ANCIENT EGYPT: The Power of Names
Ancient Egypt forms the roots of so much modern essential magical and
While every word contained power, the name of a person was considered especially magical. The name of a child was chosen with great care to reflect those qualities desired in the child. Sometimes a compound name would contain a deity name, indicating that the child was under the protection of the deity.
The name was also important because it would appear on tombs and be used for eternity in the land of the blessed. The prefix Nefer as in Nefertiti, the beautiful wife of the pharaoh Akhenaten, was the hieroglyph for beauty and harmony. A nefer was a stringed musical instrument called an oud, the forerunner of the lute and is still played in Egypt. Some modern Coptic Christian tunes are said to be descendants of music played to the pharaohs.
Tutankhamen or Tutankhamun’s name contained ankh, the hieroglyph and symbol of eternal life and Amun or Amen, the name of another supreme creator god. Tut is a form of Thoth, bringing magically the wisdom of this senior god of knowledge to the young pharaoh. Originally, his name was Tut ankh aten. Aten was the name sun of the sun deity worshipped by his predecessor Akhenaten, but whose power was swiftly eradicated.
Kings, scribes and nobles were frequently blessed with the name Amenhotep, which means Amen or Amun is at peace. In addition kings and later pharaohs had nomen or coronation names that added weight to their claim to sovereignty, usually by claiming kinship to a deity.
So Queen Hatshepsut’s coronation name was Maat- ka- Ra, taking on the rank of the ka or soul of Ra, the sun god whom she claimed was her true father and of the authority of Ma’at the Goddess of truth and wisdom. The former identified her as a manifestation of the sun god himself and thus increased her legitimacy to rule in her stepson’s place.
So important was the name that it was given a special separate title as part of the components of each person’s spirit and was included in funerary texts, originally written on the inner coffin lids and later on tomb walls and funerary papyri. These writings were believed to protect the spirit on its journey to the Afterlife and the name would be recited on the way if danger appeared, to show that he or she had a right to pass through.
Of course the power of names could also be a terrible weapon since it was believed that every part of the body, soul and spirit was interdependent and so to erase a name from a tomb was considered a nasty way to destroy the spirit in the Afterlife.
For example, Thutmes or Thutmoses III, the son of Thutmoses II and a concubine, was proclaimed pharaoh on the death of his father in 1478 BCE. However, the widow of the king, Hatshepsut, became regent for the young king and reigned as Pharaoh herself for 29 years. She effectively excluded him from power. On her death, Thutmoses III had his revenge by disfiguring her statues and deleting her name from all her monuments.
You may like to create your own five power names that describe the person you would like to be. You may choose a deity name whose qualities you admire, an animal, a star or describe your own potential strengths in a different way.
For example, you might say: ‘I am the lotus flower that opens at dawn to welcome the sun. I am Nut, woman covered all in stars. I am she who never turns from a challenge or danger. I am Sothis, star goddess who heralds in the fertile flood with my radiance. I am the wise cobra who stands guard over her young and those in need, she who stings and can cure the most fearsome bite.’
Afterwards write your names in blue ink on white paper, recite them when you are alone seven times (like three, seven is a magical number in Egypt) and burn the paper in a blue candle in a metal bucket of sand or throw the paper on your hearth fire or stove or an outdoor bonfire. You are not destroying your name, because you can recite it as it burns and say: ‘May my names live as long as the sun shines and the waters flow.’
You can recite your power names when you wake in the morning, when you
greet the new day and at twilight. You can whisper or say the names in
your mind whenever you need courage or when others are trying to erode
your confidence or self worth.