Day 3 has seen another day of exciting presentations on the Demon Things conference. Following a late change to the programme – Panagiotis Kousoulis and El Zahraa Megahed were unable to attend – the day began with a thought-provoking paper delivered by Nika Laventyeva and Ekaterina Alexandrova on Liminal Sources of Dangerous Powers: A Case of the Black Ram. A Comparative Analysis of Demonological Representations. A discussion of the textual and visual representation of the black ram in the Book of Two Ways concluded that it can be recognised as a solar being which had both dangerous and protective aspects to its character. Kasia Szpakowska followed with a fascinating paper called Armed and Dangerous. The subject covered a category of demon that is portrayed with a knife in its foot (also referred to as a secondary limb). We learnt that Bes is particularly favoured in terms of the demon’s iconography, but other representations include lions, Tawaret and human animal hybrids. At first glance they appear to be fighting entities but the identification of the knife as a butcher knife suggests they are not intended as weapons of war, but rather part of a stance aimed at passionate and defiant challenge. An inspired inclusion of a video of the Haka brought this point home. Next up was Wael Sherbiny on Between Texts and Images: Representations of the Supernatural Entities in the So-called Book of Two Ways. The presentation, which opened with a short clip from an opera, considered early publication of The Book of Two Ways – especially volume 7 of de Buck’s Coffin Text – and emphasised that text rather than imagery was favoured when published. An interesting new look at the visual iconography of the demon xrj-btw was put forward by Wael. The final paper before lunch was given by Renata Schiavo on Ghost and Ancestors in a Gender Perspective. Areas discussed were ancestor busts, familial relationships in the Coffin Texts and communication with deceased relatives via Letters to the Dead. Interestingly, we learnt that when considering the latter, most of these letters were addressed to women. In many cases it appears that the man is being haunted by his dead wife and is attempting to placate her!
John Richard Ward was the first paper after lunch on Akephalos: A Demon’s Origins and Transformation into ‘the Headless One’. John took us on an interesting journey covering the modern interpretation of The Stele of Jeu, The Hieroglyphist also known as “The Headless One.” Usage of the evocation spell on the Stele has been re-interpreted in the 19th and 20th centuries by modern spiritualists such as Aliester Crowley, and ancient Egyptian rituals, alongside this spell, became an important aspect of occultism practice. John’s research into the origins of the headless figure is still ongoing and he is investigating its interpretation in light of Budge’s publication, in terms of whether Budge’s description may have affected the iconography. Amr Gaber followed with Mnh, ‘the Butcher’: A Benevolent Demon and Lord of Demons and began by illustrating that both the spellings of the demon’s name, and its inclination to belong to several determinative iconographies, can often confuse interpretation. At the Kharga Oasis the demon is shown as a mummified guardian god; at Esna it is a falcon-headed entity. All have in common, however, the characteristics of fierceness, strength and aggression, appropriate in his role as satisfying Sekhmet by killing her enemies.
After a refreshments break, Susanne Beck presented an excellent paper on Demons in Mesopotamia and Egypt:Sāmānu as a Case Study. The generic terms of disease demons, alongside use of the demon Samana, provided a good base in which to consider the differing components and concepts used by both different geographical and cultural areas. Finally the last paper of the day fell to Danielle Sass who spoke on Slaughterers, Knife-bearers and Plague-Bringers: A Study of the Role and Significance of the h3.tyw in Ancient Egyptian Thought. The presentation covered her extensive research into the knife-holding demon which embodies slaughtering and plaque-bringing. Under the direction of “greater” gods, the demon is controlled ultimately by Sekhmet in their role as celestial gatekeepers.
And then it was over for me…the delegates prepared to go off to Sketty Hall for dinner whilst I reluctantly took my leave. Unfortunately I can’t attend the final day of the conference so would now like to take this opportunity to thank the speakers for the high quality of their presentations. I have learnt a lot and been enthused with curiosity throughout the whole 2 days and it has been wonderful to catch up with some old friends that I don’t see as often as I would like!
A conference such as this could not have run as smoothly as the last 2 days have shown without a tremendous amount of work leading up to it. The organisers Kasia, Felicitas Weber, Zuzanna Bennett, Wendy Goodridge and Carolyn Graves-Brown, assisted by Lauren and Sam Wale and Syd Howells of the Egypt Centre, have worked tremendously hard for over a year to get this conference up and running. Their hard work has paid off dividends and I would like to extend a BIG thank you to them all!!!!
There have also been a team of volunteers who have given up their time to help the conference organisers by registering the attendees, manning the refreshments, ushering within the theatre, working the roving mike, doing the raffle and generally pulling together to make things happen.
Thanks also to the Egypt Centre staff and volunteers on the days the conference has been going on. They have welcomed guests, fielded questions and run errands – always with a welcome smile!!!! It has been a pleasure seeing you all!