The Profane Egyptologist

The Profane Egyptologist E8. Dreamers & Demons! Dr Kasia Szpakowska on Nightmares and Dream Entities in Ancient Egypt

November 23, 2018

Dreams! Nightmares! Demons! What were the role of these concepts in ancient Egypt? The Answers may surprise you...

Dr Kasia Szpakowska is an Associate Professor of Egyptology at Swansea University, and Director of The Ancient Egyptian Demonology Project for The Leverhulme Trust.

Kasia’s research is especially fascinating for me, as it focuses on Ancient Egyptian private religious practices, so not necessarily the practices of the elites, though it does include them…but the practices of everyday Egyptians.

She is also a leading expert and author of several volumes on dreams, demons and the archaeology of magic in ancient Egypt and her work provides unique insights into the mindset of the ancient Egyptian in ways we cannot accomplish just by looking at artefacts.

Now I should point out that when we mention magic in the context of ancient Egypt, it wasn’t seen as something occult or weird in ancient Egyptian culture. Magic was as much a part of daily life and religion as any other practice or response to their often frightening and dangerous world. It’s not until much later, with the advent of monotheism that we see a separation of magic from religion and the subsequent fall from grace of magic into something either false, as in trickery, or ungodly and unholy.

We also touch on something that I’ve become much more aware of in my life of late which is narcolepsy and what seem to be ancient Egyptian spells which may have been responses to this condition. If you or anyone you know is suffering from sleep paralysis (as terrifyingly portrayed in the recent Netflix show, the Haunting of Hill House) or thinks you may have narcolepsy symptoms, I’ve included a link in the show notes to Narcolepsy UK, a leading UK charity where you can get more information on this condition.

But returning to the headline of the show, which is dreams, and indeed nightmares and demons from ancient Egypt, I know that academic papers and books can be difficult to get a hold of when you’re not at University and Kasia has very kindly made many of her papers available for FREE on a website called As ever, you can find links in the show notes at Podbean on Facebook and on iTunes and YouTube.  And if you dig this episode, be sure to check out the Demon Things website, and the DemonBase Catalogue where you can search these bizarre and fascinating entities and learn more about them! So without further ado, ladies and germs, Kasia Spakowska.


Check out the Demon Things Project Website!

And some FREE papers on the subject!

Recommended papers:

Szpakowska, K. "Through the Looking Glass: Dreams and Nightmares in Pharaonic Egypt." In Dreams: A Reader on the Religious, Cultural, and Psychological Dimensions of Dreaming, edited by K. Bulkeley, 29-43. New York: Palgrave, 2001.
———. "The Ungrateful Dead: A Dimension of Dreams in Pharaonic Egypt." In Proceedings of the Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations Graduate Students' Annual Symposia 1998–2000, edited by C. Rocheleau, 97–109. Toronto: Benben Publications for Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations Graduate Students' Association, 2001.

———. "Feet of Fury: Demon Warrior Dancers of the New Kingdom." In Rich and Great. Studies in Honour of Anthony J. Spalinger on the Occasion of his 70th Feast of Thoth, edited by R. Landgráfová and J. Mynářová, 313-23. Prague: Charles University in Prague, 2016.
———. "Death and Demons." Ancient History 14 (2018): 18-20.

———. "Demons, Pharaonic Egypt." In Encyclopedia of Ancient History, edited by R. Bagnall, K. Brodersen, C. Champion, A. Erskine and S. Huebner, 2023-25. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012.

———. "Demons in the Dark: Nightmares and other Nocturnal Enemies of Ancient Egypt." In Ancient Egyptian Theology and Demonology: Studies on the Boundaries between the Divine and Demonic in Egyptian Magic, edited by P. Kousoulis, 63-76. Leuven: Peeters, 2011.

———. Daily Life in Ancient Egypt: Recreating Lahun. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2008.
———. "Demons in Ancient Egypt." Religion Compass 3, no. 5 (2009): 799-805.
———. "Nightmares in Ancient Egypt." In Le cauchemar dans l’Antiquité: Actes des journées d'étude de l'UMR 7044 (15-16 Novembre 2007, Strasbourg), edited by J.-M. Husser and A. Mouton. Études d'archéologie et d'histoire ancienne, 21-39. Paris: de Boccard, 2010.
———. "Religion in Pharaonic Society." In A companion to Ancient Egypt, edited by A. B. Lloyd. Blackwell companions to the ancient world, 507-25. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.

———. "The Open Portal: Dreams and Divine Power in Pharaonic Egypt." In Prayer, Magic, and the Stars in the Ancient and Late Antique World, edited by S. B. Noegel, J. T. Walker and B. M. Wheeler. Magic in History Series, 111-24. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2003.


Here’s a link to Kasia’s books

Daily Life in Ancient Egypt: Recreating Lahun 
by Kasia Szpakowska 


Through A Glass Darkly: Magic, Dreams and Prophecy in Ancient Egypt 
by Kasia Szpakowska 


And last but not least – Support for people with or partners and family of people with Narcolepsy



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