The so-called vignette of Spell 182 of the Book of the Dead

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Rita Lucarelli

The numbering system of the spells and vignettes of the Book of the Dead is sometimes mis-leading since made on the basis of individual documents whose layout varies consistently. Moreover, the physical closeness of a spell + vignette does not automatically mean that the latter illustrates the former. In this paper I am going to show that this is also the case for a peculiar mortuary representation, which is generally indicated as the vignette of Spell 182.

Spell 182 of the Book of the Dead is attested on papyrus since the beginning of the New Kingdom, while in the Ramesside Period a few passages of the text occur also on stelas1 and tomb walls.2 All in all, the text of this spell has been found copied on six papyri of Theban origin, the latest ones dating to the Third Intermediate Period:

 P.Vatican 38600 / 1–2 (Vatikan 63), Hieroglyphic, 18th

Dynasty, Thebes3  P.TT 99, Hieroglyphic (fragm.), 18th

Dynasty, Thebes4  P.TT 61, Hieroglyphic (fragm.), 18th

Dynasty, Thebes5  P.London BM EA 10554 (P.Greenfield), Hieratic, 21st

/22nd Dynasty, Thebes6  P.Cairo CG 58026, Hieratic, 21st

Dynasty, Thebes7

 P.London BM EA 10010 (from the Murray collection), Hieratic, 21st

Dynasty, Thebes8

* This article has developed from the subject of a paper presented to the conference “Ancient Egyptian Demo-nology. A comparative perspective” held in Bonn on February 28, 2011, and entitled: “Apotropaic gods, pro-tective genii or malevolent creatures? Issues of classifications in the world of demons: the vignette of Spell 182 of the Book of the Dead”.

1 Brussels E 3056, which is a limestone slab from Memphis dated to the 19th Dynasty. See L. SPEELERS,

Recueil des inscriptions égyptiennes des Musées Royaux du Cinquantenaire à Bruxelles, Bruxelles 1923, 61.

See also M.A. STADLER, Weiser und Wesir, ORA 1, Tübingen 2009, 229, according to whom Spell 182 occurs also on a stela: Nationalmuseum Stockolm No. 37. Cf. M. MOGENS, Stèles égyptiennes, Copenhague 1919, 27f.

2 TT 296: E. FEUCHT, Das Grab des Nefersecheru (TT 296), Theben 2, Mainz 1985, Pl. XVI. Only the first few passages of the spell are attested as caption of a scene depicting Thoth preceding the deceased in front of Osiris. On the same wall the scene of the funeral procession occurs, which recalls the vignette of Spell 1 of the Book of the Dead and suggests that Thoth plays the role of protector of Osiris during his cycle of death and rebirth.

3 Published by A. GASSE, Les papyrus hiératiques et hiéroglyphiques du Museo Gregoriano Egizio, Città del Vaticano 1993, 15–16, Pls. I–III.

4 The complete publication is in preparation by I. Munro. See also: N. STRUDWICK, The Tomb of Senneferi at Thebes, in: Egyptian Archaeology 18, 2001, 6–8. 5 E. DZIOBEK, Die Gräber des Vezirs User-Amun. Theben Nr. 61 und 131, AV 84, Mainz 1994, 42, No. 9, Pl. 27d. 6 E.A.W. BUDGE, The Greenfield Papyrus in the British Museum, London 1912, 45 and Pls. LXVII. The title of

the spell is omitted.

7 W. GOLÉNISCHEFF, Papyrus hiératiques, CG Nos. 58001–58036, Le Caire 1927, 103–113.

8 Naville’s Af. A. NIWIŃSKI, Studies on the Illustrated Theban Funerary Papyri of the 11th and 10th Centuries

B.C., OBO 86, Freiburg/Göttingen 1989, 328 (London 31, Pl. 7bn); J.H. TAYLOR (ed.), Journey through the

Afterlife. Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, London 2010, 198f., no. 94, with further bibliography. The

dating of the document to the Third Intermediate Period is however debated. A. NIWIŃSKI, 21st Dynasty Coffins from Thebes, Theben 5, Mainz 1988, 153, no. 269 lists a coffin of the 21st Dynasty (BM EA 29579)

belonging to the same owner, although ST. QUIRKE, Owners of Funerary Papyri in the British Museum, BMOP 92, London 1993, 77 suggests that such a coffin may have belonged to a different burial. In a previous study, I. MUNRO, Untersuchungen zu den Totenbuch-Papyri der 18. Dynastie, London/New York 1988, 272 (Liste 29 a1) has dated this papyrus to the Ramesside Period on the basis of her owner’s title (nb.t pr Sma.t n


