Ancient Egyptian codex deciphered, revealing 1,300-year-old spells and invocations

Ancient Egyptian codex deciphered, revealing 1,300-year-old spells and invocations


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An ancient Egyptian codex written in Coptic and dating back 1,300 years had been deciphered for the first time, revealing that the 20-page book made of parchment contains a series of spells and invocations, including spells to counter evil possession. The codex reflects a fusion of religions, as some invocations call upon Jesus, while others refer to divine figures from the Sethian religion, considered heretical in the 7 th century AD when the text was created.

According to a report in Live Science , the codex is currently being held in the Museum of Ancient Cultures at Macquarie University in Sydney. However, having been purchased from an antiquities dealer in the 1980s, its origins are unfortunately unknown. The dialect used in the ancient text may suggest an origin in Upper Egypt, perhaps around the ancient city of Hermopolis.

"It is a complete 20-page parchment codex, containing the handbook of a ritual practitioner," write Malcolm Choat and Iain Gardner, who are professors in Australia at Macquarie University and the University of Sydney, respectively, in their book, "A Coptic Handbook of Ritual Power" (Brepols, 2014).

The Egyptian codex, which researchers are calling the “Handbook of Ritual Power”, includes a series of invocations with drawings, followed by twenty-seven spells, including prescriptions to cure possession by evil spirits, spells to bring success in love and business, and magical formulas to treat ailments such as a ‘black jaundice’, a potentially fatal infection that is still around today.

A coptic codex with magic spells (5-6th century AD), similar to the parchment that has been newly deciphered, which dates to around a century after this one. ( Wikimedia)

Fusion of religions

Interestingly, the book of invocations and spells reflects a fusion of religions. It was written during a time when many Egyptians were Christian and this is seen in a number of the invocations that call upon Jesus. However, other invocations appear to be associated with the Sethians, as evidenced by one of the invocations which refers to Seth as “the living Christ”.

The Sethians were a gnostic sect influenced by Platonism, which flourished in the 2 nd and 3 rd centuries AD. They attributed their ‘gnosis’ (knowledge) to Seth, third son of Adam and Eve and Norea, wife of Noah (who also plays a role in Mandeanism and Manicheanism).

During the time the codex was written (approximately 7 th century AD), the Sethians were viewed by the Church as heretics, and by this era, Sethianism was already becoming a dying religion.

Baktiotha, the mystery god

One of the mysteries in the ancient codex is the reference to a divine figure named Baktiotha, whose identity is unknown, but which could be another name for ‘the Christ’. Live Science reports that one of the invocations reads, "I give thanks to you and I call upon you, the Baktiotha: The great one, who is very trustworthy; the one who is lord over the forty and the nine kinds of serpents”.

It is not the first time that a Coptic text has been found that refers to Baktiotha. In a book titled ‘Ausgewahlte koptische Zaubertexte’ , author Angelicus M. Kropp refers to a Coptic spell that is rich with motifs from Gnosticism. According to Kropp, the spell appeals to Christ, who is invoked by the exotic name Baktiotha.

Choat and Gardner have said that the codex appears to have been written before all Sethian invocations were purged from magical texts. It therefore reflects a rare insight into this ancient, but little-known religion.

Featured image: A priestess making offerings to the spirit of a cat on an altar. ‘The Obsequies of an Egyptian Cat’ by John Reinhard Weguelin ( Wikimedia)


Ancient book of Egyptian spells deciphered

SYDNEY, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- Researchers in Australia have successfully translated a 1,300 year old Egyptian text, revealing it to be an ancient codex of spells and invocations.

"It is a complete 20-page parchment codex, containing the handbook of a ritual practitioner," Malcolm Choat and Iain Gardner, professors at Macquarie University and the University of Sydney, respectively, wrote in their book of findings.

The text includes love spells, exorcism instructions and even jaundice treatment.

