Demons in the Dark: Nightmares in Ancient Egypt
Dr. Kasia Szpakowska, University of Swansea
Sabin Hall Room G90, 3413 N. Downer Ave., UW-Milwaukee Campus
Sunday, April 15, 2018, 3:00 pm
Description: 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 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 allow the vulnerable sleeper to be watched or even assaulted by the hostile dead. Drawing upon both textual and material evidence, we explore the identity and nature of the hostile entities who dared to disturb the sleep of the living. Surviving 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.
Kasia Szpakowska is Associate Professor of Egyptology at the University of Swansea, and Director of the Ancient Egyptian Demonology Project: 2K BCE. Her research interests are the demonology of ancient Egypt, the archaeology of religion and ritual figures, Egyptian extra-temple ritual and religious practices, gender and daily life in the Late Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom, and dreams and nightmares in ancient Egypt. She is also conducting the experimental archaeology Ancient Egyptian Cobra Project.
Dr. Szpakowska’s recent publications include “Feet of Fury: Demon Warrior Dancers of the New Kingdom” (in Rich in Years, Great in Victories. Studies in Honour of Anthony J. Spalinger on the Occasion of his 70th Feast of Thoth, edited by R. Landgráfová and J. Mynářová, Charles University in Prague, 2016) and “Infancy in a Rural Community: A Case Study of Early Childhood at Lahun” (in The Proceedings of the Xth International Congress of Egyptologists, ed. P. Kousoulis and N. Lazardis, Peeters 2016); she is also the author of Daily Life in Ancient Egypt: Reconstructing Lahun (Blackwell Publishing, 2008) and Behind Closed Eyes: Dreams and Nightmares in Ancient Egypt (The Classical Press of Wales 2003).
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