History of Witchcraft (part 3) From here, let us move on to Egypt where we will look at ot
History of Witchcraft (part 3)
From here, let us move on to Egypt where we will look at other
mystical symbols and more history of magic and the craft.
The Sphinx was a mythological creature with lion's body and human
head, an important image in Egyptian and Greek art and legend.
The word sphinx was derived by Greek grammarians from the verb
sphingein (to bind or squeeze), but the etymology is not related
to the legend and is dubious.
The winged sphinx of Boeotian Thebes, the most famous in legend,
was said to have terrorized the people by demanding the answer to
a riddle. If the person answered incorrectly, he or she was eaten
by the sphinx. It is said that Oedipus answered properly where
upon the sphinx killed herself.
The earliest and most famous example in art is the colossal
Sphinx at Giza, Egypt. It dates from the reign of King Khafre
(4th king of 4th dynasty; c. 2550 b.c.)
The Sphinx did not occur in Mesopotamia until around 1500 b.c.
when it was imported from the Levant. In appearance, the Asian
sphinx differed from its Egyptian model mostly in the addition of
wings to the leonine body. This feature continued through its
history in Asia and the Greek world.
Another version of the sphinx was that of the female. This
appeared in the 15th century b.c. on seals, ivories and
metalworkings. They were portrayed in the sitting position
usually with one paw raised. Frequently, they were seen with a
lion, griffin or another sphinx.
The appearance of the sphinx on temples and the like eventually
lead to a possible interpretation of the sphinx as a protective
symbol as well as a philosophical one.
The Sphinx rests at the foot of the 3 pyramids of Khufu, Khafre,
and Menkure. It talons stretch over the city of the dead as it
guards its secrets.
The myth goes that a prince who later became Thutmose IV, took a
nap in the shadow of the half-submerged Sphinx. As he slept, the
Sun-god (whom the Sphinx represents, appeared to him in a dream.
Speaking to him as a son, he told the prince that he would
succeed to the throne and enjoy a long and happy reign. He urged
the prince to have the Sphinx cleared of the sand.
In his book on Isis and Osiris, Plutarch (A.D. 45-126) says that
the Sphinx symbolizes the secret of occult wisdom, though
Plutarch never unveiled the mysteries of the Sphinx. It is said
that the magic of the Sphinx lies within the thousands of hands
that chiseled at the rock. The thoughts of countless generations
dwell in it; numberless conjurations and rites have built up in
it a mighty protective spirit, a soul that still inhabits this
Another well know superstition of the peoples of Ancient Egypt
was that regarding their dead.
They believed that in the West lies the World of the Dead, where
the Sun-god disappears every evening. The departed were referred
to as "Westerners." It was believed that, disguised as birds, the
dead soar into the sky where in his heavenly barge Ra, the Sun-
god, awaits them and transforms them into stars to travel with
him through the vault of the heavens.
The occult of the dead reached it's height when it incorporated
the Osiris myth. Osiris was born to save mankind. At his
nativity, a voice was heard proclaiming that the Lord had come
into the world (sound familiar?). But his brother/father Seth
shut him up in a chest which he carried to the sea by the
Tanaitic mouth of the Nile. Isis brought him back to life. Seth
then scattered his body all over the place. It is said that Isis
fastened the limbs together with the help of the gods Nephtis,
Thoth, and Horus, her son. Fanning the body with her wings, and
through her magic, Osiris rose again to reign as king over the
The Egyptian believed that a person had two souls. The sould
known as Ba is the one that progressed into the afterlife while
the Ka remains with the mummy. The Ka is believed to live a
magical life within the grave. Thus the Egyptians placed
miniture belongings of the deceased into the tomb. Such items as
images, statuettes, imitation utensils, and miniture houses take
the place of the real thing. They believed that the Ka would use
these as the real item because the mortuary priests possesed
magic that would make them real for the dead.
The priests believed that the gods could be deceived, menaced and
forced into obedience. They had such trust in the power of
magic, the virtue of the spoken word, the irresistibility of
magic gestures and other ritual, that they hoped to bend even the
good gods to their will. They would bring retribution to the
deities who failed to deal leniently with the dead. They
threatened to shoot lightning into the are of Shu, god of the
air, who would then no longer be able to support the sky-goddess,
and her star-sown body would collapse, disrupting the order of
When Ikhnaton overthrew the Egyptian gods and demons, making the
cult of the One God Aton, a state religion, he also suppressed
mortuary magic. Ikhnaton did not believe in life after death.
As Christianity became a part of this nation, there is much
evidence to show where the Christians of the time, and the pagans
lived peacefully together.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank