Eternal Curse for the Thiever

An Eternal Curse upon the Reader of These Lines
Robert K. Ritner, 2003

In retribution for the ‘prying’ or ‘intrusive curiosity’ inherent in the reading of another’s words, the Argentine novelist Manuel Puig entitled a 1980 work ‘Eternal Curse on the Reader of these Pages.’ The same sentiment appears in Egyptian magic. A Coptic curse preserved in the British Museum (Oriental Ms. 5986) begins with an invocation for divine wrath directed not against its primary victims (who are later damned by name), but against the accidental discoverer:

God of heaven and earth! Whoever shall open this papyrus and read what is written in (it), may all those things written in it descend upon him.1

A counterpart is provided by the Coptic Papyrus Lichaev, which concludes a specific curse with a similar generic warning:

Whoever opens this papyrus and reads it, what is written on it will come upon him, by order of the lord god.2

Such invocations of divine hostility have their origin well before Coptic Christianity, in magical practices of Late Period Egypt that exploit the bond between the demonic and the divine.

Appendix: Demotic Examples of [hyt] Listed by Collection

Published translations of ≈y† [=hyt] given in ()
1) S. Akhmim, l. 6 (= S. Hamburg C 4059, Roman)
(ll. 6-8):‘The ≈y† (curse) of Isis61 and (7) Osiris is upon any man on earth who will read these writings. Let him offer water to me. Do not let him move my (8) stela.’62

2) Graffito Aswan 13, l. 6 (Ptolemaic?)
(ll. 6-13): ‘The ≈y† (inspiration) (7) of Isis the great, chief of the multitude/army is upon every man on earth who will read (8) these writings. Do not let [him …] attack (them), do not let him (9) disparage the writings. Every man on earth who will find these writings and (10) erase or disparage the writings, Isis the great, (11) chief of the multitude/army will decrease his lifetime because of it, while every man (12) who will give praise and respond regarding them, [he will be praised(?)] (13) … before Isis the great, the [great] goddess.’63

3) S. Cairo 22136, l. 5 (Ptolemaic)
(ll. 5-8): ‘The ≈y† (curse) of (6) Isis and Osiris is upon him who will read (7) this stela. Let him offer (8) water to me.’64

4) S. Cairo 31099, l. 17 (Ptolemaic)
(ll. 17-18): ‘The ≈y† (curse) of the gods who rest with Osiris-Apis (18) is upon [him] who will read these writings(?). The one who does obeisance to this stela, may he bless the above-mentioned Anemho, called Pasekhem.”65

5) S. Cairo 31122, l. 2 (Roman)
(ll. 2-3): ‘The ≈y† (curse) of Osiris is upon him who will read the stela. (3) Let him offer water because of the fact that his name will be pure when he is dead.’66

6) S. Cairo 31147, l. 1 (Roman)
(ll. 1-2): ‘The ≈y† (curse) of Osiris-Apis the great god is upon (n) him (2) who will move the stela.’67

7) S. Cairo 31156, l. 1 (Roman)
‘The ≈y† (curse) of Osiris-Apis(?) [… is upon him who will …]’68

8) S. Chicago Field Museum 31673, Demotic l. 5 (Roman)
‘The ≈y† of Osiris is upon any man on earth who will read these. Let him offer water to me.69

9) Graffito Dakka 4, l. 4 (Roman)
(ll. 4-5): ‘The ≈y† (inspiration) of Thoth of the Nubs-tree, the great, is on him who (5) will read these writings. May he present [my obeisance].’70

10) Graffito Dakka 10, l. 2 (Roman)
(ll. 2-3): ‘The ≈y† (inspiration) of (3) Thoth, [the great, of the] Nubs-tree is on him who will read these writings. May he present my obeisance.’71

11) Graffito Dakka 54, l. 2 (Roman)
‘The ≈y† of Thoth of the Nubs-tree is on him who shall read these writings. May he present my obeisance.’72

12) P. Krall, 2/6 (Roman)
(2/3-6): ‘All of this happened while Strife-lover and Horus-Nemesis, [the two demons (≈† )] did not delay in going to Heliopolis. They found the (4) general Pimay the younger, the son of Inaros, just as he was sitting at a festival with his 40 men. [The] two demons (≈†) entered into (5) him. At that very moment his heart forgot the festival, [and he said to his men:] ‘O may they live, my brothers and friends! (6) I wish to fight – (by) the ≈y† (inspiration) of Atum, the [great] god, [lord of Heliopolis.’]’73

13) O. Leiden 331, l. 1 (Ptolemaic)
(ll. 1-4): ‘(By) the ≈y† (curse) of Rattawi, […] (2) resident in Djeme.74 Every man [who …] (3) of Amon and the remainder of the men […] (4) Do not make excrement! […]’75

14) P. Leiden I 384 vo., I*/10 (Roman)
Revelation Spell for a cure through a vision of Imhotep; invocation to Shu or a lamp(?) (ll. 9-11): ‘May he give witness, Imhotep the great, the son of Ptah, (9) born of Khereduankh, to the ≈y† (fury) against you (r-r–k) before Nephthys, saying: ‘O Shu, (11) the living, O living ba-spirit, Live, O Shu, Live, O Osiris, …’76

