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Magic, Mummies and Spirits of the Dead

Do you want to know more about ancient Egyptian mummies, magic spells and spirits of the dead? Celebrate Halloween with a visit to the Egypt Centre, Swansea’s museum of Egyptian antiquities. Here you can see real ancient spell books, an object specially made to communicate with ones ancestors and lots of protective amulets to keeps you safe and healthy. You can also find out amazing facts about ancient Egypt and of course, mummies – perfect for Halloween.

Between winter and autumn, life and death, Halloween is a time of betweens, when some believe the dead and living are close to one another. While celebrations predate the Christian era, in the Christian calendar the festival became a time to honour saints and martyrs. Today, many people dress-up as monsters, ghosts and other characters, sometimes as ancient Egyptian mummies. However, the idea of the stumbling dead chasing the screaming living owes much to recent horror films and books, and is more a reflection of today’s Western life than of anything the ancient Egyptians would have believed!

The mummy was certainly a way of bringing the deceased back to life, but perhaps not in a way depicted by today’s Halloween celebrants. The mummy was a way of making the deceased into something resembling a statue, so that the soul of the dead might dwell in it. Yes, the ancients did believe that the dead might come back to haunt the living, but not as rather slow-moving dead bodies. Ancient Egyptian texts advise appeasing the spirits of the deceased. One says:

Appease the spirit do what he likes

refrain from what disgusts him;

may you be preserved from his many misdeeds,

for every form of harm comes from him

A beast led away from the field?

It is he who does such things.

Damage on the threshing floor in the fields?

“It is the spirit”, one says again.

Tempest in the house? Hearts estranged?

All that is his doing.

Even more weirdly, around 1100 BC, a husband wrote a letter to his dead wife and threatened to file a lawsuit against her because she was causing him problems even though he had treated her well! While the Centre does not have any of these letters to the dead, we do have an ‘ancestor stela’ which is of a similar date to the letter written by the husband. Egyptologists believe that such objects were put up in homes so that the ancestors could be given offerings. We also have real spell book (Books of the Dead), protective amulets, lots of daemons and items associated with spirits of the dead (see the list below).

There is also much more to see in the Centre, and also Halloween related things to do. Try your hand at mummification using our dummy mummy, or play the ancient Egyptian game of senet, a game which the ancients believed would help you communicate with the ‘other side’. In our shop we sell several trails to guide you through the Centre including one on Daemons and Spirits of the Dead and another so that you can make your own mummy mask, you can also buy copies of ancient Egyptian amulets and translations of some of the ancient Egyptian spells. We have project books on mummification and death on the afterlife. What is more, for the run up to Halloween we will be reducing the price of several ‘Halloween’ related items such as skull scarves.

And of course, we also have workshops for children on the theme of Myths and Monsters. You have to pay and book for these, but our other activities are free. We have displays, activities and things to buy suitable for all age groups and are open Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 4pm, admission is free.

Daemon related items on the Egypt Centre:


The Sycamore Tree Goddess

The Four Sons of Horus

Other items associated with spirits of the dead include: