Heka: The Magical Arts of Ancient Egypt

Joanne Backhouse


Heka (magic) was a divine force imbued in ancient Egyptian deities, the king and the dead. It could be used for good or bad, private or state purposes.  This course will examine the objects and images created to channel the power of heka, including execration figurines, amulets, magic wands and spell books.

Although much, if not all, of Egyptian art was magical this course will examine images and objects created specifically for magical practice. This includes rituals in the home, temples and in the funeral realm. It will centre upon the assimilation of magic, medicine and religion in ancient Egypt and examine how magical practice was part of everyday life.

This course provides a rare opportunity to handle the objects of magical practice from ancient Egypt which are part of the collection at Manchester Museum.

More information can be found in Joanne’s blog post on Heka.

Day School 1 – 14th Feb, 12-4

Lecture 1 – 12-2

Definitions of magic and representations of the god Heka

Lecture 2 – 2-4

Funerary magic (rituals carried out at the tomb) and written magic including spell books and letters to the dead

Day School 2 – 21st Feb, 12-4

Lecture 1 – 12-2

The use of figurines (execration and fertility), magic in the home, including birthing bricks, masks and wands.

Lecture 2 – 2-4

Magic and medicine, including the gods as healers and the use of amulets

Recommended reading (for publication in brochure):

  • Pinch, G. (1994) Magic in Ancient Egypt. Austin: University of Texas Press.
  • Ritner, R. K. (1993) The Mechanics of Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice. Chicago: OIP.
  • Szpakowska , K. (2006) (ed.) Through a Glass Darkly: Magic, Dreams & Prophecy in Ancient Egypt. Swansea: Classical Press of Wales.
  • Taylor, J. H. (2010) (ed.) Journey Through the Afterlife: Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead. London: British Museum Press.

Day: Tuesday Time: 12pm– 4pm

Day School 1: Tues 14th Feb, 12-4, Cross St Chapel, Cross St

Day School 2: Tues 21st Feb, 12-4, Cross St Chapel, Cross St

Handling Session: 28th Feb, 2-4, Manchester Museum, Oxford Rd

Cross Street Chapel
Cross Street, Manchester, M2 1NL

and Manchester Museum for handling session

Price Concessions Minimum No. Maximum No.
£50 6 20

Handling session can only be booked in conjunction with at least one lecture

Price for individual 2 hour lectures (please indicate which lectures when booking):

Price Concessions Minimum No. Maximum No.



per lecture

per dayschool

Handling Sesssion

6 20

To book, complete the MANCENT booking form and send it with payment to

Dr Joanne Backhouse, 42 Urmson Road, Wallasey, Merseyside, CH45 7LG
Phone 07914 538840 Email: joback42@gmail.com

Adult Education in Manchester and Cheshire