The subject of Spell 182 is the magical protection and rebirth of Osiris on behalf of Thoth, with whom the deceased identifies himself. In his extensive study on this god, Martin Stadler has suggested that this spell is a listing of all the virtues of this god (“aretology”), pointing to the clear central role that he plays in it.9 The prominent role of Thoth in Spell 182 is evident also from the longest version of its title:

“Book for the permanence of Osiris, giving breath to the Inert One in the presence of Thoth, warding off the enemy of Osiris, who comes yonder in his appearances, protec-ting, sheltering and guarding in the necropolis, which Thoth himself made, so that the light of the sun rests on him every day”.10

While the meaning and function of the text of this spell is therefore easy to grasp thanks to explicit mention of its actors, the illustration which is generally considered its vignette has an awkward origin and tradition. First of all, it must be noted that among the six Book of the Dead papyri on which Spell 182 is attested, only one has an illustration following the text. Among the other five papyri, two are very fragmentary so that it is not possible to understand if a vignette was attached to the spell (these are the papyri found in TT 61 and 99) and three have actually only a textual redaction of the spell without vignette.11

The only case where an illustration directly follows to the spell is in P.London BM EA 10010 belonging to Mut-hetepti, a priestess of Amon of the 21st Dynasty: it is only on the basis of this document that this illustration has been labelled as the vignette of Spell 182, although Naville’s first edition of this papyrus more awkwardly described it as “Kapitel 182 mit einer funerären Darstellung”.12

The papyrus of Mut-hetepti belongs to a very well attested tradition for the Theban Book of the Dead production of the 21st Dynasty, which recalls the Ramesside style of illustrated papyri written in cursive retrograde hieroglyphs, and containing a mix of solar and Osirian

Imn), but a later date is actually preferred in its most recent British Museum publication. Moreover, I find the

peculiar selection of spells and vignettes in this papyrus typical of the 21st Dynasty illustrated scrolls generally presenting a mix of solar and Osirian motives and the introduction of mythological scenes among the canonical Book of the Dead.

9 See STADLER, Weiser und Wesir, 220, in particular 228–234.

10 From P.London BM EA 10010. Transcription of the text in STADLER, Weiser und Wesir, 220. Cf. also trans-lation in T.G. ALLEN, The Book of the Dead or Going Forth by Day, SAOC 37, Chicago 1974, 196 and R.O. FAULKNER, The Book of the Dead, New York 1972, 181. In the 21st Dynasty a shorter version of this title is attested in CG 58026: “Spell for opening the two doors of the place of secrets by Thoth”. Cf. GOLÉNISCHEFF,

Papyrus hiératiques, 103–113; see also STADLER, Weiser und Wesir, 234.

11 It is interesting to note that Papyrus Greenfield has a depiction of Thot in front of Ra-Harachte nearby the text of Spell 182, which is written between the vignettes of Spell 153A and B. See BUDGE, The Greenfield

Papyrus, Pl. LXV. However, vignettes and texts of a same spell are rarely placed in correspondence to each

other in this papyrus.

12 É.NAVILLE,Das aegyptische Todtenbuch der XVIII.bis XX. Dynastie – Einleitung, Berlin 1886, 59. ALLEN,

Book of the Dead, 196, n. 302, only mentions the vignette in TT 296 showing Thoth leading the deceased in

front of Osiris (see n. 2 above). This would be indeed the appropriate scene for the textual contents of the spell. P. BARGUET, Le Livre des Morts des anciens Égyptiens, LAPO 1, Paris 1967, 268 is probably the first publication where a sketch of the vignette occurring in the papyrus of Mut-hetepti is attached to Spell 182. A photo of the same vignette has been published a few years later by FAULKNER, Book of the Dead, 178–179. L. SPELEERS, Le Chapitre CLXXXII du Livre des Morts, in: RecTrav 40, 1923, 86–104, only translates and comments the text of the spell but does not mention the existence of a related vignette. See also E.A.W. BUDGE, The Chapters of Coming Forth by Day, London 1898, XV, where the sequence of spells in the papyrus of Mut-hetepti is described but without mention of the vignette in question: “A hymn to Osiris, which is commonly called Chapter 182”.


motives and spells. The papyrus is opened indeed by a solar scene13 and a smaller scale representation of the deceased in worshipping attitude (fig.1).

