for National Dog Day! an Ancient Egyptian dog guardian demon

Here is a lovely little canine with BIG knives wielded by his hands and on his feet, as well as snakes coming out of his mouth. He is fiercely ready to protect your sleep!

Base of headrest Louvre E3443 with dog-headed protective demon from

He can be found on the base (section E on the sketch) of the New Kingdom headrest Louvre E3443 (photo by author).


headrest schematic

For other Doggie-demons, see the odd composite demon from the Coffin of Dirpu, and the little spotty dog in the Book of the Dead.

Walking on Sunshine – a mobile armed sundisk demon

Read More
Wand featuring a walking sundisk [Munchen 2826].
Wand featuring a walking sundisk [Munchen 2826].

Perhaps this little walking armed sundisk can help those suffering from the heat waves making their way across various continents. Since it is part of the decoration of an apotropaic hippopotamus tusk wand, it was more likely designed to protect mothers and newborns during the process of childbirth, and to protect the infant afterwards.  Notice that it has a knife on each foot (the better to hurt you with!). The double circle could be a moon, but because it has an uraeus (the poorly carved cobra coming off of it) I suspect it is indeed the sundisk instead.

It was found in Dra’ Abu el-Naga’ and based on the inscription on the reverse, likely dates to about the 17th Dynasty (c. 1650 BCE).

  • Legge, F. “Magic Ivories of the Middle Empire III.” Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology 28 (1906): pl. 50. [source of image]
  • Altenmüller, Hartwig. Die Apotropaia und die Götter Mittelägyptens: Eine Typologische und Religionsgeschichtliche Untersuchung der sogenannten “Zaubermesser” des Mittleren Reichs.  München: Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, 1965, p. 75, cat. 86.

This Taweret has knives on her feet!

Just when I thought that all the demons and liminal beings with knives on their feet were depicted on furniture, jewelry, or cosmetic containers… During the Egyptian and Jewish Magic in Antiquity conference, an image was shown of a big Taweret holding a knife with each of her four limbs. She stands tall and proud, with the head and body of a hippo with a dorsal appendage wearing a wig and a headdress. Before her is the sa-sign, the Ancient Egyptian symbol of protection with which he was associated. Not only is this NOT on a piece of furniture, it is part of a 20th Dynasty amuletic talisman on papyrus that includes a spell and other great imagery. Click on the caption to see the information on it from the Louvre!

Taweret hippo with knives
Taweret on pLouvre E32308.

What animal is that?

Read More
Fennec fox - image from
Fennec fox - image from

This week the Demonology 2K team met with visiting scholar John Wyatt, who specialises in identifying bird and animal species in ancient Egyptian depictions. Together we discussed the different ways in which demons can be depicted and what animal species are used to create their images. We had lots of questions for him, mostly along the lines of ‘what the heck is this supposed to be?’


John helped to identify some animals, and he also suggested some cases where we just can’t tell what animal was depicted. For example, lots of demons we thought could be fennec fox formed could also be a different species of fox, such as Ruppell’s fox. Apart from their size, the two species look very similar!


Ruppell's fox - image from's_fox
Ruppell’s fox – image from’s_fox
Fennec fox - image from
Fennec fox – image from

2 Demonological Presentations in UK

Read More

The Southampton Ancient Egypt Society

 ‘The Ancient Egyptian Demonology Project: Second Millennium BCE’

Dr Kasia Szpakowska, Swansea University

Saturday, May 16, 2015 at 14:00

Oasis Academy,

Romesy Road, Lord’s Hill, Southampton SO16 8FA


The Egypt Society of Bristol

 ‘Armed and Dangerous: An iconography of protective Middle and New Kingdom demons’

Dr Kasia Szpakowska, Swansea University

Tuesday, June 16, 2015 at 18:45

Department of Archaeology & Anthropology,

43 Woodland Road, Bristol University

Door Guardians of Egypt and Beyond

Read More
Men-Shen door-guard
Door gods at a temple in a Taichung, Taiwan neighborhood behind the central train station. 1989.

In the interest of encouraging cross-cultural and interdisciplinary research, today we feature a door guardian from Ancient Egypt and another from China. Similarities and contrasts abound.

Men-Shen door-guard
Door gods at a temple in a Taichung, Taiwan neighborhood behind the central train station. 1989. (By Jeremy Kemp Uploaded by Jeremykemp at en.wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
Squatting spotty dog guardian
This spotty flop-eared dog acts as one of 10 guardians within a portal in Book of the Dead 146. Tomb of Sennedjem (TT 1)

They can both wield weapons—for example a pair of swords, or a sword and axe for Men-Shen, and a butcher’s knife for the Ancient Egyptian guardians. Sometimes the Egyptian ones instead hold a reed or feather, or even nothing at all!







Demon Database presentation at Berkeley

Read More
Screenshot of DemonThings database
Screenshot of DemonThings database

From the Outside Looking In:
Digitization of Ancient Egyptian Objects and Entities

Kasia Szpakowska
Associate Professor of Egyptology
Swansea University, Wales

Time: April 13, 2015;  5:30-6:30 p.m.
Venue: 254 Barrows Hall, UC Berkeley
Sponsor: Near Eastern Studies & Center for Tebtunis Papyri
Event Contact: [email protected]

This presentation provides an overview of the Ancient Egyptian Demonology Project: Second Millennium BCE, centered at Swansea University, Wales. At the core of the project is the development of a relational database of liminal entities or “demons.” We hope it will prove useful to Egyptologists and scholars of other religions at one level, and the general public at another. At this pilot stage we are focussing on a limited range of objects from a limited time span: coffins, wands, headrests, figurines and manuscripts (usually papyrus). As with all archaeological databases, the core materials are often fragmentary, necessitating complex relationships with the data pertaining to the fragment, section, and objects, with each type having its own idiosyncratic challenges. Part of the goal is to link with existing databases such as the Book of the Dead Database of Bonn University and online museum catalogues.

Akhu ‘Spirits’ in the Coffin Texts

The Akhu ‘Spirits’ are mentioned in several Coffin Text spells.


From Book of the Dead of Hunefer
The Akhu ‘Spirits’ can be a great threat or a great help to the living and the dead. Image from the Book of the Dead of Hunefer

CT spell 47 describes these demons as part of an apotropaic list (an itemized list of dangerous entities and concepts). If any god, and spirit (Akh) and any dead person (mwt) opposes the deceased, they will be confined to the confederacy of ‘Him who is dangerous’. The deceased is also assisted by the deity Thoth, who sets his knife against the beings listed.

Coffin of Djehuty-nakht (B2Bo)

Read More

The coffin of Djehuty-nakht (coffin code B2Bo) is dated to approximately 2010–1961 B.C. (during the Middle Kingdom). It was excavated from Tomb 10A in Deir el-Bersha, Middle Egypt (the fifteenth Ancient Egyptian nome). Coffins from this region and time period are most famous for their depictions of a map of the paths of the afterlife, but whereas other coffins have this map drawn on the bottom, the map is placed on the interior back section of this coffin. This coffin contains 123 references to demons, one of the highest number of demon references in Middle Kingdom coffins!


MFA 21.962-63 (Image from museum website)
MFA 21.962-63 (Image from museum website)


The coffin is currently on display in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. To find out more about this object, check out the Museum website.