Demon Things – Ancient Egyptian Demonology Project Ancient Egyptian demons, daemons, & other liminal entities Tue, 19 Sep 2017 14:55:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Conference: Books of Magic – Words of Magic Tue, 22 Aug 2017 15:50:48 +0000 Books of Magic – Words of Magic –
Cultures of Magical Knowledge from Antiquity to Modern Times

Internationale kulturwissenschaftliche Tagung
Leipzig, 14. –16. September 2017
Theologische Fakultät

Looks to be a great conference, filled with presentations on ancient Egypt but also much more!

rough translation of an excerpt of the description: Magic: the dark side of religion? A Private “” non-public “side line of religion? Or something quite different? Only in recent years has it really become clear, that to a high degree “magic” as an aspect of research from Western culture. The manuscripts of magic (“Magic books”) are among the least known and even edited texts of Western research. Though long disproved, the stereotype remains that magic is always “popular”, ie primarily about a matter of peasant culture or lower classes. But it took place at royal courts as well as in the studios of clerics, physicians and scholars. But who exactly would have had written and read books like that of Clavicula Salomonis, the “Grand Grimoire”, the 6th and 7th book of Moses, the Jewish Sepher Raziel, the Romanus book or Dr. Faust? …

for the full description please visit

CFP: Hybrid, Liminal, and Demon Beings for the JIIA Mon, 08 May 2017 13:10:57 +0000 x-posted from

CFP: Journal of Intercultural and Interdisciplinary Archaeology

( Peer reviewed online journal.
Available at
Editor: Dr. Antonella D’Ascoli

JIIA N.3/2016

Issue 3 of JIIA (Section 1) will focus on the complex class of mythological beings belonging to the netherworld. Hybrid creatures, demons, benevolent or malevolent entities, autonomous or serving a divinity, residing in the humane or divine world, will be considered. The issue will take in account and religious and ritual spaces, as well as texts of the ancient world, both in the public and private domains of life, limited to the regions surrounding or in contact with the Mediterranean Sea:

Thematic issue: Hybrid, therioantropomorphic, liminal, and demon beings of antiquity
Possible aspects to explore:

  • Origin of such beings, and their role in mediating between human and supernatural world
  • Functions, activity areas, desired and actual effects, and context of hybrid beings (conceptual and physical place)
  • Visual representations and descriptions in texts, performances: iconography and textuality; symbology of their abnormal anatomy
  • Hybrid artefacts mediating between supernatural and natural worlds: masks, rhyta, figurines, etc.
  • Ritual dances and songs assuring contacts with liminal creatures
  • Connection with public, religious and political systems, and subdivision of such beings to suit such systems
  • Presence in cults (as part of established religion) or private rituals (magic and witchcraft)
  • Traditional representations and ritual disguises of human as animal body in indigenous societies
  • The human body transferred to metaphysical beings: which elements are preserved to maintain a recognizable interaction with the human world and which are substituted?
  • The embodiment of such beings through performance frequency and physical stimulation
  • Links among ancient ritual and religious systems, transfer of ideas, notable similarities among world-systems or comparisons of geographically or chronologically adjacent ones

2. Section 2 will include papers on other themes but with the same geographical constraints, and relevant to antiquity. Authors are welcome to submit any proposal, but priority will be given to thematic papers.

JIIA is an online peer-reviewed journal, hosted by the Heidelberg University Library (Open Journal Systems dell’ Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg):

Scientific Committee of ‘Journal of Intercultural and Interdisciplinary Archaeology’ (in progress):

  • Marilina Betrò (Professore Ordinario di Egittologia – Università degli Studi di Pisa)
  • Antonio Corso (Lord Marks Charitable Trust – Benaki Museum -Archaeological Service of Serres (Amphipolis)
  • Martine Denoyelle (Conservateur en chef du Patrimoine Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art INHA)
  • Andrea Vianello (University of Oxford)
  • Matteo Vigo (Saxo Institute, University of Copenhagen)
  • Antonella D’Ascoli (Editor of JIIA, independent researcher)

Please send abstracts of no more than 500 words to Dr. Antonella D’Ascoli by the end of May 2017.
Accepted papers (papers can be submitted preferably in English, French, Italian, German, Spanish) should not exceed 5,000 words with colour figures at 300 dpi (CMYK).
Bibliographical References and Notes:

Deadline for drafts is August 2017, final publication is expected by December 2017.