Fig. 1: First part of P.London BM EA 10010 (BD 15).

Since the hieroglyphs face right and each spell starts on the right side as well, and con-sidering also the sequence of the spells, I would propose to read the scroll from right to left.14 As a matter of fact, the vignette at the right end of the scroll (vignette of Spell 15), with the deceased in adoration attitude fits more at the beginning of the scroll than Spell 151 closing the papyrus on the left end. In P.London BM EA 10541 (P.Nedjemet) the vignette of Spell 15 occurs on the left part of the scroll and the text of Spell 101 accompanying the scene is also facing right towards the illustration.15 The peculiarity of this papyrus is however in a

13 The solar scene in questions is composed by the symbol of the West (imnt.t hieroglyph) with arms holding a solar disk and Isis and Nephtys followed by four ba-birds on each side in adoration attitude; it is wrongly labelled as Spell 16 in older publications. See NAVILLE, Einleitung, 59; M. BELLION,Catalogue des manus-crits hiéroglyphiques et hiératiques et des dessins, Paris 1987, 55; see also FAULKNER, Book of the Dead, 42f. for more variants.

14 NIWIŃSKI, Illustrated papyri, 119, proposes instead a reading from left to right. 15 See TAYLOR, Journey through the Afterlife, 234–235.


double direction of reading: the first section of the left part of the scroll, which should be also the beginning and includes the text of Spell 15, has the hieroglyphs facing left towards the vignette of Re-Horakhty, with the deceased and her husband looking in the same direction. Evidently, the vignettes and the placement of the main scenes (gods and adoration scenes) influence also the writing direction, and this is also maybe the reason why in the papyrus of Mut-hetepti the hieroglyphs face right, namely the scene representing the sun disk uplifted by the West symbol placed on the right end.

After the solar scene the following compositions follow:  a variant of spell 1516

 an extract from the so-called Spell 168 (Naville) on the gods of the caverns of the nether-world (fig. 2)17

 a few solar scenes on the upper register running in parallel to the previous vignette, including a boat with a ram headed god, a boat with a scarab headed god, a boat with Ra-Horakhty and a seated Ra-Ra-Horakhty above which is a sky hieroglyph with a sun disk with arms embracing the seated god (fig. 2)

 the text and vignette of spell 174 (Naville) on “letting an Ax going out from the great gate of the sky

 the so-called vignette of Spell 182 followed by the text of Spell 182 (plate II)

 the text and vignette of Spell 151 on the embalming ritual conducted by Anubis (fig. 4). Therefore, the scene in question has been inserted in between Spell 182 and Spell 151. At the centre of the vignette is the funerary bed with the mummy of Osiris/the deceased lying on it and three containers under the bed.18 Above the funerary bed, protected on the right and left side by Isis, Nephthys and the Four Sons of Horus, there is a caption: saH Sps.y, “the noble mummy”. The latter is protected by two rows of figures in the upper and lower registers. These are, on the upper register, from the right to the left:

1) a snake-headed figure holding a lizard, standing 2) a dog-headed figure, seated

3) a ram-headed figure holding two lizards, seated 4) a dog-headed figure holding two lizards, seated 5) a hippo-headed figure holding two lizards, seated 6) a crocodile-headed figure holding a serpent staff

16 Among the many variants of Spell 15, the text of the papyrus of Mut-hetepti corresponds roughly to the ver-sion labelled as 15B III V.

17 In fact the so-called Spell 168 (Naville) of the Book of the Dead is rather an independent composition depicting the caverns of the netherworld and belonging to the category of the “Guides of the Netherworld”. See the recent article of M. MÜLLER-ROTH /F.WEBER,Neue Quellen des Grüftebuchs (Tb 168), in: GM 226, 2010, 63–75. The “gods of the caverns” (nTr.w qrr.w.t) are also mentioned and represented together with the genii protecting the burial chamber of Osiris in the 3rd eastern osirian chapel in Dendera. In her study of the chapel’s decoration Sylvie Cauville mentions indeed also “the vignette” of Spell 181 of the Book of the Dead. Cf. S. CAUVILLE, Dendara. Les chapelles osiriennes. Commentaire, BE 118, Le Caire 1997, 90–95.

