Monday, July 27, 2009

Spellbound in Brooklyn

Archaeology Magazine (Morgan Moroney)

Egyptian magic was much more than hocus-pocus

Housed in a small gallery off the Brooklyn Museum's Egyptian wing is "Magic in Ancient Egypt: Image, Word, and Reality," an exhibition on view until October 8, 2009. Highlighting 20 objects from the museum's collection, it emphasizes how magic and religion, magic and science, even magic and health care, were inseparable in ancient Egypt. Despite its small stature and lack of videos or interactive computer displays, which sometimes overwhelm artifacts in exhibitions nowadays, "Magic" was an enjoyable presentation of a fascinating subject.

For the Egyptians magic, known as heqa, was neither scary nor strange, good nor evil, but a force present in nearly every aspect of their lives. For example, the exhibit examines the power of images. In the home, gods were worshiped as protective deities through depictions such as two representations on display here, both of the god Bes, guardian of children and pregnant women. One is an 18th Dynasty relief (1549-1298 B.C.), the other a Third Intermediate Period statue (1064-656 B.C). Magical amulets, such as an Eye of Horus (wadjet eye) on display, were worn for protection against evil and disease. Amulets were also wrapped in mummies to safeguard the deceased and heal incisions made by embalmers during mummification. The exhibit also presents an 18th Dynasty ancestral bust, an example of images of deceased family members kept in the home and in funerary chapels, and appealed to by the living for help in their daily lives.

See the above page for the full story, with photographs.

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