(1939-10-30) Essay for Professor Binns
Details for Unity by the Nile?
Anthony
Summary: An Essay for Professor Binns
Date: 1939-10-30
Related:

Neatly written, with carefully drawn Hieroglyphs/Hieratic script.

“Evidence of the utilisation of simple Charms and Ancient Runic Spells in the Edwin Smith Papyrus and other Egyptian Medical Works and Its Implication to Our Understanding of Muggle and Wizard Interaction in Ancient Egypt.
By Anthony Rowle
For History of Magic, Professor Binns

The Edwin Smith Papyrus (named after it’s 19th century owner, rather than, obviously, its writer) is an Ancient Egyptian Healing Manual, comprising the use of Muggle, Religious, and Magical methods to approach a number of physical injuries. It dates from approximately 1600 B.C., in either the 2nd intermediate period- otherwise known as the reign of the Hykos, or shepherd Kings; or during the reign of Ahmosis I, first Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty, but the text itself may represent a copy of a much older work, sometimes attributed to the architect, priest, and healer, Imhotep in the Old Kingdom, somewhere between 3000 and 2500 BC. It is possible that this broad dating period, based on varying references through inscriptions of different years suggests that Imhotep was abnormally long lived, with a working career crossing the reigns of 4 Pharaohs, which is a theme to which I shall return at a later point in this essay.

The papyrus is 15’4 ½ “ in length, almost entirely written by a single scribe, although there are small entries in a second hand. It comprises descriptions of 48 medical cases, which are either ones that ‘I will treat’, that ‘I will contend with’, or ‘for which I can do nothing. Whilst it is the most complete of the medical papyruses, the Edwin Smith Papyrus largely comprises muggle methods, but there is one incantation on the main side, which is used in the treatment of the wound of the forehead with a shattered skull, alongside the application of the egg of an ostritch (the theoretical aspect of the use of sympathetic magic, with the hard, smooth calciferous egg demonstrating the desired end point of the skull is not hard to see, and one could see a transformative spell moving the breaks from one to the other, if one accepts 'breaks' as a philosophical entity). The incantation itself is a fairly simple quasi-religious matter,

"Repelled is the enemy that is in the wound! Cast out is the evil that is in the blood, the adversary of Horus on every side of the mouth of Isis. This temple does not fall down; there is no enemy of the vessel therein. I am under the protection of Isis; my rescue is the son of Horus."
(Translation A. Rowle. Thanks to Professor Black for confirmation of understanding of the involved Hieratics).

Whilst this does not represent a spell in the modern sense, but I theorise it may represent a mnemonic combined with camouflage to prevent a spell falling into the hands of the unenlightened muggles, on whom it might have been used. This factor is one explanation for the introduction of these very elaborate spells. Alternate explanations would include their being non-functional, the Egyptian magical system being less developed than our own thus requiring longer incantations, and belief that these longer incantations were required, whereas in truth only a part was.

I think the first alternate explanation may be dismissed for the reason that the Egyptians were an intensely practical people. Their engineering shows little superfluous design elements, and even within this papyrus where a simple fix could be attained using muggle methods, no incantation at all is prescribed.

The second alternate explanation requires considerable attention. What little we know of Ancient Egyptian magic is strongly biased to that of Ancient Runes (their Royal Tomb Curses being the oldest surviving examples of what we would now consider wards with punishment for their infringement). However, those spells that do survive are both intricate and subtle, besides being strong, and it seems that the rest of their magic, despite the odd shape of their wands, was not so very different from our own in concept. We therefore cannot completely exclude either that these longer incantations were required or that it was believed they were. We shall return to these possibilities as we consider other Egyptian Medical Incantations.

On the reverse of the Edwin Smith Papyrus, written in a different scribal hand are another eight spells (detailed in the appendix). Their main interest has been to address 'The Wind of Pestilence'. This has often been taken to mean infectious disease, however I would suggest that the 'coincidence' of this concept of a Wind of Disease occuring in multiple cultures (see also 'Mal Aria': bad Air) is no such thing, and may represent some Dark Creature, perhaps now, mercifully extinct. The seventh of these spells is traditionally translated as to be performed with a Nefret flower, tied with a linen cord to a piece of wood. Reading this inscription, however, it seems to me that an alternate translation would be 'With a Nefret flower, lifted by a piece of wood with flax fibres within it. This would, perhaps, be the first documentation of a wand with a central core, as we now know them.

Further documentation of Ancient Egyptian Healing magics can be seen in the preparation of inscribed amulets of healing- whilst relatively unrefined by modern standards, Egyptian Runic magics can be seen to be effective, and may have subtleties which we, spoiled by our ready access to fast and effective healing Charms and Transfigurations have lost sight of. This would be an area for study at a level beyond that suitable for the NEWT exam.

The placement of the medical 'caste' within a religious context is an interesting step, indicating a magical/religious view of them, which goes back all the way to Imhotep, who indeed was deified in the New Kingdom, as a God of Healing, because of the magical or miraculous (emphasis mine) nature of his cures. Coupled with the wide scope of his attainments (Pyramid Builder, High Priest, Healer and politician) it is clear that Imhotep was an unusually gifted individual, but I have already remarked on the long lifespan he appears to have had. With magic in mind this becomes a lot easier to explain- perhaps in the nature of the Philosopher's Stone or similar, perhaps amulaic, magic. What is equally striking however, is that Imhotep did not confine himself to the backgrounds of political life, as we would now do, but was far more active in the role of both High Priest and Vizier, almost as a cross between a modern Muggle Prime Minister and Minister of Magic to the Pharaoh!

In summary then, we have a culture in which wands were used by a respected and public religious and magical caste, performing a mix of muggle healing techniques when they were sufficient, and when they were not, magical spells either as incantations with the use of wands, or inscription techniques on amulets. We have a highly respected member of this caste performing feats of engineering which are not readily understood, and living for far more than muggle lifespans now, never mind then. Aside from the purely magical technique elements which a study of this sort of nature provides (which should not detract from the insights into current magic it can provide), these glimpses back at a long past time and distant place allow us, by comparison, to throw light onto our own era and society.

In short, I believe the evidence for an open 'Unity' of Muggle and Wizard Society in Ancient Egypt is clear, as one would expect from a society which existed prior to a Statute of Secrecy. I think study of this aspect of their civilisation, and its consequences, may cast valuable light on a similar dilemma in our own time, when politicians and leaders debate what a society would be like were magic in the open, in comparison to our current circumstances. It is these insights which History is best equipped to provide to the law and policy makers of our own time.


OOC: The full real text of the Edwin Smith Papyrus, along with translation can be see at http://archive.nlm.nih.gov/proj/ttp/flash/smith/smith.html and indeed a Wizarding photograph of it is included.


Professor Binns's comments (written in the hand of a Student Aide): "Adequately researched."

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