Tales of the Magicians | Westcar Papyrus | Ancient Tales of Wisdom | 1800 B.C

Westcar Papyrus
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Everyone in this world likes to hear the tales. Men or women, children or adults everybody likes the tales. In this article, I have brought two tales from ancient Egypt which precisely written during the reign of Khufu which contains the events before Khufu’s reign.

In that way, these tales are more than 4700 years old. These tales were written in the papyrus which is called Wastcar papyrus.

Westcar Papyrus

Westcar papyrus
Westcar papyrus

The Westcar Papyrus is an ancient Egyptian text containing five stories about miracles performed by priests and magicians. In the papyrus text, each of these tales was told at the royal court of king Khufu by his sons.

Westcar Papyrus dates to the Hyksos period (eighteenth to sixteenth century BC) and states that it is written in classical Middle Egyptian. The papyrus has been used by historians as a literary resource for reconstituting the history of the Fourth Dynasty.

This papyrus was discovered in 1823 or 1824, by British adventurer Henry Westcar who apparently discovered the papyrus during travels in Egypt. For unknown reasons he didn’t note the exact circumstances under which he obtained the artifact. The papyrus is now on display under low-light conditions in the Egyptian Museum of Berlin.

Papyrus Westcar is a reused papyrus made of the plant Cyperus papyrus. The text written on the papyrus includes twelve columns in all.

The first part contains on the recto (the front) columns one to three, the second part contains on its recto columns four and five and the third part contains on the verso (the back) columns six to nine and on the recto, the final columns, ten to twelve.

The text itself is completely written in black iron gall ink and carbon black ink. Between the neatly written sentences, red traces of an older text are visible.

It looks as if Papyrus Westcar is a palimpsest; the unknown ancient Egyptian author obviously tried but partially failed to wipe the older text off. The clean and calligraphical handwriting shows that the author was a highly educated professional.

Wastcar papyrus contains overall five tales and out of five, I found two tales, the second and third, are more interesting where we can see the high usage of magic.

A Tale of Adultury – The Second Tale

The second tale, which is supposed to have taken place during the time of King Nebka, is about a man named Webaoner whose wife commits adultery with a townsman. Webaoner uses some self-help. He fashions a vodooesque crocodile doll out of wax.

The crocodile grows into the genuine article-a full-fledged amphibian-when the adulterer returns on the next day to swim in Webaoner’s lake. The crocodile attacks the townsman and takes him underwater for seven days. Meanwhile, Webaoner is visiting King Nebka.

Webaoner then brings Nebka back home with him. Nebka witnesses first hand the townsman’s punishment and expressly approves, telling the crocodile: “Take what belongs to you! Whereupon, the crocodile once again drags the townsman back under the water, never to be seen again.

A Tale of King Snefru – The Third Tale

The third tale is supposed to have taken place during the reign of King Snefru. King Snefru is unhappy and bored. Upon the advice of his lector priest and scribe, Snefru decides to amuse himself by having twenty young, scantily-clad women row a boat on his lake.

When one of the young women drops her “fish-shaped charm of new [turquoise]”‘ into the lake, she becomes so upset that she is unable to continue rowing and, consequently, the other rowers on her side of the boat stop rowing also.

Snefru asks her why she has stopped: “Then [His] Majesty said to her: [Why] do [you] not row? She said: A fish-shaped charm of new [turquoise] fell into the water. And [His Majesty said to her]: Would you like one to replace [it]? But [she said]: I [prefer] my own [to a look-alike].

Snefru then again calls his lector priest, Djadjaemonkh. Djadjaemonkh parts the water and retrieves the charm. Thereafter, Djadjaemonkh puts the lake water back in its normal state and the rowing extravaganza resumes: “His
Majesty passed a holiday with the entire palace.


Papyrus Westcar is of great interest to historians and Egyptologists since it is one of the oldest Egyptian documents that contain such complex text. Unfortunately, the name of the author has been lost.