18 Funerary beds with containers, linen bags or canopic jars are depicted also in the vignettes of Spells 17, 89, 151 and 154 of the Book of the Dead. Generally their number is four but there are variants presenting three, five, six, seven or nine objects as well, and in the Late Period they can be replaced by divine figures such as the sons of Horus. See H. KOCKELMANN, Drei Götter unterm Totenbett. Zu einem ungewöhnlichen Bildmotiv in einer späten Totenbuch-Handschrift, in: RdE 57, 2006, 77–91. The function of both the canopic jars and the Horus sons is the protection of the mummy.


Fig . 2 : Par t two o f P.Lon don BM EA 10 010 ( BD 16 8) .


On the lower register, from right to left: 1) a falcon-headed figure, standing

2) a baboon figure holding a knife, standing

3) a frontal donkey-headed figure holding two knives, standing19 4) a Bes-headed figure holding two serpent staffs, standing

5) a human figure with a duck on his head and holding a serpent staff and a knife20 6) a ram-headed figure holding a knife and a serpent staff, seated.

In the descriptions of this vignette found in Book of the Dead catalogues and studies,21 these are indicated as “protective deities”,22 “Schutzmachten”23 or “protectors”,24 because of their clear function as defenders of the burial chamber represented in the middle. However, there has been no serious attempt to really define the nature of these figures and to give them a more precise place within the categories of supernatural beings populating the ancient Egyptian Underworld.

First of all, we should look for parallels to this scene and in particular to the figures of protectors. As a matter of fact, the only close parallel that I could find to this vignette is on a funerary papyrus of the same period from Thebes, presently kept in Luxor and belonging to another woman, a “musician of Amon” named &A-nt-wsrt-n-pr-nswt.25 This scroll, which is only 121,5 cm long, is also a typical product of the 21st Dynasty although, compared to P.London BM EA 10010, it gives more emphasis to the vignettes than to the texts. Similar to P.London BM EA 10010, the beginning of the scroll must be seen at the right-hand end, where a similar solar scene is placed (vignette of Spell 15). However, the scene is preceded by the depiction of the deceased greeting Osiris, which is the most typical opening of the Book of the Dead papyri in the 21st Dynasty.26 What follows, after a short solar text, is an abridged version of the same illustration as in our papyrus, with only three out of the twelve figures depicted in the papyrus of Mut-hetepti, namely the human figure with a duck on his head and the Bes-headed figure of the lower register in Mut-hetepti, and the dog-headed seated figure holding lizards of the upper register in Mut-hetepti (fig. 3).

19 In Y. VOLOKHINE, La frontalité dans l'iconographie de l'Egypte ancienne, CSEG 6, Genève 2000, 82 and n. 494, it is suggested that this may be the head of a mouse or a kind of mustelide; as a matter of fact, the shape of the pointy ears does not help an exact classification of this being, although the donkey/Seth animal seems to me the most probable animal represented. Cf. for instance the donkey heads with similar ears on some magical wands such as on British Museum EA 24426. See G. PINCH, Magic in Ancient Egypt, London 1994, 131, fig. 70.

20 There are no known parallels for this figure. The duck on his head is probably an ideogram for snD, “the fear-some one”, which is an epithet occurring no earlier than in the Ramesside Period (in the Book of the Gates) and starting from the Third Intermediate Period also on coffins. It also occurs in the Ptolemaic temple texts of Edfu and Dendera. See the references in LGG VI, 402f. and in C. LEITZ, Der Sarg des Panehemisis in Wien. Studien zur spätägyptischen Religion 3, Wiesbaden 2011, 67–69, Nr. 7.

21 The most recent is TAYLOR, Journey through the Afterlife, 199. See also FAULKNER, Book of the Dead, 178f. 22 FAULKNER, Book of the Dead.

23 E. HORNUNG, Das Totenbuch der Ägypter, Die Bibliothek der Alten Welt, Zürich/München 1979, 520; B. LÜSCHER, Untersuchungen zu Totenbuch Spruch 151, SAT 2, Wiesbaden 1998, 87, n. 52.

24 TAYLOR, Journey through the Afterlife, 199.

25 P.Luxor J. 24, previously kept in Cairo and labelled as P.Cairo S.R. VII 10253. Cf. NIWIŃSKI, Illustrated

papyri, 136 and 341 (Luxor 1, type BD III 1a); J.F.ROMANO,The Luxor Museum of Ancient Egyptian Art,

Mainz 1979, 160f., fig. 135, No. 248.