Turtle-Headed demon — still missing! Fri, 10 Feb 2017 15:15:23 +0000 Turtle headed demon – still missing!

Turtle headed creatures are quite rare in iconography of ancient Egypt and examples are scattered through different contexts. We can meet them mostly in funerary sphere where they serve as guardians. In the case of late Third Intermediate Period coffins, turtle headed creatures can be seen on three different coffins dating to the times of 25th and 26th Dynasties. 

Two examples are quite similar in iconography, showing us turtle-headed creatures as taking part in a procession of apotropaic creatures and animals. Such compositions are known from different objects, mostly from coffins, but also from tombs and temples. (See Fig. 1 and MISSING: Armed and possibly dangerous!)

Drawing of turtle-headed demon from a coffin

Fig. 1. Turtle-headed figure sitting on the ground and holding knives is named Hw33.t, which refers to the guardian demon from the Book of the Dead.
From the qrsw coffin of Ankhefenkhons (CGC 41001bis). Drawing by D. Haładaj.

A third example of turtle-headed creature who is pictured on outer anthropoid coffin NME 00004 from Stockholm is quite different. If we take a closer look at the coffin case, we will see 6 hybrid figures per side surrounded by columns of text. They look very similar dressed in white shrouds with yellow necklaces, wearing blue wigs adorned with cones or feathers and holding knifes on their knees. Their iconography varies only in the shape of the head which can be anthropoid or zoomorphic. These creatures, described by A. Dodson as “underworld deities” (Dodson 2015: 32), fall into a few categories, representing 4 Sons of Horus, Thoth and Horus-Iunmutef, and three figures of uncertain character bearing the names Lady of the West, Lord of the West and Lady of the Lakenb.t S.t.

One side of decorated coffin of Isisirdis

Fig. 2. Decoration of the coffin-case belonging to Isisirdis. Photograph number 15421D, Copyright ©2017 Medelhavsmuseet.

It is the Lady of the Lake who is interesting for us because of her iconography: she is sitting on the ground, holding a knife on her knees, with her head represented as a turtle. Both her name and iconography refer to aquatic regions of the Duat, what is not surprising because the turtle is first of all a water-dwelling animal. As for her name there are no analogies—the closest are epithets used for Sobek, Lord of the Lake (Leitz 2012, vol. III: 745) and for Hathor, Lady of the Red Lake (Leitz 2012, vol. IV: 139). Her function here focuses on the protection of the body of the deceased placed in the coffin. However, it seems that her nature can be different than the usual guardian demons as she does not appear in spells connected to the protection of the gates.

Close-up of Turtle-headed demon on coffin

Fig. 3. Turtle-headed figure from the coffin belonging to Isisirdis. Photograph number 14884D, Copyright ©2017 Medelhavsmuseet.

If you have any information regarding this demon, please contact the author of this post:

Dagmara Haładaj
PhD student, Antiquity of Southeastern Europe Research Center
University of Warsaw

The guardian of the portal of fire Fri, 09 Dec 2016 11:26:18 +0000
Henet Requ in her portal (Wasserman et al. (2015) Papyrus of Ani, pl. 11-A).

Henet Requ in her portal (Wasserman et al. (2015) Papyrus of Ani, pl. 11-A).

The ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead contains many texts that describe what happens to your spirit after you die. As one of the recently deceased you would have had to pass several tests before your soul was found worthy to become one of the Akh, the glorious dead. One of the final challenges is described in the 146th spell of the Book. Here, your spirit would stand before the gatekeepers of the 21 portals that had to be passed if you wished to enter the Garden of Osiris, where perfection and eternal bliss would await you. To pass each gatekeeper, you would have to recognize their form, and their name. This was not an easy task as they could appear in the shape of any dangerous animal seen in Egypt, or in the desert beyond its borders. All those who wished to pass the trial would have their journey recorded in their own, personal Book of the Dead. At the fifth portal, the portal of fire, the scribe Ani met the gatekeeper Henet Requ, the One Who Obstructs the Disaffected:

This demonic gatekeeper appeared in the shape of a leopard but with the head of a hippo. She was the fiery one, mistress of flames. She was everything the gatekeepers represented. These demons did not pass judgement on those who wished to enter. She would not make a decision on whether the spirit before her was good or evil. Only by speaking her name, and thereby overpowering her, would you be able to pass.  She held two items in front of her; she rested her paws on the hieroglyphic sign for protection, proving her place as a defender of the Garden. Above it, however, she held a massive Khopesh, one of the new weapons to be used in the many wars of the Ramesside period. If you failed her test, she would use her considerable power to obstruct your passing. If your spirit could not rest in the Garden of Osiris, it was damned as one of the Mut, the wandering dead. Because of this, Henet Requ was considered both good and evil. She protected the Garden of Osiris, and the spirits of the ancestors, from any unworthy intruder. However, the fear that she could condemn you to an eternity of suffering and misfortune, certainly made the people of Egypt fear the power she held over their souls.

