Ancient Egyptian codex of spells and incantations deciphered

Researchers from the universities of Macquarie, have managed to unravel the secrets of an ancient Egyptian manuscript believed to be about 1300 years old. After decades of analysis, experts were able to determine that this is codex is in fact a manual “how to” of spells and incantations which they have named as the “Egyptian Handbook of Ritual Power”. This how-to-guide was discovered  by a merchant somewhere between the late 1970s and early 1980s, even though the exact origin of this documents remains a mystery. The merchant sold it to Macquarie University. Since then, there have been several attempts to translate the text, but all of them ended in failure but that has changed.

The ancient Egyptian handbook contained spells, researchers discover.  (Macquarie University)
The ancient Egyptian handbook contained spells, researchers discover.
(Macquarie University)


The Egyptian codex, or”Egyptian Handbook of Ritual Power” and is entirely made of bound pages of parchment, commonly referred to as codex. Given the style of writing, it is believed to have been written by an inhabitant of Upper Egypt, 1300 years ago,. The codex has a total of 20 handwritten pages in Coptic (the last stage of ancient Egyptian language). It has around 27 spells and an enormous amount of drawings and invocations; explaining how to cast love spells, exorcise evil spirits and treat “black jaundice,” a very dangerous bacterial infection.

Since this codex contains a number of invocations referencing Jesus, scholars believe it dates from the 7th or 8th century, during a time many Egyptians. Researchers state that the invocations invocations in the codex are also associated with a group that is sometimes referred to as “Sethians”, a group that prospered in ancient Egypt during the early centuries of Christianity and worshiped Seth-the third son of Adam and Eve and held Him in high regard.

This mysterious codex also makes reference to a mysterious figure by the name of “Baktiotha”. Scholars that translated the lines where this name was mentioned state that it says the following: “The great one, who is very trustworthy; the one who is lord over the forty and the nine kinds of serpents.”

“Baktiotha” is described as being both great and very trustworthy, as being lord over forty nine kinds of serpents who are servants to him. These serpents are described as being in the abyss and the air, deaf and blind, seeing and hearing, known and unknown his fear is over them all. (source)

Malcolm Choat and Iain Gardner wrote a book called;”A Coptic Handbook of Ritual Power” that explains the codex and its content.

“It is my sense that there were ritual practitioners outside the ranks of the clergy and monks, but exactly who they were is shielded from us by the fact that people didn’t really want to be labeled as a “magician,'”Choat said.

The Church regarded the Sethians as heretics and for some reason, by the seventh century, the Sethians vanished from history.

The original manuscript is on display at the Museum of Ancient Cultures in the Macquarie University. The researchers speculate that the author, or authors, were not necessarily priests or monks, according to recent studies it is very likely that the codex was written with a male user in mind.

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