Magic, Mummies and Spirits of the Dead at the Egypt Centre

Do you want to know more about ancient Egyptian mummies, magic spells and spirits of the dead? Why not celebrate Halloween with a visit to the Egypt Centre, Swansea’s museum of Egyptian antiquities at Swansea University.

Today, many people dress-up as monsters, ghosts and other characters, sometimes as ancient Egyptian mummies. However, the idea of the stumbling dead chasing the screaming living owes much to recent horror films and books, and is more a reflection of today’s Western life than anything the ancient Egyptians would have believed!

The mummy was certainly a way of bringing the deceased back to life but perhaps not in a way depicted by today’s Halloween celebrants. The mummy was a way of making the deceased into something resembling a statue, so that the soul of the dead might dwell in it. Yes, the ancients did believe that the dead might come back to haunt the living, but not as rather slow-moving dead bodies.

Ancient Egyptian texts advise appeasing the spirits of the deceased. One says:

Appease the spirit do what he likes

refrain from what disgusts him;

may you be preserved from his many misdeeds,

for every form of harm comes from him

A beast led away from the field?

It is he who does such things.

Damage on the threshing floor in the fields?

“It is the spirit”, one says again.

Tempest in the house? Hearts estranged?

All that is his doing.

Even more weirdly, around 1100 BC, a husband wrote a letter to his dead wife and threatened to file a lawsuit against her because she was causing him problems even though he had treated her well! While the Egypt Centre does not have any of these letters to the dead, they do have an ‘ancestor stela’ which is of a similar date to the letter written by the husband. Egyptologists believe that such objects were put up in homes so that ancestors could be given offerings.

Visitors to the Egypt Centre this Halloween can discover more amazing facts about ancient Egypt and of course, mummies. The Centre has displays, activities and things to buy suitable for all age groups, plus workshops for children on the theme of Myths and Monsters. Try your hand at mummification using the dummy mummy, or play the ancient Egyptian game of senet, a game which the ancients believed would help you communicate with the ‘other side’. Witness real ancient spell books; an object specially made to communicate with ancestors and lots of protective amulets to keep you safe.

In the Centre’s shop, visitors can buy several guides to lead them through the Centre; make their own mummy mask; buy copies of ancient Egyptian amulets and translations of some of the ancient Egyptian spells as well as project books on mummification and death on the afterlife. Several ‘Halloween’ related items have been specially reduced in price for the occasion.

The Egypt Centre is open Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 4pm and admission is free. (Please note the Myths and Monsters workshop is not free and must be booked in advance).


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