15-16) T. Leipzig Qaw, A 1 and 2 (Roman)
(A/1-B/2): ‘The ≈y† (curse/compulsion) of Osiris-Sokar, the great god, Lord of Abydos, and (2) ≈y† (curse/compulsion) of Isis the goddess is cast (˙wy) (3) against NN, son of NN, whom NN bore, (4) so as not to control (lit. ‘seize’ m˙t) NN, son of NN, whom NN bore, (B/1) forever and ever, so as not (B/2) to give burial …’77

17-18) P. dem. Lille 31, A/14 and A/14a (Roman)
‘Cast ≈y† (a charm), cast ≈y† (a charm) on the one who will do it.’78

19) P. London and Leiden, 6/35 (Roman)
(To a lamp, 6/35-36): ‘The ≈y† (fury) of Sakhmet your mother and of Heka your father is cast (˙wy) against (r) you. You shall not be lighted for Osiris and Isis … until you have given me an answer …’79

20) 8/4 (Against a recalcitrant god who doesn’t come in at a request):
‘You cry: ‘I cast (˙wy) ≈y† (fury) at (r) you of him who cuts you, of him who devours you.’’80

21) 9/26
(Against Isis, 9/26-27): ‘Rouse their ba-spirits and their secret images. (By) the ≈y† (fury) of She-whose-son-is-Wonte, daughter of Ar… (27), rouse them for me!81

22-24) 10/3, 4 and 7
(Against Anubis to bring in spirits, ll. 3-7): ‘Let them come into being, in proper form, established, correct, enchanted (phr) in accordance with the ≈y† (fury) [of him who is great] of reverence, for I am ZW, for I cast (˙wy) ≈y† (fury) against (r) you (scil. Anubis), ZW, the ≈y† (fury) of all these gods, whose name I have uttered here today.’82

25-26) 13/3 and 4
(In a separation spell, ll. 3-5): ‘as the heart of his father was bitter83 at sight of him (by) the ≈y† (fury) of him whose ba-soul is of fire … (4) … The ≈y† (fury) of every god and goddess, ZW… is cast (˙wy) [against] NN son of NN and NN daughter of NN…’84

27) 19/33
(Spell spoken to the bite of a dog, ll. 33-35): ‘(By) the ≈y† (exorcism?/fury) of Amon and the Maiden (Triphis). Say: I am ZW… the dog who has enchanted (ßt ) this dog…’85

28) 21/30
(Against a drowned scarab for love spell, ll. 30-32): ‘I cast (˙wy) ≈y† (fury) against you today, ZW, for every burning … that you make today, you shall make them in the heart … of NN.’86

29-30) Vo. 12/9 and 11
(In a love compulsion spell to invoked spirits, Vo. 12/9-13/2): ‘Let her feel a yearning … she seeking for him in every place (by) the ≈y† (fury) of ZW, for I cast (˙wy) ≈y† (fury) against you (pl.) of the great gods of Egypt … Waste her away O ghost (£≈), take her sleep, O man of the Underworld (⁄mn. t )!’87

31) Vo. 22/16
(Vision spell; directed to the great gods attendant upon the sun, ll. 15-16): ‘Reveal to me, you great gods, … I cast (˙wy) ≈y† (fury) upon you (pl.) of the great god.’88

32-33) P. Louvre E. 3229, 1/19 and 1/21 (Roman)
‘[Another] spell for sending a dream. [… the] ≈y† (anger) (20) [of] the great […] of the sea […] Nun at night, (21) [… the] ≈y† (anger) of the one who is in the depths […].’89

34) G. Medinet Habu 45, l. 14 (Ptolemaic, 50 B.C.)
‘(By) the ≈y† (curse) of Amon-Re, king of the gods of Djeser-set,90 and of Rattawi, resident in Thebes, and of Rattawi, [resident in Medamud,] and of the gods of Djeme! He who will erase these writings, the gods will cut off his lifetime.’91

35) G. Medinet Habu 46, [l. 1] restored. (Ptolemaic, Cleopatra VII)
[‘(By) the ≈y† (curse) of the] gods of Djeme! Do not erase these writings! He who will erase them, Amon will cut off his name.’92

36) G. Medinet Habu 47, l. 1 (Ptolemaic, 37 B.C.)
‘(By) the ≈y† (curse) of Amon of the Ogdoad! Do not erase these writings!93

37) G. Medinet Habu 228, l. 1 (Ptolemaic?)
(ll. 1-3): ‘(By) the ≈y† (curse) of Rattawi, resident in Thebes, and of Rattawi, resident in Medamud, and of Amon-Re of Djeser-set, (2) and of the gods of Djeme! Every [man] on earth who will erase these writings which are below, (3) the gods who rest here will erase his name together with that of every man of his entirely.’94

38) O. MMA Acc no. 21.2.121, l. 10 (Ptolemaic, 127 B.C.)
(Oath; ll. 9-10): ‘I have already caused that there be cast (˙wy) (10) a ≈y† (curse/condemnatory judgment) against him in the town regarding them (scil. stolen clothing) also.’95

