Free «The Book of Magic as a Symbol of Human Limited Abilities» UK Essay Paper
Religion played a crucial role in life of the Ancient Egyptians. Consequently, all stories and cultural traditions reflected their beliefs in the considerable power of gods and their prevalence over the mortal people. The story of Setne Khamwas and Naneferkaptah has the same motif of the power of gods. The book of magic created by god Thoth is a symbol of strong and dangerous energy brought by the world of the dead as well as supernatural forces. While Setne Khamwas is the protagonist of the story, the book of magic, which is a symbol of supernatural power, rules the actions of the protagonist and predetermines the development of events in the story. Actually, it is an inanimate object that reveals deep beliefs of the Ancient Egyptians in the natural order and relations between humans and gods.
The story of Setne Khamwas is focused on the adventures of the protagonist that are related to his attempts to get a special artifact – the book of magic. This book is a creation of god Thoth and is particularly valuable due to the powerful spells it contains. Even though the book is merely an object, it represents a great difference between gods and mortal humans. From the very beginning of the story, the reader perceives it as something that must be hidden far away from usual people who do not deserve it. The elevated vocabulary used for its description is an essential contribution to the perception of the great power of the book. As it is told from the very beginning, it is hidden away from the eyes of people and kept in tomb (Setne 78). Hence, it is obviously not a part of the usual human lives. Instead, it is something unique, special, and forbidden. The fact that strengthens the belief in its special assignment is represented in the entire abstract of the story that described in detail the careful way it is hidden. First, it is hidden ehind six miles of various poisonous reptiles, such as scorpions and snakes (Setne 80). Besides, it is protected by the golden box, and then by the silver box. Afterwards, the box of ivory and ebony is put into the juniper box (Setne 80). However, it is not the end as there are still two boxes that protect the magic book ‑ the copper and the iron one. Finally, the iron box is put into the water. Thus, one can be sure that a usual book would hardly be covered by such a multilayer protection. These seven layers indicate that it is quite valuable and should be inaccessible for people.
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The description of the book supports the idea that it is very special as it radiates strong light and no one can seize it (Setne 78). However, hidden away from the eyes of people, the book of magic is associated with numerous deaths. Moreover, the fact that Naneferkaptah took it with him to the tomb is the other evidence that the book is valuable for the representatives of both worlds – of the dead and of the alive. The description explains that the book includes two spells. The first spell allows to charm the sky, the earth, the water, and the netherworld (Setne 80). The second spell lets one see the rising of the “Ennead and the Moon” (Setne 81). Therefore, it is obvious that the book is dangerous for the entire world balance as it provides power that is inadmissible for mortal humans even if they are magicians. This subject can partially seem as unreal and fictional due to such magic characteristics. However, deeper analysis proves that it is not. Instead, it is a symbol of power, which is forbidden or allowed to different beings. In such a way, one can consider this subject as a unique symbol of traditional Egyptian beliefs and views on the world. In particular, it shows not only the difference between human abilities but the limitations that exist for all people as weell as crucial importance of the laws of nature that keep the underworld away from the world of living people.
Attempts of the soul of Neferkaptah to stop the main hero from taking the book can be regarded as the evidence that mortal people are not allowed to do everything, in particular to enter the world of the dead while they are still alive. Whether it is the knowledge of spells or possession of a special book, people have to understand that they are much weaker and impotent in comparison to gods. Feeling their power and going against these rules should definitely be followed by serious punishment from the superior powers. The secrets of life as well as magic can be available to people. However, their knowledge and abilities should be considerably limited. For this reason, Neferkaptah’s attempts to prevent the protagonist from taking away the book were predetermined not only by his desire to have it but also by the necessity to prevent Setne Khamwas from possessing something that should not be his. The measures that were taken by Neferkaptah seemed to be quite tolerable at first as he told his story and played chess with the undesirable guest. However, the necessity to hit the opponent on his head and hide him under the ground in order to prevent from taking the book of magic sound quite cruel and seem to be oriented only towards one aim, which is leaving the book on its place.
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Setne Khamwas was not the only magician who wanted to have the book of magic. Neferkaptah’s example shows that the book was a much desired subject for many people. At the same time, it shows how tragic this desire is and how inconvertible the outcomes may be not only for the originator of the consequent events but also for his family. The story of the dead souls, who used to live happily but lost their lives for that seems quite convincing.
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