History Embalmed

Four Magic Bricks

The argument as to whether or not there is a Curse of Tutankhamun continues. Myths and legends have sprung up around the fascinating story of this fabulously wealthy boy-king Tutankhamun who reigned as a pharaoh in Ancient Egypt almost 3500 years ago. Most people believe that the Curse of King Tut is sheer fantasy but it is based on some  truth based on the facts and the beliefs of the Ancient Egyptians. Read about the mysteries of thefour magic bricks...

Four Magic Bricks - Contents of the Tomb & the Curse of King Tut
A gold and black Anubis shrine, depicting a jackal on a pedestal, was found in the Tomb of Tutankhamun. Anubis was the Ancient Egyptian god of the Dead.  There was an inscription on the Anubis shrine that stated:

"It is I who hinder the sand from choking the secret chamber. I am for the protection of the deceased".

Problems with the press had occurred when Lord Carnarvon signed an exclusive contract with The Times in London. This effectively forced journalists to find different ways to cover the story of King Tut, to satisfy the interests of their readers.

Reporters therefore embellished the story Anubis Curse, and the additional words were added to the 'curse':

"...and I will kill all those who cross this threshold into the sacred precincts of the
Royal King who lives forever."

But where did the facts behind the idea of the Curse of King Tut originate?

The Four Magic Bricks in royal tombs
Magic Spells adorned the walls of many Ancient Egyptian tombs and inscriptions of spells were placed on various ritualistic objects placed in many royal tombs. These objects included amulets, statues and "magic bricks". But what exactly were these "magic bricks" that referred to magic spells? They were a set of four bricks made of mud which contained or were surmounted by divine images or symbols of various gods. The "magic bricks" often rested in niches along the walls of burial chambers. Statues rested on the "magic bricks" which served as hiding places for amulets or religious texts which were often in the form of spells taken from Chapter 151 in the Book of the Dead.

The Shabti, Djed Pillar, Torch and Jackal
The "magic bricks" contained or supported potent and highly protective symbols reflecting magical elements contained in embalming chambers. The "magic bricks" were symbolical and also believed by some to represent the four bricks that supported women during childbirth, symbolising the rebirth of the dead person in the Afterlife. The protective objects associated with the four "magic bricks" were:

  • A shabti figure (Shabti figures provided a workforce for use in the afterlife)
  • A torch
  • A jackal
  • A djed-pillar - The djed pillar was a vertical  object with at least four cross bars, sometimes portrayed with human arms and holding the royal regalia

The Positions of the Four Magic Bricks and their Protective Gods
The "magic bricks" were carefully positioned at the four cardinal compass points of the tomb - North, South, East and West. Each of these cardinal points was associated with one of the four sons of Horus. Horus was the son of Isis and Osiris and a god of the sky and the sun. The four sons of Horus who were deemed to be protectors of the dead Pharaoh. Their names were Imsety, Hapi, Duamutef and Qebehsenuef and they were also depicted on the canopic jars which stored the large human organs called the viscera (liver, lungs, stomach and intestines) which were extracted during the process of mummification. Each of the four sons of Horus was associated with one of the cardinal points of the compass and were in turn protected by other powerful female gods:

  • Hapi who was associated with the North and is depicted in baboon form and was also under the protection of Nephthys
  • Imsety who was associated with the South and is depicted as the man-headed god and was also under the protection of Isis
  • Duamutef who was associated with the East and is depicted in jackal form and was also under the protection of Neith
  • Qebehsenuef who was associated with the West and is depicted in hawk form and was also under the protection of Serket

The Meaning of the Four Magic Bricks in the Tomb of King Tut
Four magic bricks were found in the tomb of King Tut. Each of the four "magic bricks" would have been  ascribed by the Ancient Egyptians with the protective spells contained in Chapter 151 from the Book of the Dead. There are also actual excerpts from spells taken from Chapter 151 of the Book of the Dead found inside the mask of Tutankhamun. The four sons of Horus offered protection to the pharaoh according to the ascribed spells, symbolised by each of the four magic bricks:

