Magic in Hindu, Sumer and Egyptian Culture


Research Article No. 2036

Written by London swaminathan

Date : 2nd August  2015

Time uploaded in London : – 19-12



This article is about the Hindu beliefs of burying hair and bones at the place of an enemy to eliminate him/her and hanging ugly faces to ward off evil eye (Dhrsti) that were found in Egypt, Greece and Sumer.

Western “Scholars” used to project Greeks as advanced in modern thinking or philosophical thinking. It is true only after they came into contact with the Hindus.  We see it from the period of Pythagoras and Socrates, who came into the world only after the Upanishad period. Greeks, Egyptians and Sumer people had similar beliefs about magic, witchcraft and ghosts which was in the Vedas at least one thousand years before them. There are of similarities in the Atharva Veda, Sumerian and Egyptian literature. I will take only one set of beliefs for comparison in this article:


How to destroy enemies or evil spirits?

All the ancient people believed that they can eliminate their enemies or evil spirits through curses. They also believed that they can destroy the statues or dolls of their enemies and eliminate them. They thought that they can bury something like hair, magical plates or talismans at the residence of their enemies and subdue them.

Kavachams are a genre of hymns where in god is prayed to protect every part of the body. In addition to it, they pray for the elimination of their enemies and counter act the enemy’s black magic activities. The most famous kavacham of Tamils is Kantha Shasti Kavacham which prays to God Skanda, son of Shiva. It specifically refers to the enemies act of burying dolls, cat’s hair, bones, hair and nails of children etc. The devotee of Skanda prays to neutralise such things and act against all the ghosts, spirits, ghouls etc. The basis for such belief is in the Atharva Veda (10-1-18 and 19). This shows that it is an age old belief; may be several thousand years old.

This belief spread to different parts of the world when Vedic Hindus spread to different parts of the world.

To ward off the evil eye, an ugly figure was hung in all the palaces or houses of the Hindus. This is called Dhrsti (Evil Eye) doll. This is found in all other cultures.

pazuzu 3

Sumerian beliefs

Magic was used to drive away demons, to undo the bad effects of certain sinful actions, to counteract the potential effects of certain portended effects, to increase sexual potency, to secure the favours of a loved one, to quieten squalling infants and to frustrate the activity of hostile sorcerers

(All these are in Hindu mantras/incantations)

Sumer people wore ugly figures similar to ugly Dhrsti dolls of Hindus. ‘Pazuzu’ was Sumer demon. They hung it at the entrance of the houses like Hindus. Hattic and Hittites cultures were sources for all this belief. They were Kshatriyas who migrated from India.

Akkadian had ‘namburbu’ incantation rituals to ward off evil things. Some aspects of these were done during night time like Hindu black magic rituals. Hindus did this at the dead of night.

Sumerian incantations are similar to Atharva Veda incantations/mantras. (I have already shown that even the most popular Valentine day symbol of an ‘arrow piercing the heart’ is from the Atharva Veda).


image of Bes

Egyptian Beliefs

The magical rituals that are most easily understood involved the deflection of enemies by cursing formulae (similar to Vedas). These are accompanied by ritual destruction of wax or clay figures (Even now it is done by magicians in Kerala) Ritual devised for vanquishing cosmic enemies Apep and political enemies, also private individuals, were essentially similar in character. Some Greco-Egyptian spells invoke evil gods and demons to appear in a person’s nightmares.

Magic was used for benign purpose as well. A love potion was given to wanted man or woman with incantations (like in Athrva Veda). Talismans, amulets and Lucky charms were also used to bring fortune to the wearer. Huge quantities of amulets representing gods and goddesses, parts of the body replicas were recovered from Egyptian burial sites. Magical spells written on papyrus were also used as amulets. Hindus also did this. They put such magical spells inside the metal containers and hung on their necks.

Isis was the goddess frequently addressed. Bes was a curious dwarf whose hideous features personify the supernatural world’s mixture of frightfulness and beneficence.

bes in Louvre

Bes in Louvre Museum, Paris


Bes’ ugliness wards off evil. He appears with a large bearded and barely human face, a thick body, short arms and short bandy legs. He wears a plumed crown and often wields a short sword. He possesses a lion’s mane, usually has his mouth open and tongue protruding. He is also drawn as a dancing musician.  Bes was absorbed by Greco – Roman culture. The Greeks depicted him in strong ithyphallic (erect penis) guise.

(This can be compared with the Dhrsti doll of Hindus or Ayyanar/Sastha, village God with sword and protruding tongue at villages in South India).

Bes was a protective deity, usually portrayed as a hideous but jovial dwarf. It was revered as the god of pleasure and entertainment and as a protector of the family, especially of children and women in child birth

hecate 2

Hekate in Greece

Hekate is the corrupted form of Sakti in Sanskrit. The goddess of sorcery, who resided in the Underworld.  There she oversaw the ritual purifications as well as magical invocations. Witches, such as Medea, drew power from the goddess. Hekate would sometimes appear on earth at night time, especially at cross roads, accompanied by baying hounds.

(Hindus fear to cross junction of three roads, particularly at night time,  and they believe evil spirits occupy those places. Greeks also believed in it)

Artistic representations show her carrying torches. Where paths met, a triple figure of Hecate rose from masks placed at the junction. Offerings were left at road side shrines and at junctions. In some parts of Greece she was worshipped by occult bands and moon worshippers.

(Vedic Hindus believed in Path way god Pushan. In South Indian villages lot of road side shrines are there for village gods and goddesses.)

pazuzu, british museumpazzuzu assyrian

image of Sumerian Pazuzu


Dictionary of the Ancient Near East by British Museum

Ancient Egypt by David Silverman

Atharva Vedam(tamil Book) by Tamilmaaran

Dictionary of World Myth by Roy Willis

Encyclopaedia of Gods by Michael Jordan

Pictures from various sources

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