still making people choke on maryland XP
Heka literally means activating the Ka, which Egyptians thought was how magic worked, the Ka being an aspect of the soul which embodied personality, but more significantly also power and influence, particularly in the case of the Ka of gods.
The hieroglyph for his name featured a twist of flax within a pair of raised arms, however, it also vaguely resembles a pair of entwined snakes within someone's arms. Consequently, Heka was said to have battled and conquered two serpents, and was usually depicted as a man choking two entwined serpents. Medicine and doctors was thought to be a form of magic, and so Heka's priesthood performed these activities.
As the one who activates Ka, Heka was also said to be the son of Atum, the creator of things in general, or occasionally the son of Chnum, who created specific individual Ba (another aspect of the soul). As the son of Chnum, his mother was said to be Menhit.
Acquiring magical powers
While its efficiency in the hands of mortal practitioners was perhaps often less than had been hoped for, magic attracted people because it was practical and made sense. Everything had a reason, often hidden to the ordinary person, but revealed to the knowledgeable.
Magic explained the relationships between causes and effects using ideas people could relate to. Analogies and symbolisms were widely used, the sympathetic principle of like affecting like was invoked, associations, be they pure coincidence, were imbued with meaning, and historic occurrences became predictors for the future. There were even prescribed ways for explaining why expected results had not materialized.
It appears that, originally, the Egyptians, like some other peoples who practiced ritual cannibalism, thought that spiritual powers resided in the body and could be acquired by ingestion. There is no evidence, though, that such a view was more than speculative and ever acted upon.
The king orders sacrifices, he alone controls them,
the king eats humans, feeds on gods,
he has them presented on an altar to himself,
he has agents to do his will. He fires off the orders!
The king eats their magic, he gulps down their souls,
the adults he has for breakfast,
the young are lunch,
the babies he has for supper,
the old ones are too tough to eat, he just burns them on the altar as an offering to himself.
Magic was tightly bound up with writing, although there must have been an extensive purely oral tradition which was never recorded and is therefore lost to us. Most practitioners gained magical knowledge by studying ancient scriptures. Chief among them were the lector-priests, the only clerics who were fully professional since the beginning of recorded history. They were the keepers of the sacred books.
The practitioners of magic
Magical knowledge and power emanated from the gods and was bestowed upon their servants, the kings ...
Utterance of all the gods, [to] Amon-Re: "This thy daughter [Hatshepsut], who liveth, we are satisfied with her in life and peace. She is now thy daughter of thy form, whom thou hast begotten, prepared. Thou hast given to her thy soul, thy [...], thy [bounty], the magic powers of the diadem......
Come glorious one; I have placed (thee) before me; that thou mayest see thy administration in the palace, and the excellent deeds of thy ka's that thou mayest assume thy royal dignity, glorious in thy magic, mighty in thy strength.
and their substitutes in the service of the gods, the priesthood. But there were also less exalted magicians who did not deal with life and death, but with more mundane issues like good luck charms, pest control or love potions.
Sometimes spells fell into the wrong hands. Anybody capable of reading could use them, and, at times, some did so with evil intentions.
Now, when Penhuibin, formerly overseer of herds, said to him: "Give to me a roll for enduing me with strength and might," he gave to him a magic roll of Usermare-Meriamon (Ramses III), L.P.H., the Great God, his lord, L.P.H., and he began to employ the magic powers of a god upon people.
To the ordinary mortal magic could be dangerous, and coming into physical contact with the divine deadly. The accidental touching of the royal sceptre even by a sem priest had to be counteracted by the king's spell, and the incident was serious enough to be recorded:
The king of Upper and Lower Egypt Neferikare appeared as King of Lower Egypt on the day of the seizing of the anterior rope of the God's barque. There was the sem priest Rewer before his majesty in his office of sem priest, responsible for the clothing. The ames sceptre which was in the hand of his majesty, touched the foot of the sem priest Rewer. His majesty said to him: "May you be well!" - thus spoke his majesty.
Behold, his majesty said: "It is desirable to my majesty that he may be well, without a blow for him." Behold, he is more esteemed by his majesty than any other man. His majesty ordered to have (it) put in writing on his tomb which is in the necropolis. His majesty caused a record to be made about it, written in the presence of the king himself in the district of the palace, in order to write down according to what had been said in his tomb which is in the necropolis.