26 Niwiński calls it “Etiquette”. See NIWIŃSKI, Illustrated papyri, 97ff. See also R. LUCARELLI, The Book of the


Fig. 3: Part of P.Luxor J. 24.

This triad occupies only the upper register of the scene, while the lower register includes at least three elements of the already mentioned vignette of Spell 168 (Naville), dealing with the “Gods of the Caverns”:27

 a bull on a standard28

 a mummy on a funerary bed, called Dr.t tp,29

attended by:  on the right, a female figures holding an anx30

 on the left, a jackal-headed god holding an wsr-scepter and a papyrus stem.31

27 For a detailed description of this vignette, see A. PIANKOFF, The Wandering of the Soul, BS XL, ERT 6, Princeton 1974, 49ff. I wish to thank M. Müller-Roth for further insights and suggestions on the vignette of Spell 168 (Naville).

28 This can be one of the three bulls occurring in the 9th cavern, called either Imn (no. 5), St# (no. 6/7) or st# (no. 9).

29 Corresponding to the group of gods in the 11th Cavern (no. 14).

30 Such a figure does not find an exact parallel in the vignette of Spell 168 (Naville).

31 Also this figure should belong to the group of gods of the 9th cavern (no. 20) and it is called Wsjr-Inpw. Beside Anubis a caption is inserted, to be read am or aS (?); it recalls another awkward caption occurring in the


A solar boat with a ram-headed sun god and a scarab in it,32 worshipped by the deceased, constitutes the closing illustration of this scroll. The text in between the vignettes is com-posed by a series of short invocations to the sun god, to Osiris and to the gods of the nether-world, opened by the dwA (adoring)-formula which is typical of the solar texts and especially of the many variants of Spell 15 of the Book of the Dead.33

This papyrus is therefore a sort of shortened version of that one of Mut-hetepti, with a major focus on iconography. The fact that the excerpt of our scene has been placed near a representation of the mummy on the funerary bed confirms the nature of guardians of the burial chamber of these demons, as presented more extensively in the vignette of P.London BM EA 10010.

As a matter of fact, in ancient Egyptian religious art, and in particular in funerary con-texts, we have plenty of figures, either of human, hybrid or animal form, described by scho-lars as demons, genii or apotropaic gods, who hold knives and are represented as guardians of the burial chamber. Spells 144–147 of the Book of the Dead and their numerous variants occurring in tombs, coffins and temples are the most popular example. Wolfgang Waitkus34 has been studying them in depth and, following Jan Assmann’s theory,35 has proposed to connect them to the gods of the hours in the nightly vigil (Stundenwachen). The fact that they are exactly twelve certainly recalls the traditional twelve hours of the night as re-presented in the Stundenwachen. These gods would then be the protectors of the twelve night hours, as represented in temples36 and on coffins.37

The other two distinctive attributes held by the protective figures of our vignette, namely serpent staffs and lizards, are instead less frequent amongst the guardians of the doors of the netherworld and occur instead in other sources. It must be also noted that supernatural beings holding serpent staffs or rods are more often depicted than those holding lizards. Snakes and lizards are both strong apotropaic symbols but, between the two, snakes were the most spread out symbols of magic and serpent staffs were also traditionally used in daily rituals by magicians.38 The Old Testament story of the pharaoh’s magicians who transform their staffs into living snakes is probably a reflection of such a custom.39

vignette of the 14th hill of Spell 149 of the Book of the Dead, representing a jackal headed figure, one of the supernatural inhabitants of the hills, represented with a raised arm and the hieroglyphs for aS “to summon”(?) on it. For a comprehensive study of this vignette see my forthcoming article “The Inhabitants of the 14th Hill of Spell 149 of the Book of the Dead”.

32 This boat representation may be seen as a shortened version of the solar scenes occupying the upper register above the vignette of Spell 168 (Naville) in P.London BM EA 10010: cf. description above.

33 See T.G. ALLEN, Some Egyptian Sun Hymns, in: JNES 8, 1949, 349–355 and J. ASSMANN, Sonnenhymnen in

thebanischen Gräbern, Theben 1, Mainz 1983.

34 W. WAITKUS, Zur Deutung einiger apotropäischer Götter in den Gräbern im Tal der Königinnen und im Grabe Ramses III, in: GM 99, 1987, 51–82.

