When we hear the word ‘magic’ in an ancient Egyptian context, many of us surely think immediately of superstition, myths, the occult and so on. Everything in daily life was touched by magic: colours, shapes, texts ... . Magic was a useful tool employed by both gods and humans. But sometimes magic in the world of the pharaohs was related to our idea of illusion as performed by a conjurer. Ancient Egyptians combined two different concepts in one: magic as superstition and magic as illusion. For us, those concepts are significantly different from one another.
Djedi the Conjurer
The Westcar Papyrus , now in the Egyptian Museum in Berlin (Pap. 3033), was bought by Henry Westcar c.1825 at an unknown location in Egypt and taken to England. It was stored in Oxford where was ultimately acquired by Richard Lepsius and taken to Germany. Many years later, Lepsius’ son sent the papyrus to the Egyptian Museum in Berlin. Finally, the text was translated for the very first time in 1890 by Adolf Ermann.
The papyrus itself is an extraordinary example of ancient literature of the time of the Hyksos (c.1600 BC), although the original text certainly belongs to the Middle Kingdom (c.2000 BC). The papyrus is 1.69 m long and records five magic tales told by five of the sons of King Khufu. Here we are interested in the fourth tale where Prince Hardedef speaks about Djedi, a strange and eccentric old man