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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in ancientegypt

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Papyrus: From Spreadsheet to Magic

Papyrus (Cyperus papyrus), also known as Egyptian reed, was regarded as a gift from the gods for its wide range of construction and domestic purposes. The Nile delta was a perfect place for this aquatic grass-like plant. Its upright, triangular stem can grow fifteen feet tall with a large tuft of flowering thread-like branches at the top resembling a feather duster. Pith from inside the stem was cut into thin slices, pressed together, dried, and voilà! Paper. Papyrus was THE paper for about four thousand years before being replaced by parchment and rag/pulp paper around 1000 CE.
        The pyramids didn’t only involve moving mountains of stones around, they required documents and accounts for tracking all the materials, people, and everything else. The Egyptians were thousands of years ahead of Microsoft with spreadsheets and paper was a phenomenal breakthrough because it was lightweight and portable, unlike clay tablets. Paper was the ancient information superhighway making communication easy for government, business, and everyone. Personal letters and even shopping lists have been found by archaeologists.
        Papyrus made it possible for everyone to have a Book of the Dead slipped into their coffin; previously it was carved or painted on the walls of royal tombs. A sort of guidebook for the deceased, the Book of the Dead contained magic spells and details on what to do upon arrival in the afterlife. It may be the reason papyrus was also known as the grass of guidance.
        Scrolls were written about any and everything, including magic. One of the most famous is the Greek Magical Papyri, a collection of texts on myths, magical spells, and rituals (c. 100 BCE – c. 500 CE) from Greco-Roman Egypt that now resides in the British Museum. Even before magic was written on papyrus, the plant itself was regarded as sacred and magical. Papyrus was important enough to have its own hieroglyph.
        In temple architecture, columns representing bundles of papyrus stalks demarcated sacred space. According to legend, crocodiles would not attack a boat made of papyrus because it was the type of ship Isis sailed in. In addition, a small piece of glazed pottery in the shape of a papyrus stalk was used as an amulet. Known as the papyrus scepter and wadj, it was believed to impart abundance and vitality to the wearer. It was also worn for protection and used as a sign of prosperity. Sometimes made of green felspar, this amulet was placed with a mummy to represent the promise of new life.
        Sheets of papyrus paper are available today and can enhance the energy of magic work. Write spells on it to tuck into your grimoire or include it in ritual. Create your own amulet with small piece of papyrus paper: write a spell or a few keywords on it, role it up, and then tie it with colorful thread to make a scroll. Let your imagination take you to ancient Egypt and let the grass of guidance show you its magical uses.  


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