendly beings were flattered, pleaded with, or influenced by amulets, figures, pictures, or secret names. Magical formulas were also designed and used. All of these tactics resulted in skilled mortals having access to beings who were more powerful than any enemy who threatened harm.

Just as Egyptians believed the world itself came into existence by the utterance of a single word, they believed that inanimate nature could be commanded by words of power. Gods, spirits, devils, weather—nothing could resist the power of words. Nature recognized the trained minds strength. The elements, disease, and death were all susceptible to influence for positive or negative intent.

Early nations of Egypt practiced magic that caused the transfer of power from a being of the spirit world and worlds beyond to a man or woman knowledgeable in the magical arts. The theory was that the trained mind obtained great power to cause changes and achieve magical aims that were otherwise impossible. Ancient magicians could be endowed with both friendly and hostile powers, and with the power of the gods to control and direct as desired.

Religious ceremonies of later years are thought to have consisted of original magical and superstitious traditions. The religious books of ancient Egypt taught that magicians, and later priests, who were knowledgeable and skilled in magic had unlimited power to influence or cause change. The trained magician could recite and properly pronounce names and words of power that restored life to the dead, healed the sick, banished evil spirits, enabled human beings to shape-shift at will, and allowed doubles (astral bodies) to be projected into creatures or inanimate objects. By command, inanimate figures, objects, and pictures came to life and performed those tasks the magician desired. The use of poppets and figures that model human beings in the magical work of modern times is directly descended from Egyptian tradition.

Egyptians worked magic to influence every event in their lives, no matter how trivial or great. In the books of the "double house of life," the future was as well known as the past, and neither time nor distance could limit the operations of the magician's power. The secrets of fate and destiny were revealed to, and could be controlled by, the skilled practitioner.

Even peasants held and practiced magical beliefs. Although the educated magician-priests practiced a more complex form of magic and added new techniques learned from foreigners. The peasants, not allowed entry into the temple or access to literature, practiced folk magic based upon superstition and old traditions.

Excerpted from ANCIENT EGYPTIAN DIVINATION AND MAGIC by Eleanor L. Harris. Copyright © 1998 Eleanor Harris. Excerpted by permission of Samuel Weiser, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


List Of Figures          


Chapter 1: Understanding Egyptian Religious and Magical Philosophy          

Chapter 2: Ritual Tools          

Chapter 3: Amulets          

Chapter 4: Writing and Using Magical Script          

Chapter 5: Divination          

Chapter 6: Ancient Egyptian Magic          

Glossary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses          

Glossary of Terms          

Egyptian Resources          



About the Author          

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2000

    Excellent Guide

    Whether you're an armchair Egyptologist, or interested in ancient Egyptian religion, magic and rituals, you must have a copy of this book. I've an extensive library on ancient Egyptian subjects and this book is one of the best on divination and magic. It even tells you how to make authentic ancient clothing, ritual tools, amulets, and more. You can learn ancient Egyptian divination by fire scrying, water scrying, or by oil lamp. It's superb.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2014

    This book is amazing!

    I really loved this book because it gives great definitions and very good step-by-step instructions.

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