13th: Similar to Friday the 13th in
western culture, the Ancient Egyptians had several days per year that
were considered unlucky.
On such days, it was best not to undertake
journeys, or to attempt to harvest. Other days, however, were
This calendar may in
part have been based on some sort of experience. For instance, the
last days of the year, just preceding the annual flooding of the Nile,
were considered dangerous and unlucky days, because of the hot weather
and the many insects that caused sickness or even death.
Tall Tales #1:
Dreams were another way to try to
predict the future or to solve a problem. In a story about
Khaemwaset, one of the sons of the
great king Ramesses II, it is
told that the hero’s wife was unable to get pregnant and bear
children. During a dream, however, the desperate woman is visited by
the gods who tell her which potions and herbs to use to cure her
problem. And indeed, after she follows the divine advice, she gets
pregnant and bears her husband a son!
Tall Tales #2:
Legend has it that one could actively
invoke the intervention of one or more gods. In the archives of Deir
el-Medina, the village of the craftsmen who built the royal tombs in
the Valley of the Kings, a particularly interesting account of a theft
has been found.
One day, one of the
craftsmen found that a little statuette was missing from his house and
he informed the local authorities. The resulting investigations,
however, were unable to find the missing statue, so the man turned to
the god Amun and asked him to reveal the identity of the thief. The
statue of the god was then taken into procession through the village.
Before each door, the statue was asked whether the thief resided in
Suddenly, before the
door of one house, the divine statue moved, as if it were nodding,
thus indicating where the culprit was to be found. The accused man at
first denied any involvement in the theft and asked another god to
prove his innocence. But instead of proving the alleged thief’s
innocence, this god too confirmed his guilt.
In the end, the man
indicated by the gods was found guilty, the stolen object found, and
finally returned. This thief was lucky, though, for the gods normally
punish hard those who invoke their names falsely!
Tall Tales #3:
One of the many texts I read when I was still a student was found
on a stela dated to the Ramesside era. It was written for a man who
describes himself as an outcast, living "like a dog in a
temple", because he falsely swore an oath in the name of the god
Ptah. The text ends with a warning to all those who read the text to
take guard of the gods and to never swear any false oaths using their
So beware, you all,
not to invoke the wrath of the gods by using their names with less
than honourable intent!
Tales shared with us
Stories about Ancient Egypt
Stories about Ancient Egypt