Kasia Szpakowska, Swansea University and Director of the Ancient Egyptian Demonology Project: Second Millennium BCE
Launch of The Ancient Egyptian Demonology Project: 2K BCE “DemonBase”
Demons abound in the media today—from tales of possession, to the labelling of political policies as “demonic,” to the channelling of spirits for healing. In both the modern and ancient world, intangible entities embody and are blamed for a host of physical and psychological afflictions, as well as being called upon to aid the sufferer. These beings are known in many cultures by many names. A sample of terms includes: gremlins, imps, faeries, ghosts, daemons, genies, Mischwesen, monsters, small gods, angels, and invisibilia. Although the Ancient Egyptians themselves had no specific all-encompassing generic label for this large category of beings, they were described in texts and imagery. It is clear that for the ordinary person, they played vital roles as mechanisms for coping with and manifesting abstract stress, afflictions, and fears.
While they may have been familiar to the Ancient Egyptians, finding information on them today is difficult. There is currently no single source for the scholar or interested person to consult for further information regarding these beings. A number of general encyclopaedias of gods exist, as well as specialized resources on divine names and epithets. To remedy this gap, our project has created a database of these entities. Our approach combines philological, iconographic, and archaeological analysis. Because of the limited time available for this database, we include only four types of evidence: Coffin Texts, early Book of the Dead manuscripts, ivory wands (apotropaia), and decorated headrests. We thus include texts and images in a single database. The focus is on each individual being, each being categorized by its structural, functional, and essential characteristics. Two databases have been created: on for researchers that can be augmented and expanded by other scholars, and one that serves as an interactive portal for the public to learn about these entities. The former will be formally launched at the conference.