Exhibitions: Magic in Ancient Egypt: Image, Word, and Reality

Relief of Ptah holding Ankh and Djed. Egypt, provenance not known. Late Period or Ptolemaic Period (fourth–third century B.C.). Stucco. Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Ernest Erickson Foundation, 86.226.17

December 22, 2006–October 18, 2009

How the Egyptians, known throughout the ancient world for their expertise in magic, addressed the unknown forces of the universe is explored in this exhibition of twenty objects from the Brooklyn Museum's world-famous collection. Ancient Egyptians did not distinguish between religion and magic. They believed that the manipulation of written words, images, and ritual could influence the world through a divinely created force known as Heqa, personified as the eldest son of the solar creator Atum. Heqa could be used by the gods to control and sustain the universe and by humans to deal with problems of ordinary life. The exhibition includes a relief of a son of Ramesses II, Prince Khaemwaset, who became legendary as a sage and magician; a bronze figure of the goddess Isis, known as "great of magic," holding a cobra that also had magical powers; a magical healing stela inspired by myths of Isis healing Horus of a scorpion bite; and a headrest with images of Bes and Taweret, deities who protected the dead and the living. The exhibition also examines connections between magic and medicine, including the consumption of liquids imbued with magical powers; and the use of magic after death through such objects as funerary figurines that were created to carry out any work in the afterlife the gods might require of the deceased.

This exhibition is curated by Richard Fazzini, Director of the Brooklyn Museum's excavation at the Temple Precinct of the Goddess Mut in Egypt.