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Ancient Egyptian Magic is the first authoritative modern work on the occult practices that pervaded all aspects of life in ancient Egypt. Based on fascinating archaeological discoveries, it includes everything from how to write your name ...
Ancient Egyptian Magic is the first authoritative modern work on the occult practices that pervaded all aspects of life in ancient Egypt. Based on fascinating archaeological discoveries, it includes everything from how to write your name in hieroglyphs to the proper way to bury a king, as well as:
These subjects and many more will appeal to everyone interested in Egyptology, magic, parapsychology, and the occult; or ancient religions and mythology.
A complete guide to the magic, potions and hieroglyphs of ancient Egypt.
Today, we expect our clergy to have entered into their profession because of a deep religious commitment. In ancient Egypt, however, being a priest was merely a job, a means to making a good living and having status in the community. This may strike us as odd and perhaps even missing the whole point of a religious life, but there was a crucial difference between the function of a priest in ancient Egypt and that of a modern cleric. In our society a minister or priest is thought of as having a close one-to-one relationship with God. If he does not have strong religious convictions, the relationship is vacuous. This was not the case with the Egyptian priest. His job was primarily to be a stand-in for the pharaoh.
Egypt was a theocracy — its political ruler was a god. As a god, the pharaoh ultimately was responsible for maintaining the divine order throughout Egypt. Obviously, the king could not be present for all the ceremonies at the various temples in Egypt. He needed delegates who could take his place at temple functions. As the functions became more and more numerous — sometimes several ceremonieseach day at each temple — the delegates became more and more numerous. This was the origin of the priesthood.
Since ancient Egyptian priests were not a group of men set apart from the rest of the community by their religious commitments, they dealt with mundane matters of life much as laymen did. For instance, it was common for a priestly office to be hereditary. The father who held a particular office could pass that position down to his son, regardless of the son's religious beliefs or moral conduct. Herodotus recorded the practice:
They led me into the inner sanctuary, which is a spacious chamber, and showed me a multitude of colossal statues, in wood, which they counted up, and found to amount to the exact number they had said; the custom being for every high-priest during his lifetime to set up his statue in the temple. As they showed me the figures and reckoned them up, they assured me that each was the son of the one preceding him...
—Herodotus, Book II, 143
Eventually, the priesthood became a tremendous bureaucracy numbering thousands of men. There were hundreds of temples dedicated to the various gods, and each temple was somewhat autonomous, having its own hierarchy and division of labors. However, all temples had similar offices with extreme specialization of services.
Perhaps one of the most important functions of the priests was caring for the cult statues of the gods, or "oracles." (See Chapter 13, "Oracles.") Only a select few of the priests were permitted to enter each temple's holy of holies and care for the oracle (Figure 5). This involved presenting food before the god several times a day, clothing him in the morning, sealing the chamber in the evening, and so forth. These priests were called the stolists by the Greeks, because they were in charge of the clothing of the god.