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Ancient Egypt for Kids
Tall Tales 
 

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Friday the 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 particularly benevolent.

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 that house.

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 name.

So beware, you all, not to invoke the wrath of the gods by using their names with less than honourable intent!


Tall Tales shared with us by 
Egyptologist Jacques Kinnaer

 

 

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   Clip Art Credit: Phillip Martin
Have a great year!