  • Spell 151 from the Book of the Dead for the North god Hapi was:
    • "I have come to be your protection. I have bound your head and your limbs for you
      I have smitten you enemies beneath you for you, and given you your head, eternally"
  • Spell 151 from the Book of the Dead for the South god Imsety was:
    • "I am your son, Osiris, I have come to be your protection. I have strengthened your house enduringly as Ptah decreed in accordance with what Ra himself decrees"
  • Spell 151 from the Book of the Dead for the East god Duamutef was:
    • "I am your son, Osiris, I am your son Horus, your beloved. I have come to rescue my father Osiris from his assailant. I place him under your legs, eternally"
  • Spell 151 from the Book of the Dead for the West god Qebehsenuef was:
    • "I am your son, Osiris, I have come to be your protection. I have united your bones for you, I have assembled your limbs for you. I have brought you your heart, and placed it for you at its place in your body. I have strengthened your house after you, as you live, eternally"

The Protective Objects associated with the Four Magic Bricks in the Tomb of King Tut
The above protective spells make perfect sense when they are combined with the embalming and mummification process - but they do not seem to have any connection with the origins of the curse of King Tut. The beliefs of the Ancient Egyptians then begin to unravel. The four "magic bricks" in the tomb of King Tut contained, or supported, the following:

  • The North brick supported a shabti figure
  • The South brick contained a reed to hold a torch
  • The East brick was surmounted by a figure of the jackal-headed god Anubis
  • The West brick contained a faience djed pillar

It was the spells associated with these objects that would have added credence to the stories about the Curse of King Tut...

The Osiris Connection
The name of Osiris is repeated again and again in the following spells from Chapter 151 of the Book of the Dead. It should be noted that the living Pharaoh was seen as the embodiment of Horus, who was the son of Osiris. The Ancient Egyptians believed that at his death the pharaoh actually acquired the status of being Osiris. Therefore the Osiris that is referred to in the following spells is, in fact, referring to the dead pharaoh Tutankhamun.

The Shabti - North Magic Brick in the Tomb of King Tut
The North magic brick supported a shabti figure (Shabti figures provided a workforce for use in the afterlife). The spell, or curse, associated with the shabti was as follows:

"O one who comes to wrestle, I will not let you wrestle
O one who comes to attack, I will not let you attack
I will be your wrestler, I will be your attacker, I am the protector of the Osiris"

The Torch - South Magic Brick in the Tomb of King Tut
The South magic brick contained a reed to hold a torch. The spell, or curse, associated with the torch was as follows:

"I am the one who snares the sand at the wall of the hidden chamber
the active combatant who repels him to the flame of the desert
I have set alight the desert, I have deflected the ways
I am the protector of the Osiris"

The Jackal God Anubis - East Magic Brick in the Tomb of King Tut
The East magic brick was surmounted by a figure of the jackal god Anubis. The spell, or curse, associated with the jackal was as follows:

"Wake, watch, O one who is one the mountain
your moment is repelled
I have repelled your moment, aggressor
I am the protector of the Osiris"

The Djed Pillar - West Magic Brick in the Tomb of King Tut
The West magic brick contained faience djed pillar. The djed pillar was a vertical  object with at least four cross bars, sometimes portrayed with human arms and holding the royal regalia. The spell, or curse, associated with the djed pillar was as follows:

"O one who comes in search for the approach
Veiled of face who illuminates his veil
I am the one who stands behind the djed pillar
I am indeed the one who stands behind the djed pillar, the day of repelling slaughter
I am the protector of the Osiris"

The Interpretation of the Four Magic Bricks & the Curse of King Tut
The spells associated with the above objects were mixed together and reported in the newspapers as the Curse of King Tut as follows:

"It is I who hinder the sand from choking the secret chamber, and who repel that one who would repel
him with the desert-flame. I have set aflame the desert. I have caused the path to be mistaken.
I am for the protection of the Osiris.
This is to repel the enemy of Osiris, in whatever form he may come."  

The Curse of King Tut
More misunderstandings and misinterpretations were made. Different curses were added. There was never just one specific Curse of King Tut. But the myths and legends, like so many, are indeed based on some truth, facts and the beliefs of the Ancient Egyptians.

Curse of King Tut

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