Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Ancient Egypt this Week Day of the Dead edition

Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico, in particular the Central and South regions, and by people of Mexican ancestry living in other places, especially the United States.

On October 31, All Hallows Eve, the children make a children's altar to invite the angelitos (spirits of dead children) to come back for a visit. November 1 is All Saints Day, and the adult spirits will come to visit. November 2 is All Souls Day, when families go to the cemetery to decorate the graves and tombs of their relatives. The three-day fiesta is filled with marigolds, the flowers of the dead; muertos (the bread of the dead); sugar skulls; cardboard skeletons; tissue paper decorations; fruit and nuts; incense, and other traditional foods and decorations.

It does seem as if ancient Egyptians might find this holiday somewhat in keeping with their beliefs.  So, in that spirit, some Egyptian ghost stories.

Khaemwaset visits the land of the dead

A tale known as Setne II or Setne Khamwas and Si-Osire concerns the magician of Ramses the Great, Prince Khaemwaset. Khaemwaset and his wife have a son named Si-Osire who turns out to be a highly skilled magician. In the first part of the story, Si-Osire brings his father to visit the Duat, the land of the dead, where they see the pleasant fate of the deceased spirits who lived justly and the torments inflicted on spirits who sinned during their lives.  The link in the title takes you to that story

A Ghost Story of Ancient Egypt

The best-known ghost story from ancient Egypt is known, simply, as A Ghost Story but sometimes referenced as Khonsemhab and the Ghost. The story dates from the late New Kingdom of Egypt (c. 1570 - c.1069 BCE) and specifically the Ramesside Period (1186-1077 BCE). It was found in fragments on ostraca (pottery with writing on it) which scholars such as Georges Posener (in 1960 CE) and Jurgen von Beckerath (in 1992 CE) claim are copies of a much older story from the Middle Kingdom of Egypt (2040-1782 BCE). This would make sense as the traditional view of the afterlife in Egypt as a paradise was often questioned in texts from that era (such as The Lay of the Harper or A Dispute Between a Man and his Soul), and Khonsemhab reflects this view in his conversation with the ghost.

Ghosts in Ancient Egypt

A text known as The Lay of the Harper, dating from the Middle Kingdom (2040-1782 BCE) encourages its audience to make the most of the time because death is a certainty:

Make a holiday! And do not tire of playing! For no one is allowed to take his goods with him, and no one who departs this life ever comes back again (Tyldesley, 142).

Demon Things – Ancient Egyptian Demonology Project

And if two stories isn't enough, you might want to check out the Egyptian Demonology project . . . . for a good time. . . a portal on liminal entities in Ancient Egypt from its earliest times (Predynastic) to the Byzantine. The word “demon” refers to any helpful or hostile being that does not belong to the Ancient Egyptian categories of major god, human, or animal.

These beings are known in many cultures by a multitude of names. A sample of the more recognizable includes: gremlins, imps, faeries, ghosts, daemons, genies, mischwesen, goblins, pixies, sprites, gnomes, pucks, sirens, fay, enchanters, fiends, monsters, and even angels.

In Ancient Egypt they were described in texts and imagery. For ordinary people, they played vital roles as mechanisms for coping with and manifesting abstract stresses, afflictions, and fears—or hopes, healers, and armed defenders. The main aim of this project is to explore and illuminate this less-visible side of Ancient Egyptian life.