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    Magical practices and mystery religions in ancient Egypt, with basic hieroglyphs (allowing you to read a short Egyptian text). No prior knowledge of ancient Egypt or ancient languages is required.

    Following an introduction to life, worldview and mythology in ancient Egypt, this course concentrates on two aspects of Ancient Egypt that have intrigued scholars and the wider public for more than a century: ancient Egyptian magical practices and mystery religion.

    The paper examines magical techniques used to cure diseases and bring healing, magical incantations to counter and exorcise demons, the construction of effective curses against one’s enemies, the magic involved with mummification, and oneiromancy (the interpretation of dreams).

    The paper also examines the emergence of mystery religions in ancient Egypt, their origins, their secret initiation rituals, and their purported benefits to initiates in this and the next life—with a special focus on the mysteries of Isis, the powerful Egyptian goddess.

    During the course, you will also receive a basic introduction to Egyptian hieroglyphs, allowing you to read a short Egyptian text.

    About this paper

    Paper title Ancient Egypt: Magic and Mystery (Advanced)
    Subject Religious Studies
    EFTS 0.1500
    Points 18 points
    Teaching period Not offered in 2024 (Distance learning)
    Domestic Tuition Fees ( NZD ) $981.75
    International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.
    18 200-level RELS points
    RELS 244
    Schedule C
    Arts and Music, Theology

    No prior knowledge of ancient Egypt or Egyptian is required. The paper is designed to be taken as a standalone course and can be taken wholly online in any locality or in-person on campus.


    Dr Deane Galbraith

    Teaching staff

    Dr Deane Galbraith

    Paper Structure

    Lectures and readings will cover,

    1. Introduction to life, worldview and mythology in ancient Egypt.
    2. Ancient Egyptian magical practices.
    3. Ancient Egyptian mystery religions.

    In addition, and concurrently, students will complete online exercises and quizzes in order to learn the basics of Egyptian hieroglyphs

    Teaching Arrangements

    Five hours of lectures per week for five weeks.

    All lectures will be live-streamed and recorded for later viewing.


    There is no required textbook for this paper. The course reader contains all the required readings (available online).

    Graduate Attributes Emphasised

    Global perspective; Critical Thinking; Ethics; Research; Communication; Cultural understanding; Scholarship
    View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.

    Learning Outcomes

    By the end of this course, students should be able to understand and analyse,

    • The techniques used in Egyptian magic.
    • The social structures and worldviews underlying the practice of Egyptian magic.
    • The emergence and character of the Mystery Religions, with a focus on the Mysteries of Isis.

    In addition, students should also be able to,

    • Read and write basic texts in Egyptian hieroglyphic script.


    Not offered in 2024

    Teaching method
    This paper is taught through Distance Learning
    Learning management system
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