Daily Ancient Magic #12: Red Ink in Egyptian Ritual Instructions

In ancient Egyptian ritual instructions, red ink was used in addition to black ink to mark the structure of the instructions so that one could quickly find one’s way through long texts.

The beginning of the following sections was often marked with red ink:

  • The title of the ritual.
  • The invocation that had to be recited
  • The objects and anything else needed to perform the ritual, such as a vessel, a table, or ingredients for incense.
  • The actual performance

The text with red ink was written after the main text in black was finished. This can be observed by the size of the gaps that were left for the red text and which were often too big or too short so that the text written in red does not always fit well into these gaps.

In practice, it could look like this:


Line 1
ke schen-hene waetsch er nu er pa wija en pa Ra
Another vessel divinationto be performed aloneto see to the barque of Re.

pa asch enti i ir ek asch
The invocation which you should recite => Here the gap is a bit too large, there is some free space left at the end of the red text.

Line 9
pa such ijch
The preparation => Here the blank space reserved for the red ink was a bit too small, the end of the word touches the following black character.

Line 13
pa ki en ir pa schen-hene en pa chebes
The way of making the vessel divination with the lamp.

„The way of making“ can be translated as „the performance“.

The photo:
Detail from a Demotic-Greek magical papyrus, the so-called „Great London-Leiden Magical Papyrus“, 2nd or 3rd century, inventory number AMS 65, (C) Rijksmuseum van Oudheden.

Link to the papyrus: https://www.rmo.nl/collectie/collectiezoeker/collectiestuk/?object=172306