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Home > Reconstructionism > Egyptian/Kemetic > Heka Search

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Heka is often translated as "magic", but it is so much more than that. It is a concept, a natural force of nature and a deity.

The deity Heka came into existance when the Creator manifested at the beginning of creation or Zep Tepi. One of the epithets of heka is Ba of Ra or Spirit of Ra. This deity had a cult center and a priesthood of His own in Ancient Egypt.

Heka is also a force of nature. Because heka came into being at Creation, heka is a part of the natural world and not separate from it. Also everything has heka inside it: humans, nature and Gods. Heka is used by the Gods to maintain order and the creation of the cosmos. Heka is also possessed by humans and is used to gain favor of the Gods to aid them in protection, warding off evil or in rites to the dead.

Key components of doing heka are noted by none other than Aset in what is called the Metternich Stela which reads: "I am Aset, the goddess, the possessor of magic, who performs magic, effective of speech, excellent of words". The key components are that heka is possessed, performed and spoken. Ritner in his book, The Mechanics of Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice, notices a parallel between the key components and three creation myths: Humans being tears of Ra (Possess); when earth and heaven became separated (performed); and spoken evocation created the cosmos (spoken).

Many different practices occurred in Ancient Kemet to do heka effectively. Heka is done by word, rite and materials. Any word spoken is heka. Choosing correct words to convey the purpose of doing heka is vital. Also speaking it as if it has already transpired to the desired outcome is also beneficial.

The Ancient Egyptians viewed words as holding power. Even the word hieroglyph in Greek means "sacred writings" and what the Egyptians themselves called their writing Medu Netjer meaning "Words of God". The hieroglyphs themselves were viewed as containing their own heka. Symbolism in color, size, numbers and location were carefully considered when engraving Medu Netjer. What was recorded was believed to have a rubberband effect on this world. What was recorded was also important. This is why defeats of the Egyptians are not recorded.

Today, as in ancient Egypt words spoken and written are believed to contain heka. Each word spoken and written has an effect on the speaker or writer as well as anyone that hears or reads the material. Also, what is put out via heka, the hekau or magician will get in return:

"As for the one who performs his magical spells, they go into him" (Ritner 20). The amount of emotion or authority behind the words, is the heart of spoken heka.

Letters to the dead and buried with the deceased either petitioned for help or enchantment. Exacration lists were used to list enemies of the state or King.

Many different rites were performed. Encircling was done to purify, contain, enchant and to "circulate within the heart" meaning thoughts. Spittle was used to curse--such as the myth of Aset stealing the Name of Ra by using His spittle to create a snake to poison Him--bless or heal. Blowing on an object or person could avert evil or heal. Licking can also be used to cure--such as a cow licking a calf--or to harm--such as licking the Eye of Heru which is the symbol of perfection.

Figurines were also used. Enemies signified by tied figures were used to symbolize the defeat of enemies either personal or national. Enemy heads ontop of canes were to signify the enemy being strangled. Sandals with depictions of enemies underfoot was to symbolize the enemy being trampled. A figurine could stand -- to signify trampling -- on top of nine bows--to symbolize the traditional enemies of Kemet to symbolize overall the destruction of national enemies. Enemy figurines were incinerated, decapitated, dismembered, overturned and buried.

Amulets were used as symbols of averting evil and gaining the protection and/or specific powers of the Gods and Goddesses. Amulets were also used to represent principles like the ostrich feather to represent Ma'at and the divine cosmic order or the Eye of Heru as the Moon phases--from whole to broken to whole. Depictions of Gods and Goddesses were worn by devotees and/or for the aid of those deities--for their specific powers or patronage. Amulets were used to substitute anything destroyed or stolen from tombs. Amulets of animals would allow the wearer to access traits of those animals or to avert an attack by a dangerous animal.

Breaking red pots would signify the destruction of enemies. Red is symbolically the color of blood and destruction. The pots were broken to repel enemies from the deceased, repel vultures from taking the offerings to the deceased and thwarting enemies dead or alive. Inscribed and uninscribed pots are buried in the sand in pieces.

Knives symbolized enemies. Copper knives represented Aset and Heru against Set. Iron knives represented Set against Isfet (serpentine enemy of creation).

Oracles were consulted to interpret dreams and do divination. Words used were ph Netjer "to reach God" (in an oracular sense) and also sms Netjer meaning "to serve God".

Priests and Kings knew magic well to do the temple rites. Spells if known by commoners would come from the priesthood.

Heka and religion in Ancient Egypt were not separated like magic and religion. "The Temple, amulet, image, and ritualized spell were the primary ingredients of Egyptian ceremonial practice for the duration of its existance. Being the essence of religion, they cannot grow at the expense of religion" (Ritner 246).


Andrews, Carol. Amulets of Ancient Egypt. Texas: University of Texas Press, 1994.

Ritner, Robert Kriech. The Mechanics of Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice. Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization #54, 1993.

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