39) G. Northampton Ibis gallery 19, l. 1 (Ptolemaic)
(ll. 1-3): ‘The inspiration (≈y† ) of the ibis is upon everyone who (2) will read this writing. May he be (3) the servant of the ibis.’96

40) G. Philae 350, l. 2 (Roman)
(ll. 1-2): ‘His name remains here before Osiris, Horus and Isis, and the Agathos Daimon of the House of Cool Water, NN son of NN. (2) The ≈y† (inspiration) of Isis is upon (n) the man who will read these writings. Let him present my obeisance together with that of every man of mine entirely.’97

41) Papyrus Rylands IX, col. 18/1. (Dated 513 B.C., event set in the time of Amasis)
(col. 17/20-18/1): ‘Khelkhons caused him to make a letter (18/1) of ≈y† (divine inspiration?) to cause the 484 1/2 arouras to be given [as] the equivalent of the 484 1/2 arouras’ (under dispute).98

42) P. Dem. Saqqara 2, 6/17 (Persian-Early Ptolemaic)
(Vengeance of Isis): ‘A ≈y† (spell/doom) of Isis is upon you (fem.). You have brought to me Isis in her own flesh.’99

43) S. Saqqara North, l. 4 (Ptolemaic, 89 B.C.)
(ll. 4-5): ‘The ≈y† (fate/curse) of the gods who rest here (5) is upon him who will read these writings.’100

44) S. Serapeum Revillout, l. 2 (Ptolemaic, 102 B.C.)
(ll. 1-3): ‘They are praised forever, they are rejuvenated forever — the men whose names I have said and who are dead. (2) The ≈y† (mystery) of Apis-Osiris, Lord of the gods, is upon the man who will read the stela. Do not let him erase them. (3) Let him bless them.’101

45) Setna II, col 3/28 (Roman)
(Si-Osire to Nubian magician, col. 3/27-29): ‘Woe, O villain of Cush, at whom Amon, his god, rages! You who have come up to Egypt, the beautiful garden of Osiris, the footstool of Re-Horachty, (28) the beautiful horizon of Fate, saying: ‘I shall take [its] humiliation to the land of Nubia.’ The ≈y† (inspiration/possessive wrath) of Amon, your god, is cast (˙wy) against you!’ The words that I shall (29) utter, which are those that are written in the letter, do not tell a lie about them before Pharaoh, your lord!’102

46) Setna II, col. 4/22
(Nubian forced to answer truthfully thereafter, col. 4/22-24): ‘The ≈y† (inspiration/possessive wrath) of Amon, (23) your god, is cast (˙wy) against you! The words that I am [saying], are they what is written according to the letter that you possess?’ The shaman of the Cushites said: (24) ‘Read on beyond what you have read. As for every word that you are saying, they are all true.’103

47) Setna II, col. 5/25:
(col. 5/25-26): ‘The ≈y† (power/possessive wrath) of Amon, your god, is cast (˙wy) upon you, O villain of the Cushites! The words that I am saying, are they (26) what is written on this letter?’ The shaman spoke with his head lowered, saying: ‘Read on beyond what you have read. As for every word that you are saying, they are what is written in this letter.’104

48) G. Silsila 282, l. 2 (Roman, AD 31-32)
(ll. 1-4): ‘The good name of Pamont son of Padiese remains here before Montu, (2) the great god, forever. The inspiration (≈y† ) of Montu, the great god, is upon him who (3) will read this good name. Let him raise his hand, let him do a dancing (4) leap before Montu, the great god.’105

49) P. Spiegelberg, 16/26 (Late Ptolemaic/Early Roman)
(Pharaoh greets the hero Min-neb-maat, col. 16/25-26): ‘These things, I have called them out (= requested them in oracle) before Amon the great god just so that I might see you without loss of (16/26) good ≈y† (fate/spirit/strength) or health (wd£y).’106

50) O. Strassburg D. 443, l. 4(?) (Ptolemaic)
(Letter of man to father regarding payments): ‘the ßy† (inspiration?) of the men who are here is upon these/my […]’107

51) O Strassburg D. 1338, l. 3 (Roman)
(Spell for causing blood to descend from the body of a woman, aiding menstruation, ll. 2-3) ‘O sea, do not create waves, while the ≈y† (?) (compulsion) is before the great noble god who rejoices over order.’108

52-55) ll. 10, 11 and 13
(ll. 9-15): ‘Perform this which I say to you. (By) the ≈y† (anger/compulsion) of the one who is on this Bark of Millions (Seth or Ra), which the face of women […] worship, the ≈y† (anger/compulsion) of Ptah-Tenen, the Father of the Gods, the Great Daimon, the Abyss who is under the earth, the ≈y† (anger/compulsion) of the two sisters Isis and Nephthys, these two goddesses. Move, move together with Renenet the Great Daimon, (by) the ≈y† (anger/compulsion) of every god and goddess of Upper and Lower Egypt.’109

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