"[The codex] starts with a lengthy series of invocations that culminate with drawings and words of power. These are followed by a number of prescriptions or spells to cure possession by spirits and various ailments, or to bring success in love and business."

Because the book is a codex of incantations and potions, with mixes of both science and religion, it was not necessarily used excluslvey by spiritual leaders

"It is my sense that there were ritual practitioners outside the ranks of the clergy and monks, but exactly who they were is shielded from us by the fact that people didn't really want to be labeled as a 'magician,'" Choat told LiveScience.


Ancient Egyptian codex deciphered, revealing 1,300-year-old spells and invocations - History

How did the Egyptians in the 8th century A.D. cast a love spell, exorcise a demon or subjugate their enemies? A recently translated codex reveals 27 different spells that were combined for form a “single instrument of religious power.” The book was written in the Coptic language, an adaptation of Greek script, at a time when many Egyptians were Christians. In fact, the book contains many invocations that refer to Jesus Christ.

What is interesting is that several of the invocations seem to originate from a group who called themselves “Sethians.” This was a group that flourished in Egypt during the early centuries of Christianity. They held Seth, who they believed to be the third son of Adam and Eve, in high regard. One invocation refers to Seth as the living Christ.

What is interesting is that before Christianity came to Egypt, Seth was one of the chief Gods of Upper Egypt. He was a desert God of war and strength. (He was also demonized in other parts of Egypt).

This Sethian Cult eventually died out, but it is interesting to see how Pagan ideas and Christianity were blended together in the early days of Christianity.

I think some of the articles about this topic are misleading however, because they call the book an “Ancient Egyptian” book of spells. Since this codex was written in the Christian and Islamic Era, I would hardly say that it was “Ancient History.” I’d be more likely to call it Medieval History.


Ancient Egyptian book of spells translated

A 1,300 year old Egyptian book of spells and incantations has been deciphered, revealing a single, massive spell. The codex is called the “Handbook of Ritual Power,” and contains love spells, explains how to exercise demons, and includes instructions on how to treat illnesses, according to Live Science.

“It is a complete 20-page parchment codex, containing the handbook of a ritual practitioner,” Malcolm Choat and Iain Gardner, Australian professors at Macquarie University and the University of Sydney, respectively, wrote.

The book was originally thought to contain 27 separate spells and invocations, but following the complete translation, researchers now believe the document is intended to be seen as one. The spells are meant to form a “single instrument of power.”

The book is written in Coptic, a language spoken by the Copts, a group of Christians native to Egypt. The book was written during a period when Christianity was the dominant religion in Egypt, prior to the Arab invasion of the area. During the time, Coptic Christians frequently practiced this type of magic.

The codex “starts with a lengthy series of invocations that culminate with drawings and words of power,” Choats and Gardner wrote. “These are followed by a number of prescriptions or spells to cure possession by spirits and various ailments, or to bring success in love and business.

The researchers also claim that the text seems to have been written by a group of Sethians, a sect of Christianity that worshiped Seth, the third son of Adam and Eve. The text references “Seth, the living Christ.”

There are also references to a mysterious diving being known as “Baktioha.”

“The Baktiotha is an ambivalent figure. He is a great power and a ruler of forces in the material realm,” Choat and Gardner said.

The Sethians eventually ran afoul of other Christians, and were branded heretics at some point in the 7 th Century. They went extinct soon after.

The codex was kept as part of a private collection until 1981, but before that its origins are unknown. It is now on display in the Museum of Ancient Cultures at Macquarie University in Sydney. A complete translation is available for purchase, but it will run you about $80.


Ancient Egyptian codex of spells and incantations deciphered

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Researchers from the universities of Macquarie, have managed to unravel the secrets of an ancient Egyptian manuscript believed to be about 1300 years old. After decades of analysis, experts were able to determine that this is codex is in fact a manual “how to” of spells and incantations which they have named as the “Egyptian Handbook of Ritual Power”. This how-to-guide was discovered by a merchant somewhere between the late 1970s and early 1980s, even though the exact origin of this documents remains a mystery. The merchant sold it to Macquarie University. Since then, there have been several attempts to translate the text, but all of them ended in failure but that has changed.

