A Night at the Museum

The Egypt Centre, Swansea University, will be seeking out Daemons, Spells and Spirits of the Dead when it opens its doors for its Night at the Museum on Thursday 16th May.

Families and individuals are invited to go along to the Centre for a free, fun evening devoted to exploring ancient Egyptian attitudes to daemons, spirits of the dead and magic spells.

Embracing of Horus 1

There will be  mummification demonstrations explaining how the Egyptians ensured that their dead made it successfully to the afterlife and the Centre’s volunteers will be available to help those who wish to play the game of senet, which as well as being a lot of fun, was believed to be a way of communicating with the world beyond.

There will be a ‘Daemon Hunters Trail’ for older children and adults to hunt out the objects in the galleries associated with these characters, as well as several trails suitable for younger children. At 6pm there is a formal guided tour but for this particular activity numbers are limited to 10 so it is recommended that people sign up in advance (by ringing 01792 295960 or calling in at the Egypt Centre).

While many people have heard of the main gods of ancient Egypt like Isis and Osiris who had their own temples, few have heard of the strange characters who, while not of this world, were not gods. These could be either friendly or malevolent.


Bes the dwarf daemon

Bes, a bandy legged dwarf daemon was a protector of children and women in childbirth, while others, such as the snake daemon ‘Hurler of Two Knives’ threatened the spirits of the dead in the afterlife. Some daemons might even threaten the living, and on display we have a ‘magic wand’ used to protect young children against the forces of evil.

In magic spells, the Egyptians would often categorise the spirits of dead people and daemons together. Whilst the ‘life’ of the dead was often described as very different from that of the living, the Egyptians also believed that the dead, might be able to ‘Come Forth By Day’. Indeed, the spell books, which are popularly called ‘The Book of the Dead’ were called by the Egyptians ‘The Book of Coming Forth By Day’. The Egypt Centre has examples of three of these on display, spells designed to allow the deceased to visit the world of the living. The Centre also has a fragment of a small stela, which, Egyptologists believe, was used by the ancients to communicate with their dead ancestors.

All this and more will be explored on the night of the 16th May. The event takes place between 4pm – 8pm.


First picture is of Bes, a bandy legged dwarf daemon.

Second picture is of the character ‘Embracing of Horus’ who appears on the Egypt Centre coffin. She is associated with the protection of the Judgement Hall of Osiris (the dead were judged in the afterlife to see if they were worthy to go to ‘heaven’).

  • For more information about Museums at Night: Culture24's festival of inspiring after hours cultural events in museums, galleries and heritage sites (Thursday May 16 - Saturday May 18 2013) 
  • The Egypt Centre, Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, situated at the Swansea University officially opened in 1998. The collection comprises over 4500 objects largely from the pharmacist Sir Henry Wellcome collection (1853-1936).  The Egyptian material largely covers the period c.100,000 B.C. - A.D. 500 in two galleries and includes jewellery dating from the time of Tutankhamun, weapons, a mummified crocodile and much, much more. There are lots of hands on activities for children and adults alike, the most popular of which is the dummy mummy. Come and try your hand at mummification!  For further information about the Egypt Centre contact 01792 295960 or visit the web site at http://www.swansea.ac.uk/egypt