Geirr Kristian Lunden

Featured image: The fourth, fifth and sixth portals of spell 146 from Taylor (2010) Journey Through the Afterlife, pp. 144-145.

This is one of a series of blog posts written as an assignment by the 2015-16 Year 3 and MA students taking a course on “Supernatural Beings and Demons of Ancient Egypt” offered by Kasia Szpakowska at Swansea University.
MISSING: Armed and possibly dangerous! Fri, 02 Dec 2016 11:54:07 +0000 This is one of a series of blogs written as an assignment by the 2015-16 Year 3 and MA students taking a course on “Supernatural Beings and Demons of Ancient Egypt” offered by Kasia Szpakowska at Swansea University.


Have you seen this demon?


This demon has a distinguishable iconography in which it can be seen as a hybridised being — an anthropomorphic, seated body with the head of a turtle. Within its hands it holds two daggers (be careful, this could be a dangerous being!) and is often seen protecting a gate within the netherworld. It could be classed as a guardian-demon.

Turtle-headed demon within the third gate of the netherworld

Turtle-headed demon within the third gate of the netherworld. Lepsius Todtenbuch, Pl. LX BoD 144

The turtle can be identified as the Trionyx triunguis, a large growing and dangerous animal even in ancient Egypt. The female was able to grow large enough to be able to eat small Nilotic crocodiles, one of the most dangerous and feared animals to the ancient Egyptians! From the Middle Kingdom, the turtle is mentioned in funerary texts, for example CT368, which was used to protect the deceased from eating excrement in the afterlife.


“Get back Faeces! But Faeces is not my name. My name is Re, my name is aiHy Re on my two thrones. If you tell me to eat this, then Re will eat turtle.”


Eating turtle for Re is equal to eating faeces for humans, a rather negative connotation.

The turtle also has association with the chaotic god Apophis, specifically in the ‘Book of Overthrowing Apophis.’ Apophis was symbolic of evil and chaos, quite the opposite to the nature of the guardian-demon. As can be seen in the p. Bremner-Rhind, the turtle is used as the determinative in the name of Apophis — “Apophis-enemy-turtle.”

Name of Apophis with the determinative of the turtle.

Name of Apophis with the determinative of the turtle. p. Bremner-Rhind.

It is evident that this missing demon is harnessing the negative and chaotic aspects of the turtle, which is used in its iconography, in order to protect the deceased in the afterlife. If you happen to cross it in the netherworld, at least you now know its name!

May respond to:

wnm-HwA.wt nt pH.wj=f — “the one who eats the excrement of his rear.” The entity has been called this at least twice. Two Greco-Roman papyri attest this epithet: p. MMA 35.9.21 and p. Turin 1791, whilst the Lexikon der ägyptischen Götter und Götterbezeichnungen identifies this epithet with a guardian of the third gate in the netherworld. The name, however, can be traced back to the coffin texts, more specifically CT1102.

Last seen:

There have been very few sightings of this demon, but those, which have been detailed, include Book of the Dead 144, found on two Theban papyri of the Ptolemaic period: p. Leiden T 16 and p. Turin 1791.

p. Leiden T 16, BoD 144

p. Leiden T 16, BoD 144


p. Turin 1791, BoD 144

p. Turin 1791, BoD 144










Wooden statues, which resemble the description and previous sightings of the demon, can be found in the British Museum: EA50704, EA61416, both of the New Kingdom.

BM EA50704: Turtle-headed demon statue.

BM EA50704: Turtle-headed demon statue.

BM EA61416: Another turtle-headed demon statue.

BM EA61416: Another turtle-headed demon statue.