The ancient Egyptian handbook contained spells, researchers discover.
(Macquarie University)

The Egyptian codex, or”Egyptian Handbook of Ritual Power” and is entirely made of bound pages of parchment, commonly referred to as codex. Given the style of writing, it is believed to have been written by an inhabitant of Upper Egypt, 1300 years ago,. The codex has a total of 20 handwritten pages in Coptic (the last stage of ancient Egyptian language). It has around 27 spells and an enormous amount of drawings and invocations explaining how to cast love spells, exorcise evil spirits and treat “black jaundice,” a very dangerous bacterial infection.

Since this codex contains a number of invocations referencing Jesus, scholars believe it dates from the 7th or 8th century, during a time many Egyptians. Researchers state that the invocations invocations in the codex are also associated with a group that is sometimes referred to as “Sethians”, a group that prospered in ancient Egypt during the early centuries of Christianity and worshiped Seth-the third son of Adam and Eve and held Him in high regard.

This mysterious codex also makes reference to a mysterious figure by the name of “Baktiotha”. Scholars that translated the lines where this name was mentioned state that it says the following: “The great one, who is very trustworthy the one who is lord over the forty and the nine kinds of serpents.”

“Baktiotha” is described as being both great and very trustworthy, as being lord over forty nine kinds of serpents who are servants to him. These serpents are described as being in the abyss and the air, deaf and blind, seeing and hearing, known and unknown his fear is over them all. (source)

Malcolm Choat and Iain Gardner wrote a book called”A Coptic Handbook of Ritual Power” that explains the codex and its content.

“It is my sense that there were ritual practitioners outside the ranks of the clergy and monks, but exactly who they were is shielded from us by the fact that people didn’t really want to be labeled as a “magician,'”Choat said.

The Church regarded the Sethians as heretics and for some reason, by the seventh century, the Sethians vanished from history.

The original manuscript is on display at the Museum of Ancient Cultures in the Macquarie University. The researchers speculate that the author, or authors, were not necessarily priests or monks, according to recent studies it is very likely that the codex was written with a male user in mind.


1500 Year Old Bible Claims Jesus Christ Was Not Crucified

An Egyptian Handbook of Ritual Power (as researchers call it) has been deciphered revealing a series of invocations and spells. It includes love spells, exorcisms and a cure for black jaundice (a potentially fatal infection). Written in Coptic (an Egyptian language) the 20 page illustrated codex dates back around 1,300 years. This image shows part of the text.

Researchers have deciphered an ancient Egyptian handbook, revealing a series of invocations and spells. Among other things, the “Handbook of Ritual Power,” as researchers call the book, tells readers how to cast love spells, exorcise evil spirits and treat “black jaundice,” a bacterial infection that is still around today and can be fatal. The book is about 1,300 years old, and is written in Coptic, an Egyptian language. It is made of bound pages of parchment — a type of book that researchers call a codex.

“It is a complete 20-page parchment codex, containing the handbook of a ritual practitioner,” write Malcolm Choat and Iain Gardner, who are professors in Australia at Macquarie University and the University of Sydney, respectively, in their book, “A Coptic Handbook of Ritual Power” (Brepols, 2014).

The ancient book “starts with a lengthy series of invocations that culminate with drawings and words of power,” they write. “These are followed by a number of prescriptions or spells to cure possession by spirits and various ailments, or to bring success in love and business.” For instance, to subjugate someone, the codex says you have to say a magical formula over two nails, and then “drive them into his doorpost, one on the right side (and) one on the left.”

