An Egyptian LexiconEssay 11
One of the reasons we look at other magical practices and traditions is to discover the underlying Working formulas in magic. When we discover that other people have been doing the same thing that we are doing when we are at our best, and we have not been imitating them, then we know that we have happened upon a Working formula. Working formulas, or “effective things” as our Egyptian friends call them, deserve to be studied and treasured. Now, I am not talking here about specific spells and incantations, (although these too may be mined for certain treasures) as much as about mental tools such as words.
I would like to share a few words from classical Egyptian (almost all magical texts are written in the classical idiom, save for a few Demotic papyri) and their meaning in Egyptian magical practice. What I would like you to do is think about the concepts, how they are like and unlike what you do now. If you choose you may decide to examine these words further on the levels of their sound and shape as well.
Heka – Magic
Magic was considered by the Egyptians to be a substance stored in their bellies, and produced by their intellects (Ab = Heart). It had a flavor and a luminosity. It was the motive power for the universe, and was created in abundance in primeval times.
The longer Heka had been up and running, the more powerful it was— in other words, enchant early.
Heka can also be made to enter the bodies of others, either to cause influence (Baw) or as a poison (Metwta).
At certain stage of development, persons could Become Heka itself, and not need to resort to magical practice to bring about results. Magicians are called Hekaw.
A pun the Egyptians were fond of is that Heka is Akh (Akh = Effective). A common word for spells is merely Akhu “effective things”. The dead, who have become Akhu (“effective spirits”), are assumed to have magical power.
Pah-netery – To act as a god.
There were two approaches to affecting the divine, and, therefore in proportion, the natural world. The first of these was Sems-netery, “to act in service of a god.” This is the path of adoration, worship and prayer—the main activity of the ancient Egyptian priesthoods. Sems-netery means to "serve god". Here by getting on a god's good side, you could get him to things for you. Pah-netery means to “reach god”, in the sense of having transformed yourself to a sufficient level of being that you can directly bring about the changes desired in the world (this is basically the same formula we use in the Invocation of Set).
It is a useful reminder that you can enter into states far beyond your normal power simply by saying that you're already there in the proper conditions. These magical moments serve a two-fold purpose. First, they enact the experience of acting like a god to be remembered and, second, have made a goal of what we wish to Become. Notably, the words pah-netery are often translated as “oracle”, but this does not mean a simple divination process—these were things that, said aloud, told the future what to pronounce. Hostile pah-netery could be contradicted by a more powerful magician.
Ink – I am
In order to practice pah-netery, one requires an “I am” statement. These abound in classical texts, and in Demotic, Greek, and Coptic texts. The standard form is, “I am (Name of God, e.g., Ink Amon)”, or “I am he who knows (some magical secret of great power)”, “I am he who knows the Secret of the Two Partners (i.e. Horus and Set, a common phrase in New Kingdom healing texts).
You might wish to try this phrase when you are putting on your magical persona. Let’s say you have taken the magical name SiSet, “Son of Set”. When you are making that transformation from Joe the baker into SiSet, try a simple focusing sentence: “Ink SiSet MerySet Ur Ink Er Neteru” (“I am the Son of Set, beloved of Set, Greater than the Gods am I”).
Here's a spell from the New Kingdom showing several of these ideas at work. The spell is from the Ebers Papyrus and is to be said over a medicine. Medicine, since it can be swallowed and has a flavor, is seen as a form of Heka:
“Come, remedy! Come that which dispels what is in this my heart and in these my limbs! Heka has power over a remedy and vice-versa! Do you remember that Har-Wer was taken together with Set to the great palace of Heliopolis when I negotiated regarding the testicles of Set with Horus? Thus he will be healthy like one who is on Earth, he does all he desires like one who is in the Tuat. Recite when drinking a remedy. Truly effective—proven millions of times.”
The magician identifies himself with Thoth, who handled the negotiations, and he has also identified his patient (which can be himself as well) with both a strong healthy man and an “Effective Spirit” of the Tuat—having the best of both worlds, as it were. He has asserted the primacy of magic, and the power of what is taken in consciously (the remedy) over what has been taken in unconsciously (or forced in by a rival). The magician has also connected himself with an ancient time, and therefore associates the effective magic of that time with his own. This last principle leads us to our last word for this lesson.
Heh – Eternity, especially the Eternal Future
The Classical Egyptian word Heh (that first “h” is a hissing “h”; clear your throat a little when you say it—the Egyptians talked like they had a little sand in their throats all the time) means “eternity” and sounds the same as Heh, meaning “flood”. These concepts are not far apart in the Egyptian mind. They saw time like the annual flood of the Nile, vast and powerful, covering up temporary things, but leaving rich deposits behind. Set rules the land during the flood, and for half the season of Emergence (Proyet) as well. It is a great Secret to learn the treasures this flood brings you, and to set up the ripples you want so that your influence will be felt to the ends of time...