Ancient Egyptian Demonology Project: Second Millennium BC

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The Leverhulme Trust Research Project Grant, worth £158,220, will enable Dr. Szpakowska to explore the world of demons in 2nd millennium BC Ancient Egypt (2000-1000 BC). 

DemonThis project will be the first systematic study of Ancient Egyptian demons from the second millennium BC.  We know little about the religious practices at household level, but what do know suggests that in the Ancient Egyptian individual experience (as in that of many cultures), unexplained problems, diseases, ailments, environmental threats, and anxieties, were brought within the realm of the explicable by being blamed on or even embodied as demons or their powers.  They were often countered by harnessing the powers of benevolent demons, and indeed, most of the representational evidence that we have is of these beneficial entities.  While the demonic forces affected the Egyptian state, temples, and funerary practices, the response of individual agents are often lost in the shadow of monumental architecture.  This project deals with both priestly theological speculations – as expressed in the Coffins Texts (the religious compositions found on the outside and inside of elite coffins in the Middle Kingdom) in particular – and the individual response to chaos. 

One of the distinctive aspects of this project is that its usefulness will not end with 1st millennium BC Egypt.  The database (on demonology) will be available for colleagues working on supernatural entities from other times and cultures, and this will allow an understanding of demonic entities through time. 

Attached to the project are two fully-funded Leverhulme Trust PhD studentships.  

Dr Kasia Szpakowska

Dr Kasia Szpakowska is Associate Professor of Egyptology in the Department of History and Classics, who has a number of research interests including private religious practice, gender, daily life, dreams, technology in Egyptology, cobra cults, and of course, demons.