Coptic derived from a mixture of Greek script and seven Demotic signs in the upper parts of Egypt

The Sethians

Researchers believe that the codex may date to the 7th or 8th century. During this time, many Egyptians were Christian and the codex contains a number of invocations referencing Jesus. However, some of the invocations seem more associated with a group that is sometimes called “Sethians.” This group flourished in Egypt during the early centuries of Christianity and held Seth, the third son of Adam and Eve, in high regard. One invocation in the newly deciphered codex calls “Seth, Seth, the living Christ.” [The Holy Land: 7 Amazing Archaeological Finds] The opening of the codex refers to a divine figure named “Baktiotha” whose identity is a mystery, researchers say. The lines read, “I give thanks to you and I call upon you, the Baktiotha: The great one, who is very trustworthy the one who is lord over the forty and the nine kinds of serpents,” according to the translation.

“The Baktiotha is an ambivalent figure. He is a great power and a ruler of forces in the material realm,” Choat and Gardner said at a conference, before their book on the codex was published. Historical records indicate that church leaders regarded the Sethians as heretics and by the 7th century, the Sethians were either extinct or dying out.

This codex, with its mix of Sethian and Orthodox Christian invocations, may in fact be a transitional document, written before all Sethian invocations were purged from magical texts, the researchers said. They noted that there are other texts that are similar to the newly deciphered codex, but which contain more Orthodox Christian and fewer Sethian features. The researchers believe that the invocations were originally separate from 27 of the spells in the codex, but later, the invocations and these spells were combined, to form a “single instrument of ritual power,” Choat told Live Science in an email.

Who would have used it?

The identity of the person who used this codex is a mystery. The user of the codex would not necessarily have been a priest or monk. “It is my sense that there were ritual practitioners outside the ranks of the clergy and monks, but exactly who they were is shielded from us by the fact that people didn’t really want to be labeled as a “magician,'” Choat said. Some of the language used in the codex suggests that it was written with a male user in mind, however, that “wouldn’t have stopped a female ritual practitioner from using the text, of course,” he said.

The origin of the codex is also a mystery. Macquarie University acquired it in late 1981 from Michael Fackelmann, an antiquities dealer based in Vienna. In “the 70s and early 80s, Macquarie University (like many collections around the world) purchased papyri from Michael Fackelmann,” Choat said in the email. But where Fackelmann got the codex from is unknown. The style of writing suggests that the codex originally came from Upper Egypt. “The dialect suggests an origin in Upper Egypt, perhaps in the vicinity of Ashmunein/Hermopolis,” which was an ancient city, Choat and Gardner write in their book. The codex is now housed in the Museum of Ancient Cultures at Macquarie University in Sydney.


Ancient Egyptian book of spells deciphered


Candles are often used in spells and rituals. Image Credit: sxc.hu

The 'Handbook of Ritual Power', which is written in an Egyptian language known as Coptic, is an ancient codex consisting of several pages of bound parchment. Obtained in 1981 by Vienna antiquities dealer Michael Fackelmann, the book's origins before he acquired it remain something of a mystery.

Its timeworn pages contain invocations intended for a variety of situations and include love spells, exorcisms and methods for treating conditions such as the bacterial infection 'black jaundice'.

The book dates back to the 7th or 8th century at a time when many Egyptians were Christian. While some of the invocations reference Jesus, others are associated with a group known as the 'Sethians' who held Adam and Eve's third son Seth in high regard.

One of the spells details how to subjugate someone by uttering a magical formula over two nails and then "driving them into his doorpost, one on the right side (and) one on the left."

The codex can currently be found at the Museum of Ancient Cultures in Sydney.

Similar stories based on this topic:


Ancient Egyptian Handbook of Spells Deciphered

Researchers have deciphered an ancient Egyptian handbook, revealing a series of invocations and spells.

Among other things, the "Handbook of Ritual Power," as researchers call the book, tells readers how to cast love spells, exorcise evil spirits and treat "black jaundice," a bacterial infection that is still around today and can be fatal.

The book is about 1,300 years old, and is written in Coptic, an Egyptian language. It is made of bound pages of parchment — a type of book that researchers call a codex.