The final sightings can be found on sarcophagi, primarily of the Third Intermediate Period, coming from the 21st dynasty and 22nd dynasty, one of which (Cairo J. E. 87297) even belonging to the pharaoh Psousennes I:

BM EA30721



BM EA6666BMEA6666BMEA6666

Cairo J. E. 87297

Cairo J.E. 87297. Montet, Tanis II, pl. LXXXVI.

Cairo J.E. 87297. Montet, Tanis II, pl. LXXXVI.

Cairo J.E.87297

but also, the demon can be seen in a unique female form, dated to the Ptolemaic Period.




If you have any information regarding this demon, please contact

Jed Rual


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CFP: Specters, Hauntings, Presences Thu, 21 Apr 2016 14:20:26 +0000 Call For Papers

Northwestern University Department of Religious Studies
Graduate Conference
October 7-9, 2016

The Religious Studies Department of Northwestern University invites graduate student papers for a conference on “Specters, Hauntings, Presences,” to be held in Evanston, Illinois on October 7-9, 2016. Deadline extended – We request abstracts by April 22, 2016.

Through this conference, we aim to foster dialogue about religio-cultural forces that are as elusive as they are powerful. The central theme invites a variety of approaches and topics. We seek papers on presences invisible, otherworldly, esoteric, uncanny, monstrous, or mysterious. We also invite papers that explore the specters of politics, economics, and colonialism in connection with religion. Overall, the conference aims to question the concept of disenchantment—as method, as theory, as history. Some examples of possible paper topics include: Chinese hungry ghosts, “enchantment” in colonial modernity, Afro-Caribbean spirit possession, capitalism’s hauntings, golems in Jewish thought, presences in digital or mediated religion, and specters of the future (threatening or inspiring). Such diverse topics will bring together academic discussions about hauntology, neo-colonialism, critical race theory, transhumanism, modernity, identity politics, affect, materiality, mysticism, and popular culture. We seek burgeoning scholars from religious studies, cultural studies, literature and media studies, anthropology, performance studies, and history for this robustly interdisciplinary conference.

Keynote speakers:
Arvind-Pal S. Mandair, Associate Professor and S.C.S.B Endowed Professor of Sikh Studies at the University of Michigan
John Modern, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Franklin & Marshall College
Wonhee Anne Joh, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

Presentations should not exceed fifteen minutes in length and may approach the topic from any discipline or methodology.

Please send a 500-word abstract, along with your name, institution, and year of study to by April 22, 2016. Decisions will be communicated by the beginning of June.

Conference beginning and end Tue, 12 Apr 2016 11:17:37 +0000 Just to come full circle… previously, we blogged about full days of papers one and two.

Our conference launched on Monday, 21 March, with offerings of wine and chocolate to pacify all the beings. Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Martin Stringer kicked off the event with a stimulating unscripted talk that really set the tone for the whole conference. Themes included religious diversity, religion as lived experience, and the importance of ethnography. One particular point he made was that to the believer, the beings we were discussing were very much tangible and real. This has made me rethink how I approach Ancient Egyptian perceptions as well.

We then went on to launch our “demonbase“—an online catalogue of a sample of Ancient Egyptian liminal entities. The FileMaker Pro database is accessible now to researchers (please contact us through the contact form). We will shortly have a version available for feedback online. The public version will arise in September!

…. then came two days of presentations that were reviewed in the previous posts …

The final day kicked off with a presentation by Rita Lucarelli, one of the founders of the Demonology Project in general. She gave a great presentation on “Baba and the demonic aspects of the baboon“. I was a bit disappointed to see that Baba indeed holds out knives, rather than being a demonic drummer (sighs..), but in fact, he turns out to be much more complex and appears more frequently than previously suspected. This was followed by Amy Hammett, who completed her MA in Ancient Egyptian Culture here at Swansea University. Now a PhD student at Kent, she continues here work on the mysterious clay balls found throughout Ancient Egypt. There are many different kinds—her focus here was on “The Clay Balls of Ancient Egypt: A Symbolic Defence Against Apophis?” They are found in both domestic and funerary contexts, so their use, like that of many Egyptian objects, was complex. The final presentation was jointly written by Stuart Tyson Smith and Erin Bornemann (who presented it as well). Fresh from the field, they brought to us fine examples of “Liminal Deities in the Borderlands: Bes and Pataikos in Ancient Nubia“. While they were not found in huge numbers, the figurines of Bes and the Pataikos were represented throughout different time periods. Having a relatively secure context (so very rare in Egyptology, though even their tombs had suffered previous looting!) allowed Stuart and Erin, to discuss them in relation to both individuals and society on a broader scale.  Having these newly discovered figurines that bring 3-dimensions to representations was a wonderful way to close out the presentation portion of the conference.

