Illustrations and drawings:
A. Explanatory drawings/instructions in magical papyri:
This category is pretty self-explanatory. There are hardly any magical texts without any kind of drawings – some which show exactly the image(s) to be used to ritual. Some even have drawings related to a myth which has to do in some way with the magical work prescribed. For example the story of Isis and the name of Ra, which usually relates to spells and rituals aimed at healing venomous snake bites.
Other times, there would be instructions on what image is to be used (and on what):
Invocation of Anubis and other Gods for revelation:
[...] Formula: You take a bowl of bronze, you engrave a figure of Anubis in it. [...] (1)
B. Drawings on various objects to be used in ritual:
Included here are the following:
- magic rods made of various materials (with magical figurines attached to them) decorated with symbols and images such as wedjat eyes and animal motifs.*
- Horus cippi (of which larger ones can have entire spells written down) which had the purpose of repelling dangerous animals and reptiles and to cure those afflicted by venomous bites.
-Soles of sandals: for execrations known as ‘the trampling underfoot‘ the images of enemies (and perhaps their names) would be drawn on the soles of sandals so the enemies of the Magician would literally be trampled on. This type of execration is very commonly seen in the case of royalty – there are numerous examples of images of the king smiting Egypt’s enemies.
The trampling underfoot of an enemy, depicted unambiguously here, becomes a permanent feature of Egyptian royal seated (and striding statues) – with a slight modification. Replacing the literal images of the vanquished enemies is a series of Nine Bows, the symbols of the traditional foes of Egypt, carved as protruding from beneath the feet of the ruler. (2)
It’s also worth mentioning that this particular type of execration survived until the Roman Period.
- a variety of objects such as papyrus, metal plates, ostraca, stones and linen, each object having a specific ritual purpose.
C. Images drawn on the body or to be consumed (absorbed by the body):
To heal ophthalmia (?) in a man:
[...] You also write this on a new papyrus; you make it into a written amulet on his body: – ‘Thou art this eye of heaven’ in the writings. (followed by an eye with rays, as drawn in the papyrus) (3)
Magical texts also have a variety of medicinal spells (medicine and magic in Ancient Egypt were not separated) which prescribe writing the words of power or drawing the images on strips of papyrus which was to be dissolved in beer and drank so the full power of the spell would be absorbed by the body.
An even more well known example of drawing on the body is the Magician having a figure of the goddess Ma’at painted on his tongue (which, in some cases, is even a ritual purity requirement)
The purpose of this uncomfortable requirement was to ensure that the magician’s words were true and would therefore bring what they described into being. (4)
Of course, this particular magical technique was not limited to the tongue. There are plenty of examples where the magical figures or symbols would be drawn on the skin in various locations on the body of the Magician (or the client), usually to provide magical protection during the rite.
There is one other thing I’d like to add: more often than not, the ink with which the drawings were to be made is very important. However, this is the subject of a whole discussion which I will leave for a future post.
1) Demotic Magical Papyrus of London and Leiden, edited by F.L Griffith & H. Thompson, 904, PDF edition 2007, Col. XIV
* Magic in Ancient Egypt by Geraldine Pinch has a very good example of a magical rod on pg. 79
2) The Mechanics of Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice, R.K. Ritner, pg. 119
3) Demotic Magical Papyrus of London and Leiden, edited by F.L Griffith & H. Thompson, 904, PDF edition 2007, Col. XX
4) Magic in Ancient Egypt, Geraldine Pinch, pg. 77-78