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'Nightmares in Ancient Egypt.' In Le cauchemar dans l’Antiquité: Actes des journées d'étude de l'UMR 7044 (15-16 Novembre 2007, Strasbourg), edited by Jean-Marie Husser and Alice Mouton. Études d'archéologie et d'histoire ancienne... / Kasia Szpakowska
Le Cauchemar dans les Societes Antiques
Swansea University Author: Szpakowska, Kasia
The dream in ancient Egypt functioned as a liminal zone between the land of the living and the afterlife. However, the dream was also a phenomenon over which the dreamer had little control, and its permeable boundaries allowed both the divine and the demonic inhabitants of the beyond access to the v...
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The dream in ancient Egypt functioned as a liminal zone between the land of the living and the afterlife. However, the dream was also a phenomenon over which the dreamer had little control, and its permeable boundaries allowed both the divine and the demonic inhabitants of the beyond access to the visible world. Sometimes the result was a positive beneficial experience, as is attested in New Kingdom royal texts and elite hymns that relate the awe-inspiring contact a dreamer could have with a god or a goddess. But another more disturbing belief was that dreams could also allow the vulnerable sleeper to be watched or even assaulted by the hostile dead. While today we call these events «nightmares» and consider them psychological phenomena, the Egyptians blamed them on external monsters or demons crossing over from the other side. These entities included the dead, and here it appears that the line between the justified transfigured dead and the malevolent unjustified dead might not have been an immutable one. Drawing upon both textual and material evidence primarily from the New Kingdom, this paper will explore the identity and nature of the hostile entities who dared to disturb the sleep of the living. Surviving spells, prescriptions, and apotropaic devices attest to the prevalent fear of nightmares while the intricate steps one could take to ensure safety in the night emphasize the tangible nature of these fears. To protect themselves against such demons of the dark, sleeping mortals could access the same potent energies that restored order and kept at bay the chaotic enemies of the sun-god himself.
dream, nightmare, demon, religion, magic, Ancient Egypt, archaeology
College of Arts and Humanities