The Lily of the Nile : A work on the ritualistic use of an ancient flower of immortality

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Centrum för forskning om religion och samhälle (CRS)

Abstract: In pharaonic times, religion, magic and medicine had little distinction between each other due to the commonly held belief that all parts of life were influenced and even controlled by divinity and the supernatural. To navigate life easier, and in true Egyptian fashion, a large corpus of text was composed of magic, medicine and religion. The latter includes the arguably most well-known work, the Egyptian Book of the dead, the religious scripture that would help the deceased navigate the netherworld in the hopes for eternal life. The papyri depict numerous plants and remedies as well as spell and healing methods accompanied by magical incorporation such as incantation or invocation of a god or goddess. These can be considered a basis for the fundamental ideas of religion and daily life of ancient Egypt, always consisting of divine involvement. This essay will deal with a symbol that the ancient Egyptians saw as synonymous with life, and immortality: The narcotic blue water lily, Nymphaea Caerulea. The study will be a work on the human religious experience with a plant that I will theorize as having been used for an entheogenic effect in order to connect with the divine by asking some key questions: How and why was the lily used? How is the flowers depiction on art, in texts, and different iconography indicative to a usage in religious experience and through the mythology produced in the civilisation?

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