Sheets of the Westcar Papyrus, one of the most curious ancient Egyptian papyri mentioning magic. Credit:

This Ancient Egyptian Papyrus Mentions Miracles Performed by Priests and Magicians in Egypt

The earliest mentions of magic in the world appear in a rather curious ancient Egyptian document - the Westcar Papyrus.


The roots of magic have their origins in the dawn of humanity and are born of the need for man to subdue the unknown forces of nature somehow while preserving the mystery. Archaeology has proven that magic had its place in ancient cultures like the ancient Egyptians and was used for various purposes.

Provoking human curiosity, magic marks the beginning of the first timid steps of various sciences. This is a complex and long-lasting evolution, which through a fantastic expression of human intelligence, manages to captivate the viewer and make him believe, at least for a while, in the fairy tale everyone carries deep inside. The oldest records of magic date back to 2600 BC in a curious Egyptian papyrus. It was discovered in 1823 by Henry Westcar and featured the oldest account of a magician named Djedi. He was invited to the palace to perform a magic session in front of Pharaoh Cheops.

He demonstrated a trick simulating the beheading of a goose. As all people were convinced of the decapitation, the animal surprisingly recovered its head, freely fluttered its wings, and flew away. The same trick was repeated with a pelican and even with a prisoner of the pharaoh. Of course, the papyrus does not describe the secret of the performance of the trick, and today we can only guess what technique of its execution is and what skills are required to manipulate subjects in this way.


All you need to know about the ancient Egyptian Westcar Papyrus that mentions magic and miracles

Here is the entire image of the Westcar Papyrus. Too few photographs exist of this ancient document. Credit:
Here is the entire image of the Westcar Papyrus. Too few photographs exist of this ancient document. Credit:

The Westcar Papyrus is the oldest “collection” of entertainment stories that include mentions of Egyptian magic and curious events dating back to the Second Intermediate Period in Ancient Egypt.

Although it was created then, the stories in it point to a much earlier period – about 2600 years before Christ in the time of Pharaoh Cheops. According to scholars, the five incredible stories in it were used to learn about royal life, although, to a large extent, they praise it. Given the artifact’s age, we should not be surprised that some of its stories are incomplete. The first, for example, is almost completely missing. I must add that the archaeologists in the 19th century who studied it further damaged it with their wrong techniques.

The Westcar papyrus is an extremely important find, after which the revolution of ancient Egyptian discoveries literally began. However, experts believe this is just a simple copy by a student or learner. This theory is based on numerous errors in language. The second reason is that the document is written on an older one, which again points to unprofessional work. It is quite interesting that we do not know its origin or how it was found. The discoverer of the papyrus has kept it a secret for decades and does not describe it in his diaries.


And even finally, the papyrus was not discovered by Henry Westcar. According to historians, it was stolen by an Egyptologist named Karl Richard Lepsius, who again hid it from the general public until his death.  It was only found in his home after that. Fortunately, a German Egyptologist, Adolf Hermann, bought it from Lepsius’ son in 1886. donated it to the Berlin Museum.  The Westcar Papyrus clearly shows that magic was important in ancient Egyptian culture.

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Written by Vladislav Tchakarov

Hello, my name is Vladislav and I am glad to have you here on Curiosmos. As a history student, I have a strong passion for history and science, and the opportunity to research and write in this field on a daily basis is a dream come true.

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