Think Imhotep’s Book of the Dead is just fiction created for The Mummy? Nope, this ancient book dates back to c. 300BC and was created as very real book of immense power.

Spells and curses in the Book of the Dead

Translated literally as the Book of Coming Forth by Day, it was designed to help and secure the safety of the Priest of Horus through his transition from death to the afterlife. As such, the 70ft scroll is filled with over 160 funerary spells, incantations and prayers. Many were also represented with beautiful imagery, such as in the middle picture above which represents the daily rebirth of the sun.

Loved ones also feature in the illustrations – his mother, Tjehenet, is particularly prominent (shown on the left in the scene at the bottom), somewhat to the exclusion of his wife who appears less often…!

Rather than forming a linear story, incantations were themed and written in abridged hieroglyphics to be read right to left, with the beginning or end of recitations highlighted in red text. Spells included spiritual themes of Imhotep’s spirit as well as more pragmatic concerns like warding off crocodiles and snakes. Preventing bodily decay was, naturally, also an important section…

So, far from being designed to bring an evil force back to life as the movies have us thinking, the verses in this book were really designed to protect and defend. The same’s true of the spell you’ll need to find and recite in our latest escape game in Toronto, Where Dark Things Dwell, if you’re to break the Black Creek curse before the final bell tolls!

Image credit: Book of the Dead of the Priest of Horus, Imhotep (Imuthes) – visit the real thing next time you’re at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.