As Mother’s Day approaches in the UK, many people will be thanking their mothers for all the hard work involved in raising them. Mothers can kiss injuries better, scare away the lurking things under the bed and even sooth away bad dreams.

In Ancient Egypt a mother ‘s care of her children even extended to protecting them from demonic attack. These attacks could come in the form of sickness or even during the night. Below is a spell from Papyrus Berlin 3027 that a mother could use to protect her child from demons in the darkness. It describes the demons as:

‘you who have come in the darkness,
who have entered stealthily –
his nose turned backwards,
his face averted –
having failed in what he came for!’

The spell then ensures that the child will not be harmed or stolen from its mother:

‘Have you come to harm it?
I will not let you harm it.
Have you come to take it away?
I will not let you take it away from me.
I have ensured its protection against you’

The University of Leipzig have done an excellent analysis of this spell as part of their Digital Heka project.

 

Translation from Borghouts, J. F. (1978) Ancient Egyptian Magical Texts.

Mother and child in a birth arbour

Mother and child in a birth arbour

About the image:

Image of a mother and child in a birth arbour. This limestone ostracon is from Deir el-Medina and dates to c. 19th-20th Dynasty. It is currently in the British Museum (accession number EA8506).

Image is © The Trustees of the British Museum.

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