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(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The ancient Egyptian religion was deeply imbued with the cult of the dead and a strong belief in a life after death. The Ka, or etheric double, was a copy of the physical body though was not to be confused with the Ba, or Bai, which was the soul, and the khu, or spirit. The conception of the ka wandering about after death promoted the ancient Egyptian belief in ghosts. The ka generally lived in the tomb with the deceased body, and could be visited there by the khu. If the ka was not provided with sufficient food and drink, it would wander about beyond the tomb, searching for nourishment.

There were various orders of priests, ranked according to their particular office. The priest who offered sacrifice and libation in the temple was the highest of the priests and was generally called “the Prophet.” He dressed in a leopard skin fitted over his linen robes. He was a very eminent personage and sometimes carried a special name. For example, the high Theban pontiff was “First Prophet of Amon in Thebes,” while the one in Heliopolis was “He who is able to see the Great God” (later changed to “The great one with visions of the god Re”). The duty of the prophet was to be well versed in all religious matters, the laws, the worship of the gods, and the discipline of the whole order of the priesthood. He presided over the temple and the sacred rites.

There were also priests known as horologues (priest-timekeepers), and the astrologers. The astrologers had to know the mythological calendar and to be able to explain all the important dates. Each day of the year was labeled as either good, neutral, or bad, according to events of the past that had occurred on those days. Magical papyri contain instructions not to perform certain ceremonies on particular days, because hostile powers would be present to prevent the desired outcome. In the last epochs of the Egyptian civilization, the astrologer-priests tied in the destiny of every person to the cosmic circumstances of his or her birth, drawing a horoscope to show the astral influences.

There were also priests known as pastophores who were bearers of sacred objects and slayers of sacrificial beasts. Then there were those the Greeks called the oneirocrites. They interpreted dreams. For a period there was a custom of spending a night in the temple in order to receive guidance from the gods. This guidance came in dreams which had to be interpreted by the oneirocrites. The Egyptians believed that, even without sleeping in a temple, the gods could make their will known to the people through dreams, and great importance was attached to dreams which included figures of the gods. The skill to interpret dreams was cherished. There are many examples in the Egyptian texts of important dreams that were interpreted by priests.


Budge, Sir E.A. Wallis: Egyptian Magic. New York: Bell Publishing, 1991
Rawlinson, George: History of Ancient Egypt. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1881
Sauneron, Serge: The Priests of Ancient Egypt. New York: Grove Press, 1960
Wilkinson, Sir J. Gardner: The Ancient Egyptians: Their Life and Customs. New York: Crescent Books, 1988
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