Having said that, the task of a final FINAL ending fell to me, and since I cannot be an object reviewer of my own presentation, I will leave it to others. Just to give a hint, a reference was made to the fact that our attempts to understand a culture long dead in many ways hearkens to Star Trek: The Next Generation’s “Darmok and Jalad, at Tanagra” (if you don’t get it, give yourself an hour to find and watch the whole episode somewhere!).

With that, we headed off for our magical trip to the Gower Peninsula. While the previous 3 days were beautifully sunny, Seth came at us with a vengeance, sending rain, cold wind, and dense fog our way. After initially going off in the wrong direction, we finally made it to Arthur’s Stone (which I am sure at that point seemed like a big pointless rock to many, as we stood there drenched). Still, everybody seemed more cheerful once we got to the Gower Inn, with a veritable buffet of “tea” items (not limited to scones & cream).

Finally, we all went our separate ways, grudgingly for many of us, as it had been a truly magical experience. If you weren’t there, don’t worry, there are many images on our Facebook site and you can follow us on Twitter. In a few years, the volume of papers will also be published for your reading pleasure. In the meantime, l.p.h. to all!

With many thanks to our supporters!!

(blog post by Kasia Szpakowska)

‘Demon Things’ conference 2016 abstract: Amy Hammett Tue, 12 Apr 2016 10:07:09 +0000 Amy Hammett

The Clay Balls of Ancient Egypt: A Symbolic Defence Against Apophis?

The “striking of the ball” ritual, dated from the New Kingdom to the Late period, is depicted on a number of temple walls. The scene depicts the Pharaoh, armed with a club or stick, hitting balls before a deity or a group of deities. The inscriptions which accompany these scenes suggest that they represent the “evil eye of Apophis”, and that they are destroyed to protect the sun god Re. It has been suggested that these balls may have been made from clay, and this paper will discuss why this theory is supportable and will discuss the possibility that the clay balls were used as a form of weapon against Apophis and the evil he represented.

Clay balls have been excavated from homes and burials, and are decorated with inscriptions, seal impressions, or painted designs. The fact that these artefacts have been found in houses does not entirely rule it out as being an accompaniment to the “striking of the ball” ritual, because it is possible that ancient Egyptian royal rituals adopted domestic rituals and vice versa. In a day to day setting Apophis could have represented the very real threat of snakes to the average Egyptian and it is possible that the “striking of the ball ritual” had its origins in the home. Similarly, equipping one’s tomb with clay balls could have provided a form of defence in the afterlife.

]]> Demon Things Conference – Day 3 Mon, 28 Mar 2016 08:28:55 +0000 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!

–Bev Rogers

Links to Launch & Last Day of Conference and the First full day of DemonThings Papers.

More Egyptologists arrive in Swansea! Demon Things Conference Day 2 Tue, 22 Mar 2016 21:01:18 +0000 Today, the Demon Things Conference 2016 welcomed over 85 delegates to the impressive Taliesin Theatre next to the Egypt Centre, where nine excellent papers were presented over the theatre’s huge screen (for images please visit our Facebook site.)

A conference on “demons” was always destined to warrant a few demons of our own showing their presence and sure enough the organisational team were confronted with a few hiccups before the delegates arrived!  Tea urns stopped working, the air conditioning in the museum faltered in the lower gallery forcing it to close to the public for a while and Carolyn Graves-Brown (one of the organisers) fell down the steps.  By the time the delegates arrived for registration though, everything was running smoothly and thankfully continued to do so for the rest of the day.