35 J. ASSMANN, Das Grab der Mutirdis, Grabung im Asasif 1963–1970 VI, AV 13, Mainz 1977, 14 and n. 18, mentioning the vignette of Spell 182.

36 See Dendera X, Pls. 182–183 and 211–212.

37 See LEITZ, Panehemisis, 351–360. See also H. JUNKER, Die Stundenwachen in den Osirismysterien nach den

Inschriften von Dendera, Edfu und Philae, Wien 1910, 3–5 for the names of these gods.

38 See example of bronze serpent staff in TAYLOR, Journey through the Afterlife, 40. A famous lion-headed statue, probably representing Beset and holding two serpent staffs was found in a tomb dated to the 13th Dynasty near the Ramesseum. See PINCH, Magic in Ancient Egypt, 57.

39 Exd. 7:10: “And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so as the LORD had commanded: and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent”.


In medicine it was used indeed to prepare unguents to cure such a kind of bites.40 This reptile was also a symbol of regeneration and new life because of being able to regrow limbs and tail, similar to the snake which could shed its skin and symbolically gain a new life. It has to be noted that, when used as apotropaic attributes of demons, the lizard is held up by the tail in an upward position, which suggests a living, aggressive attitude of both the reptile and those who carry them.

In general, we may say that the earliest antecedent of our serpent and lizard carriers of the Book of the Dead vignette can be found in the amuletic ivory wands which carry depictions of rows of mostly anonymous supernatural beings and fantastic animals.41 Although there is not an exact parallel to our vignette, some of the iconographic models – hybrid or animal appearance, knives, lizards or serpent – staffs as attributes and the frontality42 of certain beings are the same. Also, on some of those wands these figures are called explicitly sA.w, “protectors”.43

To the Middle Kingdom belong also the coffins illustrating the so-called Book of the Two Ways of the Coffin Texts corpus.44 Such a composition contains a section dealing with the protection of the mummy by various hybrid beings, many of them holding snakes and lizards as our later examples on P.London BM EA 10010. These are protectors of doorways of the place that contains the dead body of Osiris. In CT Spell 1073, 1079 and 1081 they are called

mAs.w, “the kneeling ones” or mAst.j.w, the “squatting ones” and their representation on the

coffins mirrors indeed a squatting posture.45

A later interesting parallel to the squatting figures mentioned in the CT is given instead by some New Kingdom statuettes, which have been found in some of the royal tombs of the 18th and 19th Dynasty (Horemheb, Ramesses I, Sety I and Ramesses IX).46 In particular, a donkey-headed figure found in the tomb of Horemheb resembles the third protector of the lower row (starting from right) in our vignette.47 A wooden lizard belonging to one of these statues is kept in the BM.48 These statuettes were painted in black, the colour of death and

did in like manner with their enchantments.”

40 See P. VERNUS/J.YOYOTTE, Bestiaire des pharaons, Paris 2005, 334–336.

41 See various examples listed and represented in the catalogue of H. ALTENMÜLLER, Die Apotropaia und die

Götter Mittelägyptens, Dissertation München 1965.

42 On the frontality as apotropaic posture in the figures of guardian demons, cf. VOLOKHINE, La frontalité dans

l’iconographie, 76ff.

43 See for instance an ivory wand kept in Berlin: Berlin Ägyptisches Museum 14207; I wish to thank Fred Vink who has kindly provided me useful information, bibliographical and photographical material concerning amuetic wands and scarabs. See ALTENMÜLLER, Apotropaia, Vol. 2, 11–12 (no. 10).

44 Cf. H. WILLEMS, The Coffin of Heqata, OLA 70, Leuven 1996, 128ff., mentioning also Spell 182 on the func-tion of the “serpent carriers” as protectors of the body of Osiris.

45 See depictions in CT 1076, 1077 and P. BARGUET, Les texts des sarcophages égyptiens du Moyen Empire, LAPO 12, Paris 1986, 637. I wish to thank W. Sherbiny for sharing with me the still unpublished information on these beings, which is part of his Ph.D. thesis, where further new information on these beings is given, including new epithets and iconographic parallels overlooked in the earlier editions of the Book of the Two Ways. Cf. W. SHERBINY, A Hermopolitan Composition on the Otherworld. Documentation and Analysis of

the So-Called Book of the Two Ways in Ancient Egypt, Dissertation Leuven 2008 (in print).

