Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Ancient Egypt's Evil Dead


Happy Halloween!
To the ancient Egyptians, the dead were an active part of the living world. Every year, people ate and drank with their dead relatives at their tombs as part of the Theban Valley Festival; they also wrote messages on the inside of bowls and left them at tombs, so that once the deceased had eaten his funerary meal, he would find the 'letter'. Although most ghosts found wandering around the local necropolis might want nothing more than to have their tombs rebuilt, others were more malevolent, such as mutu, individuals who had failed to reach the judgement hall of Osiris, were executed, or had not received proper funerary rituals (among other reasons). Mutu hassled the living, and were just one form of the evil dead, others, such as 'adversaries' and 'enemies', could cause sickness. The Egyptians believed in demons too; these were thought to cause plague, and could even possess people. One particularly fearsome demon was Shakek, 'whose eyes are in his head, whose tongue is in his anus, who eats the bread-of-his-buttocks!'. Such evil forces weren't confined to the necropolis, the Egyptians feared that ghosts might enter their homes at night and assault or 'sit upon' a person; to keep safe, they placed images of protector gods in their bedrooms. People also used magic to fight off the evil dead, and wore protective amulets. So, when out trick or treating this year, watch out for these ancient Egyptian creatures of darkness, and keep your magical amulets close by!