Carolyn warmly welcomed everyone to the conference and first off to speak was Swansea University’s own Felicitas Weber on The “Demon” Code.  Her research on New Kingdom Book of the Dead texts using diegetic lists has focused on  commonly applied identifiers of demons which have been studied through the categories of dangerous weapons, guardians, “dangerous” behaviour and ‘peculiar’ behaviour – it was fascinating and thoroughly detailed research.  Dr Kasia Szpakowska followed by reading a paper from Arnaud Quertinmont on Anubis as a Demon.  Great illustrations accompanied the presentation which revealed that Anubis was often referenced at the entrance of the tomb chapel and this “protection” of the deceased can be witnessed in the tomb of Nakhtamun’s where Anubis may be interpreted as a guardian of the Underworld.  Ladislav Bares‘ paper on Underworld Demons in the Decoration of the Large Late Period Shaft Tombs at Abusir came next Discussion on the position of the image of the demons in regard to their orientation and use in the burial chamber – particularly in regard to the tomb of Iufaa, the wooden coffin of Nekau and the Book of the Dead chapter 144 in the burial chamber of Menekhibnekau – were ably read by Renata Landgrafova  in the absence of Ladislav. I particularly loved the image of the dancing cows!

After a short break, we returned to the theatre to be greeted with an interesting discussion on Following Seth’s Path? The Ambivalent Nature of Ancient Egyptian Donkey-headed Deities by Marie Vandenbeusch.  The evolution of these deities took us on a journey from the Old Kingdom, where examples are quite rare, to the Middle Kingdom representations on coffins, through to the New Kingdom and Graeco-Roman Period.  We learnt that identification can often be a problem, that there seems to be a connection with the deity Seth, and because of their malevolent and ambivalent nature, the donkey was often seen in the New Kingdom at the prow of the solar bark, defending it from attack.  Some wonderful images were shown and my favourite has to be the beautiful depiction on the shrine of Tutankhamun.  Maria Nilsson was the last paper to be presented before lunch and her extensive research was well received by the audience. Symbolae Sacrae – Symbolic Formulae for Protection and Adoration within the Sandstone Quarries of Gebel el Silsila described the huge project being undertaken at Silsila where 20 entities have been identified and are accompanied by many other abstract images.  All indicate a high amount of superstitious representation in keeping with the dangerous work being undertaken at the quarries during ancient times.

An hour for lunch, then we were back hunting demons!  Aris Legowski kick-started the afternoon with What is the Evil with Demons? Exploring the Egyptian Semantic Field of Evil.  Can any demon in ancient Egypt be considered as fundamentally evil? We considered this question as Ari took us through the difficulties of determining what “evil” actually meant to the ancient Egyptians. We were also introduced to one of the 42 judges found in the Book of the Dead – “the evil one” – and perused the concept of its role as perhaps being the absorption of evil.  Anatomy of a Coffin Text Demon was the subject of Zuzanna Bennett‘s paper up next. This vividly described and illustrated paper considered  3 questions in connection with demons – What do they look like? Why do demons look like this? and How do demons use their appearance.  Zuzanna has constructed a database of 110 coffins from the Middle Kingdom, revealing over 400 different demons.  Types of Anatomy have included avian, serpentine, bovine, canids (foxes and canines) and feline which illustrates the wide diversity of demons in terms of size and shape! The appearance of demons were shown to have both practical and symbolic purposes and overall create a complex demon network which shows a great level of imagination.

Zoologist John Wyatt gave the penultimate paper – A Demonic and Angelic Bestiary – which considered not only the different types of species which can be seen to make-up the anatomy of demons but also why they may have in fact have been chosen in the first place.  John’s research has included 42 wands, 51 headrests and 1 brick and he has  identified at least 25 actual species. In his conclusions, however, John suggested that identification of the actual species is probably not that important.  Of a greater interest to him was the characteristics of the animals chosen  – all animals have ‘good’ and ‘bad’ characteristics and the demons can take on any aspect of these depending on their role.  It was a great talk which John illustrated with some stunning images.  The final paper was given by Renata Landgrafova (co-written with Jiri Janak) on Guardians of Gates: An Unusual Assemblage of Demons in Menekhibnekau’s Book of the Dead Chapter 144.  The scene discussed is highly unusual in its different depiction and arrangement when considered to other examples of the chapter in question.  Menekhibnekau’s version can be viewed as probably a variant triggered by its position and other factors.  A great talk to end with!

Day Two of the conference came to an end with the promise of an exciting few hours ahead for delegates with a visit to the Egypt Centre – Night at the Museum beckoned when the museum could be seen in all its glory ably guided by the wonderful child volunteers!

This delegate for one can’t wait until tomorrow when a whole host of new demon hunters will take to the stage!!!!

If you have enjoyed this guest post by Beverley Rogers, you can find her on the Collecting Egypt blog here and on Twitter via Beverley@CollectingEgypt.