A fine Egyptian Steatite Magical Stele, Ptolemaic Period, ca. 300 - 200 BCE
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A brown steatite cippus, or magical stele, the child Horus, identified by a long sidelock of youth that extends to his right shoulder, emerges from the background in high relief, with his left leg striding forward and his head directly facing the viewer. Above him is the head of Bes, the dwarf deity with leonine features who had traditionally protected households but by this time had become a more general protective deity. To symbolize his magic powers, Horus stands upon two opposing crocodiles, each scaly tail extending up the border edge, holding two snakes in each hand, a lion also in his left hand, a scorpion, and a jackal in his right. The back, sides, and base, in fact, every available surface is incised with hieroglyphic inscriptions containing magic spells to protect against poisonous bites and wounds and to cure the illnesses caused by them.
With proper recitations, a liquid poured over the stela by either the owner, a priest, or a physician would be charged with the power of the inscribed spells and images. Persons who desired a cure or protection against poisonous wounds could drink this liquid or pour it over themselves. The size and condition suggest this piece was used often, suggesting ownership by a priest or physician.
Literature: G. Pinch, Magic in Ancient Egypt (London, The British Museum Press, 1994) S. Quirke and A.J. Spencer, The British Museum book of anc (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)
Medium: Black Steatite
Dimensions: Height: 4 inches (10 cm)
Condition: Finely carved with expected surface wear from use that does not detract, intact, and in very good condition overall. Custom mounted.
Provenance: Estate of Lady Ch. N., Germany, acquired October, 1978 from Jacques Schulman, Keizersgracht 448, 1016 GD Amsterdam, Auction 214, lot number 9. A copy of the auction paperwork accompanies this object.