46 N. REEVES/R.WILKINSON, The Complete Valley of the Kings, 132–135 and 169; TAYLOR, Journey through

the Afterlife, 200f.

47 In TAYLOR, Journey through the Afterlife, 201 this is described as ram-headed figure, although there are no traces of horns on the head.


rebirth in Egypt. Some of them squat on the ground and remind one of the “Squatting Ones” of the Book of the Two Ways.

In the Third Intermediate Period, serpent and lizards carriers occur also on coffins. The most stunning example is a coffin of the 22nd Dynasty from Thebes, belonging to the priest Horaawesheb:49 on the sides of the coffin many figures holding snakes, lizards and knives appear, in a semi-sitting posture but with no seat (plate III). Also in this case, the context relates to the protection of the body, just as in our vignette in the papyrus of Mut-hetepti. This earlier sources have certainly been of inspiration for the decorators of the later stone and wooden coffins of the Late Period, some of which still report similar images.50

In the Greco-Roman period, lizards-holding figures occur sporadically in the long pro-cession of genii protecting the burial chamber of Osiris in the Osirian chapels of the Hathor temple in Dendera and on the late stone coffins.51

Finally, the iconography of the so-called Horus stelas, where the god Horus the Child grasps snakes and other dangerous animals in his hands and stands on crocodiles, fits well in this discourse.52 Here however, the magical context is changed – these healing stelas were not placed in tombs but in temple courtyards so that people could approach them and obtain help against animal bites.

On the basis of the overview presented above it is easier to define and classify the beings appearing in our vignette of P.London BM EA 10010.

First of all, since the Middle Kingdom the epithet that occurs more often, more or less indirectly, when dealing with snake and lizard-carriers, issA.w, “protectors”:53 Despite this being a rather general and widely spread epithet for divine beings, it constitutes an optimal starting point for our discussion. “Providing protection” is, in general, a divine function; however in situations of particular danger, like during the liminal period of death and rebirth of Osiris as recalled in our vignette, protection is provided also by demons, which therefore gain an apotropaic function and become “benevolent genii”.54 As a matter of fact, protection given by demons can result in a higher efficacy, since that is the demons’ only aim within the specific context of the burial chamber. On the other hand, we can say that all the gods can be “protectors” in certain occasions; however, “protection” is never the only divine fun-ction for the “great gods” of the official pantheon, but only one of many.55

It is however important to remember that there is a subcategory of deities, general called “apotropaic gods”, who have the same function of protective demons, namely their role is strictly focused on the “protection” and “warding off” of certain dangers and enemies within specific contexts. Some of the already-mentioned figures on the magic wands of the Middle

49 British Museum EA 6666: TAYLOR, Journey through the Afterlife, 202f.

50 See bibliographical notes and description of coffin-decoration typologies in CAUVILLE, Les chapelles

osiriennes, 90ff. with footnotes.

51 For instance, cf. in particular the figures of the bedrock of the 3rd eastern chapel: Dendera X, Pl. 95, fig. 28: a human standing figure in a semi-squatting position, probably with animal head, called imsty; Pl. 94, fig. 27:

similar figure with the head of a ichneumon (?), called Hpy: see CAUVILLE, Les chapelles osiriennes, 92 who links these and the other figures on this register to the series of similar protectors occurring on the Late Period coffins.

52 Cf. J. QUAEGEBEUR, Divinités égyptiennes sur des animaux dangereux, in: L’Animal, l’homme, le dieu dans le

Proche-orient ancient. Actes du Colloque de Cartigny 1981, Leuven 1985, 131–143.

53 See above p. 87 for the reference to the Coffin Texts and to other beings designed as “protectors”. 54 See R. LUCARELLI, Demons (benevolent and malevolent), in: UEE, 2010, 1–10.


