Historians have translated a 1,300-year-old Egyptian book of spells. How could this go wrong?

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Nov 24, 2014

It sounds like the perfect start to a horror movie, but nope — this headline is ripped straight from a history journal. 

Live Science reports that a team of researchers have translated a 1,300-year-old book of Egyptian spells and incantations that has remained undeciphered in modern history. So if you need to bring cast any love spells or exorcise an evil spirit or two, you should be in luck.

The 20-page parchment is written in the Egyptian language Coptic and bound in human skin (just kidding). The research team notes that document is the full handbook of a “ritual practitioner” and opens with a “lengthy series of invocations that culminate with drawings and words of power.” Those entries are followed by several spells to cure possession by spirits and various ailments, or to bring about success in love and business (i.e. love spells).

One example noted in the report: To subjugate someone, the codex includes a magical formula to recite over two nails before driving them into the person’s doorpost, one on the right side and one on the left. Voila! Instant subjugation.

The codex dates back to around the 7th century, at a time when Egypt was a mix of early Christian religion and the more traditional religions that had predated Christianity. Along with the spells, several incantations also invoke Jesus. The spell book also invokes Adam and Eve’s third son Seth, who was a popular figure among some sects at the time. Researchers are unsure of its exact origin, as the university acquired the document from an antiquities dealer.

If you want to check out the codex in person, and maybe cast a few spells, it’s housed at the Museum of Ancient Cultures at Macquarie University in Sydney. 

(Via Live Science)

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