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Spring 2013 Lecture Series

Magic, Ritual and Healing
in Ancient Egypt

3 Mondays, April 22, April 29, May 13 and
Tuesday, May 21, 2013 — 7:30-9:00 pm

Egyptian God This in-depth program will examine three distinct facets of ancient Egyptian culture: magic, religious ritual and medicine. Comprising three separate occupations, these practitioners had much in common. Exploring their affinities will give us insight into the ancient Egyptian belief system and world view. The series is made possible by two generous gifts from Jeannette and Jonathan P. Rosen , CMAA Lifetime Charter Members, and from John Matrisciano, CMAA Board of Directors Member.

This spring a Who's Who of distinguished experts and world-renowned authorities in ancient Egyptian magic, religion and medicine are coming to Los Angeles to present four illustrated lectures which examine the cornerstones of Egyptian civilization. Showcasing the power and deep insights this long extinct culture had to offer, we'll learn how these qualities still exert influence today in our modern world.

For most people, magic is seen as both superstition and slight-of-hand, having little value. Yet in ancient Egypt and the Near East, magic held the powerful position that science holds today. After examining how magic functioned and its intimate relation with the daily renewal of creation, we'll step back into a world that few have the privilege to witness. We'll explore specific practices in the Festival of Drunkenness involving the entire community's use of alcohol and drugs to approach the divine. Next, the Goddess Isis, an adept whose magic skills preserved the rightful kingship of Egypt for her son Horus, evolved to become the iconographic model for Christianity's Virgin and Child. Finally, we'll survey the issue of women's health in ancient Egypt.

Join us on a journey of discovery as we explore a fascinating subject, Magic, Ritual and Healing in Ancient Egypt. This educational series will take place at Piness Auditorium inside Wilshire Boulevard Temple, 3663 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles (at Hobart three blocks east of Western). Free parking is available in a lot on Hobart. The general public is welcome.

Magic Knife

VIDEO and AUDIO RECORDINGS: DVDs and CDs are available for this series. DVDs are $28 per lecture, $90 for the full series (4 programs); CDs are $21 per lecture, $70 for the series. Price includes shipping and tax.

Order from California Museum of Ancient Art, P. O. Box 10515, Beverly Hills, CA 90213. Pre-paid tickets are held at the door for pick-up. For more information, call (818) 762-5500.


Monday, April 22, 2013:
"Magic at the Creation: the Theory and Practice of Egyptian Religious Ritual"
by Dr. Robert Ritner, University of Chicago


To understand the role of magic in Egyptian religion, we must first examine the origin of the god Heka as a force within creation. The primordial benben-mound from the Heliopolitan myth of creation is enshrined in architecture as the great pyramid of Giza. Large scale constructions such as this do not serve merely as memorials to creation, but with each dawn they renew the world's beginning as the sun shines on them. An alabaster lamp of Nile lilies from Tutankhamun's tomb serves the same function for another creation myth. Each time the lamp is lit, the moment when the sun opens his eyes within the lily of Nefertum recreates space-time and creation begins anew. Whether grand architecture or simple decorative art, these Egyptian works are magical. By means of an image or double, they compel a result. The power that links the image to the result is the god Heka. Through Heka, the eldest son of the creator, ka-images take form as the gods and the physical world.

A lion's hindquarters can replace the phonetic spelling of Heka's name. This hieroglyph, with a double meaning of "power" and "behind" indicates that Heka is both the dynamic "force" underlying nature and a protector who regularly appears "behind" the sun god in his barque and Osiris on his throne. Greek language magical texts from Egypt properly translate Heka as "holy magic." In this illustrated lecture, we will explore the many aspects of ancient Egyptian magic and the role Heka plays.

Robert K. Ritner is Professor of Egyptology at the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago. He is recognized as one of the foremost experts in ancient Egyptian magic. Having received his PhD from the University of Chicago in 1987, Dr. Ritner is the author of over 100 articles and three books including The Mechanics of Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice, now in its fourth printing, recipient of the Heyman Prize for Outstanding Scholarly Publication in 1994.

Monday, April 29, 2013:
"The Festivals of Drunkenness in the New Kingdom"
by Dr. Betsy Bryan, Johns Hopkins University


A recently excavated hall in the Temple of the Goddess Mut in South Karnak was the site where the Festival of Drunkenness was celebrated during the reigns of Hatshepsut and Thutmose III in the mid-18th Dynasty. This building is the earliest temple structure with which the festival is specifically associated. In our illustrated talk, we will begin with the archaeological material and setting. After examining the festival at the Mut Temple, we will move on to explore drunkenness festivals elsewhere during the New Kingdom.

The majority of our current information about the classic Festival of Drunkenness, celebrated in the first month of the year (on the 20th day of Thoth, August in our calendar), dates to the Ptolemaic era, but some preserved texts are sufficiently explicit to identify the progress of the festival as well as its ritual goals. After outlining the Late Period revelries, we will ask whether parallel evidence exists for the New Kingdom. Each aspect of the drunkenness festivals will be carefully examined: its communal nature, its excessive alcohol consumption, and its reliance on inebriation as a door to the divine. In addition, the social setting of these festivals will be considered. With the aid of textual, archaeological and art historical evidence we will consider whether the Festival of Drunkenness in 1479 BC was similar to those known from the Temple of Hathor at Dendera nearly fifteen hundred years later.

Betsy M. Bryan is Alexander Badawy Professor of Egyptian Art and Archaeology at Johns Hopkins University. Renowned as art historian and world-class archaeologist, she received her PhD from Yale University in 1980. She is Director of the Johns Hopkins Temple of Mut Expedition. Dr. Bryan is the author of numerous articles and books on ancient Egyptian art including Egypt's Dazzling Sun: Amenhotep III and his World, co-authored with Arielle Kozloff for the famous exhibit of the same name at the Cleveland Museum of Art in 1992.

Monday, May 13, 2013:
"Isis, Great of Magic, from Pharaonic to Roman Times"
by Dr. Francesco Tiradritti, University of Enna, Italy


Isis is first mentioned in the Old Kingdom Pyramid Texts as Osiris' wife, a role that would continue until the New Kingdom when she acquired important characteristics of Hathor, the quintessence of femininity. Along with her primary part in the Osiris-Horus myth, Isis' assimilation of Hathor's attributes increased her magical powers. In the conflict between Horus and Seth, she intervened on behalf of her son Horus, on several occasions. Her role as a magician expanded in the Ramesside Period (as known from a papyrus in Turin). Thanks to her charm, she learned the secret name of Re — knowledge which gave her universal power.

The growing importance of the Isis cult can be seen in the creation of a temple dedicated to her on the Giza plateau. The southernmost pyramid of one of Khufu's queens was considered the burial place of the goddess, beginning in the first millennium BC. The Greek arrival in Egypt brought a dramatic change. Isis was associated with Serapis, a newly created god, a syncretism between Zeus and the deceased Apis bull; she became his wife. When Rome conquered Egypt, Isis conquered Rome. The promise of an eternal rebirth associated with her worship was extremely appealing. As Christianity arrived, the Isis cult was so strongly rooted in Roman society that the new religion had to integrate it or fight it, giving rise to the opposing phenomena, images of the Virgin Mary and Christ Child modeled after Isis nursing Horus contrasted with Isis transformed into a witch.

Francesco Tiradritti is Assistant Professor of Egyptology at the University of Enna in Italy and Director of the Italian Archaeological Mission to Luxor. He is a J. Paul Getty Scholar for Spring 2013. Leader of the excavation at the Tomb of Harwa, he received his PhD from the University of Rome. Dr. Tiradritti has organized almost 20 exhibits of ancient Egyptian art in Europe. In 1997, he organized the largest exhibit ever on the goddess Isis in Milan. He is the author of many articles and two books, Ancient Egypt and Egyptian Wall Paintings.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013:
"Coping with Women's Health Concerns in Ancient Egypt"
by Dr. Benson Harer


Women's concerns have been the same throughout history: attracting and keeping a mate, birthing, lactation, menstruation, infertility, contraception and abortion. Our basic mammalian biology has shaped the lives of women. Only in the past 50 years have women in developed nations gained some control over their biology. This illustrated talk will focus on how Ancient Egyptian women met those challenges with pragmatic solutions combined with magic and religion. They recognized that prevention was better than treatment. Both will be discussed.

At a time when childbirth was the cause of death in one of every six women, the only recourse was help from the gods. Birth was beyond the realm of Egyptian medical practitioners. There were no professions of midwifery, obstetrics or gynecology in ancient Egypt. Taweret (a standing female with extended belly, part hippopotamus, crocodile and lion), Bes (a male bandy-legged dwarf with lionine face) and Meskhenet (a female personification of a birthing brick) were crucial divinities to ensure safe birth. Even when Pharaoh Akhenaten established monotheism, banning the worship of any god other than the Aten, Queen Nefertiti and the women of Egypt steadfastly clung to those three deities who had no priests, no temples and no geographic base.

W. Benson Harer, Jr. is a retired MD and past President of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists. A recent Board of Governors Member of American Research Center in Egypt, he has worked with the Brooklyn Museum's Mut Temple Expedition for the past 30 years. His outstanding collection, published in Temple, Tomb and Dwelling: Egyptian Antiquities from the Harer Family Trust Collection was donated to the Museum at California State University San Bernardino. Dr. Harer has published and lectured extensively on ancient Egyptian medicine.