Kingdom are a good example of such beings; the dwarf god Bes is the most popular of these “minor” gods. Yet, how can one say if a protective figure is a demon or apotropaic god, considering also that they generally hold the same kind of attributes (knives, serpent staffs and lizards)? On this matter it is interesting to quote Hartwig Altenmüller’s definition of apotropaic gods: „In ihrem Wesen stehen sie (i.e. “the apotropaic gods”) den Dämonen nahe, sind jedoch von diesen zumeist durch ihre schärfer konturierte Gestalt unterschieden.“56 It is true indeed, that apotropaic gods are very well recognizable through their ever-recurrent iconographies, also when the vignette does not contain a textual caption indi-viduating the represented beings; the easily identifiable iconography of apotropaic gods such as Bes, Tutu and Tueris stand as good examples for such an assumption, although one has to consider the due variants and exceptions, as always when dealing with the very creative ancient Egyptian religious iconography. On the other hand, the iconography of protective demons is more heterogeneous and not as easy to grasp; a perfect example is that of the guar-dian demons of the netherworld whose representations are subject to numerous variants. However, in the same LÄ entry quoted above, Altenmüller includes also the netherworld guardians within the category of apotropaic gods, without considering that they do not have a fixed iconography but only recurrent various forms of appearance.57

Moreover, major evidence from the main corpora of ancient Egyptian magical and mortu-ary literature shows that, very often, demons appear in their protective role especially in rel-ation to the gods, namely in order to protect or to serve them, so that we may say that demons can be subordinated to the gods. Among others, a sound example is that of the

wpwty.w (messengers) and SmAy.w (slaughterers) – demons sent by angry goddesses such as

Bastet or Sekhmet appearing in many funerary and magical texts.58

Demons who protect and serve the gods can however turn malevolent when dealing with humankind; the messengers and slaughterer demons, for instance, play an absolutely male-volent role in spells of daily magic and often also in the funerary spells of the Book of the Dead.59

In conclusion, we could attempt to give a more precise definition of the beings repre-sented in the vignette of P.London BM EA 10010 on the basis of the remarks above. First of all, they do not have a sharply defined iconography and therefore cannot be identified to any of the most popular figures of the apotropaic gods. They rather recall those demons acting as protectors of the gods, which we have mentioned above. More in particular, they appear as demons protecting Osiris in his burial chamber. The proposed connection to the protectors of the nightly hours60 indeed fits in this context, although it is impossible to establish an unequi-vocal correspondence with these twelve protectors, due to the lack of a fixed iconography of them in the other relevant sources where they appear, namely coffins and temple walls.61

Therefore, I would say that the so-called vignette of Spell 182 of the Book of the Dead has nothing to do really with the text of this spell but is rather closer to Spell 151, which occurs exactly after it and includes also a vignette representing the burial chamber of Osiris

56 H. ALTENMÜLLER, “Götter, apotropäische” in: LÄ II, 635.

57 For an in-depth discussion on the guardian demons see R. LUCARELLI, The guardian-demons of the Book of the Dead, in: BMSAES 15, 2010, 85–102.

58 See references in LGG II, 364ff. (wpwty.w) and LGG VII, 78ff. (SmAy.w).

59 Cf. R. LUCARELLI, Demons in the Book of the Dead, in: B.BACKES/I.MUNRO/S.STÖHR (Hgg.),

Totenbuch-Forschungen, SAT 11, Wiesbaden 2006, 203–212, in particular 204f. on the messenger demons.

60 See remarks at p. 86. 61 Idem.


Fig. 4: Part of P.London BM EA 10010 (BD 151).

surrounded by protective figures and symbols, as already mentioned above.62 The element depicted at the centre of both vignettes, namely the funerary bed with the mummy and Isis, Nephthys and the Four Sons of Horus on the sides, is the same. The demons protecting the mummy in our scene take the place of the protective symbols depicted in Spell 151.

Therefore, I would consider this vignette as a special variant of the representation of the nightly vigil of the mummy of Osiris, as occurring on temple walls and coffins since the Middle Kingdom,63 and which has been especially re-adapted for a funerary papyrus.

In relation to the “protectors” of the burial chamber, we have been facing one of the most difficult issues in the study of demons, that is “classification”. As a matter of fact, despite the inhabitants of the Egyptian netherworld being richly and variously depicted in a series of illustrations on funerary papyri, coffins, objects, temple and tomb walls, many scenes show anonymous figures, to which the text attached to them does not help to identify either. In order to distinguish a demon from a god or an apotropaic god from a benevolent demon, we need to look at the specific context, as in the case of our vignette attested only in P.London BM EA 10010.

62 See p. 82. The similarity among this scene and the vignette of Spell 151 has been suggested also J.H. Taylor in TAYLOR, Journey through the Afterlife, 199.


Note on the images

Fig. 1: Courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum. Fig. 2: Courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum. Fig. 3: Drawing by Felicitas Weber.

Fig. 4: Courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum. Plate II: Courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum. Plate III: Courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum.