Image Credit: Effy Alexakis, Macquarie University.

Researchers Successfully Decipher Ancient Egyptian Magic Spell

An ancient Egyptian Love spell.


Researchers have recently deciphered an ‘unusual’ ancient Egyptian Magic spell. Experts analyzed an ancient Egyptian Papyrus depicting an image of two bird-like creatures connected by what researchers say could be a ‘penis,’ revealing a magic spell of love. The text written on the papyrus was inscribed in Coptic, an Egyptian language that used the Greek alphabet. It is believed that the short text, now stored at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, and known as P.Macq.Inv.588 was part of a larger volume of spells, a kind of magician’s handbook.

Image Credit: Effy Alexakis, Macquarie University.
Image Credit: Effy Alexakis, Macquarie University.

“The most striking feature of [the papyrus] is its image,” wrote Korshi Dosoo from the University of Strasbourg in France, who published it recently in the Journal of Coptic Studies.

The odd ancient papyrus is believed to be around 1,300 years old when Christianity was already widely practiced in Egypt. The papyrus depicts a winged creature (left) that seems to be looking its beak into the open beak of another winged creature to the right. The beast to the right appears to have what seems to be a ‘nail’ struck into its head.


Both winged creatures are enclosed, but what seems to be a person’s outstretched arms. “This image shows affinities with several similar tableaux from other texts of the same genre, and analysis of these images, alongside textual evidence, suggests that they may be understood as a representation of a ritual intended to unite two lovers,” explains Dosoo.

The researcher explains that the differences depicted in the two facing creatures in the papyrus may have been an attempt to illustrate female and male beings. Furthermore, what connects them may be a penis, but it could also be something less sexual, like chains or bonds.

Notably, the fact that the two creatures are facing each other suggests that the aim of the magical spell was love. Other ancient spells (recipes) were used in ancient times to cause separations, where the depicted figures would be illustrated facing apart.


“From an observer point of view, we could say that the image might have enhanced the performative aspect of the spell – the client might find the weird drawings an impressive addition to the overall atmosphere and impression created by the ritual,” Dosoo said in an interview with Live Science. The research has been published in the Journal of Coptic Studies. Featured Image Credit: Effy Alexakis, copyright Macquarie University

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Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

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