Ancient Egyptian Handbook Of Spells Deciphered
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November 20, 2014: An MSN article reports that two Australian researchers have deciphered an ancient Egyptian book of arcane spells and invocations. The manuscript is a 20-page codex written in the Coptic language dating to the 7th or 8th Century AD.

The researchers call the manuscript the "Handbook of Ritual Power" and say it would have been used by a ritual practioner to perform magical invocations for things such as casting love spells, exorcising demons and curing certain diseases like "black jaundice."

Some of the codex's spells mention Jesus by name; the Coptic Christian Church seems to have been less uptight about the practice of magic than the Church of Rome; but other invocations call upon the name of Seth, who in the Book of Genesis was the third son of Adam and Eve and who were regarded by a group known as the Sethians as "the Living Christ"1.

The opening of the book, however, mentions a mysterious figure named Baktiotha, who seems to be some sort of divine power. The passage 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,"

This particular codex was acquired by the Macquarie University in Australia from an antiquities dealer based in Vienna. How it came into the dealer's hands is unknown, but from the style of writing, the researchers who studied the manuscript believe that it came from Upper Egypt, possibly around the ancient city of Ashmunein, also known as Hermopolis.


Game and Story Use

  • See? All those D&D spellbooks do have a historical basis after all!
  • Such a book might make a good MacGuffin; especially if the spells actually work!
  • The PCs might encounter a cult of Sethians with which the book is connected
  • Magic spells that invoke the name of Jesus are pretty common in the European Cunning-Work tradition - and some of the grimoires from that tradition cite Egyptian references.
  • And who is Baktiotha?
    • The reference to serpents traditionally won't end well in most cosmologies…
    • Goetic traditions might suggest Duke Astaroth (who can grant power over serpents) or Baron Volac (who shows where serpents are hidden and can deliver them harmless to his summoner).
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