What is Heka? – An introduction to the Course

Joanne Backhouse

fertility-figurine-2 The course

Heka: The Magical Arts of Ancient Egypt

will focus on the concept of Heka (magic) in ancient Egypt. Heka was a divine force imbued in deities, the king and the dead.  It could be used for good or bad, private or state purposes.  This course will focus on two main areas.  Firstly, deities and ritual practitioners (priests and priestesses), this will include the god Heka and and the gods as healers, for example Sekhmet.  Secondly, the course will examine the objects and images created to channel the power of heka, including execration and fertility figurines, amulets, wands and spell books.

sekhmet-figure-3Although much, if not all, of Egyptian art was magical this course will examine images and objects created specifically for magical practice. A broad definition of magic will be used; which is, any activity that seeks to obtain its goal outside the natural laws of cause and effect, will be deemed magical.

This includes rituals in the home, temples and in the funeral realm; most rituals in ancient Egypt used a combination of recitation and action.

The lectures will demonstrate the assimilation of magic, medicine and religion in ancient Egypt and illustrate how magical practice was part of everyday life. As Egyptologist, Robert Ritner said, ‘one man’s magic is another man’s religion’.  The course also presents a rare opportunity to handle and photograph many magical objects from ancient Egypt at Manchester Museum.

execration-figure-1

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