"It is a complete 20-page parchment codex, containing the handbook of a ritual practitioner," write Malcolm Choat and Iain Gardner, who are professors in Australia at Macquarie University and the University of Sydney, respectively, in their book, "A Coptic Handbook of Ritual Power" (Brepols, 2014).

The ancient book "starts with a lengthy series of invocations that culminate with drawings and words of power," they write. "These are followed by a number of prescriptions or spells to cure possession by spirits and various ailments, or to bring success in love and business."

For instance, to subjugate someone, the codex says you have to say a magical formula over two nails, and then "drive them into his doorpost, one on the right side (and) one on the left."

The Sethians

Researchers believe that the codex may date to the 7th or 8th century. During this time, many Egyptians were Christian and the codex contains a number of invocations referencing Jesus.

However, some of the invocations seem more associated with a group that is sometimes called "Sethians." This group flourished in Egypt during the early centuries of Christianity and held Seth, the third son of Adam and Eve, in high regard. One invocation in the newly deciphered codex calls "Seth, Seth, the living Christ." [The Holy Land: 7 Amazing Archaeological Finds]

The opening of the codex refers to a divine figure named "Baktiotha" whose identity is a mystery, researchers say. The lines read, "I give thanks to you and I call upon you, the Baktiotha: The great one, who is very trustworthy the one who is lord over the forty and the nine kinds of serpents," according to the translation.

"The Baktiotha is an ambivalent figure. He is a great power and a ruler of forces in the material realm," Choat and Gardner said at a conference, before their book on the codex was published.

Historical records indicate that church leaders regarded the Sethians as heretics and by the 7th century, the Sethians were either extinct or dying out.

This codex, with its mix of Sethian and Orthodox Christian invocations, may in fact be a transitional document, written before all Sethian invocations were purged from magical texts, the researchers said. They noted that there are other texts that are similar to the newly deciphered codex, but which contain more Orthodox Christian and fewer Sethian features.

The researchers believe that the invocations were originally separate from 27 of the spells in the codex, but later, the invocations and these spells were combined, to form a "single instrument of ritual power," Choat told Live Science in an email.

Who would have used it?

The identity of the person who used this codex is a mystery. The user of the codex would not necessarily have been a priest or monk.

"It is my sense that there were ritual practitioners outside the ranks of the clergy and monks, but exactly who they were is shielded from us by the fact that people didn't really want to be labeled as a "magician,'" Choat said.

Some of the language used in the codex suggests that it was written with a male user in mind, however, that "wouldn't have stopped a female ritual practitioner from using the text, of course," he said.

The origin of the codex is also a mystery. Macquarie University acquired it in late 1981 from Michael Fackelmann, an antiquities dealer based in Vienna. In "the 70s and early 80s, Macquarie University (like many collections around the world) purchased papyri from Michael Fackelmann," Choat said in the email.

But where Fackelmann got the codex from is unknown. The style of writing suggests that the codex originally came from Upper Egypt.

"The dialect suggests an origin in Upper Egypt, perhaps in the vicinity of Ashmunein/Hermopolis," which was an ancient city, Choat and Gardner write in their book.

The codex is now housed in the Museum of Ancient Cultures at Macquarie University in Sydney.

Copyright 2014 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Voynich Manuscript

Carbon dated to the 15th century, this 250-page book contains images of plants, cosmological symbols and nude women. It also contains an unreadable script (although one scientist believes he has deciphered 10 words from it).

Discovered in 1912 by Wilfrid Voynich, an antique-book dealer, the text has not yet been deciphered, leading to speculation as to whether it's written in a lost language, a code or gibberish. A recent study suggests that the manuscript's text has some of the hallmarks of a real language.

The manuscript has attracted a lot of attention from scholars and amateurs alike, along with a Spanish publisher that plans to republish the book in its entirety. The manuscript is now held at Yale University.


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