The dream in ancient Egypt functioned as a liminal zone between the land of the living and the farworld. However, dreams and nightmares were also phenomena over which the dreamer had little control, and their permeable boundaries allowed both the divine and the demonic inhabitants of the beyond access to the visible world. Sometimes the result was a beneficial experience, as is attested in New Kingdom 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 also allow the vulnerable sleeper to be watched or even assaulted by the hostile dead. While today we call these events “anxiety dreams” or “nightmares” and consider them psychological phenomena, the Egyptians blamed them on external monsters or demons crossing over from the other side. These entities included the dead, and here it appears that the line between the justified transfigured dead, and the malevolent unjustified dead might not have been an immutable one. Drawing upon both textual and material evidence primarily from the New Kingdom, this paper will explore the identity and nature of the hostile entities who dared to disturb the sleep of the living and the methods for their repulsion.

 

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Ancient Egyptian Demonology

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