Heku – Magical Stories Part 3

As mentioned in a previous post, the Westcar Papyrus is an ancient Egyptian text containing five stories about magic and miracles performed by the lector-priests. Each of these tales are told at the royal court of Pharaoh Khufu of the 4th dynasty (25th century BCE).  When researching the Goddess Wenet (Lady Unu), I found a magical spell linking her to the Coffin Texts (137A) and the spell is attributed to Prince Hordjedef (Djedef-Hor), the son of Pharaoh Khufu.

The fourth story in the Westcar Papyrus is told by Prince Hordjedef and concerns miracles set during Khufu’s reign.

Prince Hordjedef speaks:

“There is a commoner named Djedi, who lives in Djed Snefru. He is a villager who is a hundred and ten years old who eats five hundred loaves of bread and a shoulder of beef for meat and drinks a hundred jars of beer a day. He knows how to mend a severed head; he can make a lion walk behind him with a leash on the ground; and he knows the number of chambers in the sanctuary of Thoth.

Now, his majesty King of Upper and Lower Egypt Khufu, justified, spent the day seeking for himself the chambers of the sanctuary of Thoth in order to make something similar for himself for his pyramid.


His majesty said “You yourself, Hordjedef my son, shall bring this man to me”.

Then boats were prepared for Prince Hordjedef and he went southward to Djed Snefru. After the boats had been moored to the riverbank he traveled over land seated in a litter of ebony with poles of sandalwood plated with gold. When he reached Djedi his litter was set down and he stood to greet him. He found him lying on a mat at the threshold of his [ ] as a servant at his head anointed him and another rubbed his feet.

Then Prince Hordjedef said “your condition is like that of one who lives before the infirmity of old age and who sleeps until dawn free from illness without an old age of coughing. Greeting, oh blessed one. I have come to summon you by order of my father Khufu. You will eat delicacies provided by the king, the food of his companions. He will lead you through a good lifetime and to your ancestors who are in the necropolis.” To this Djedi said “welcome, welcome Hordjedef, prince who is beloved of his father. May your father Khufu, justified, favor you. May he advance your position amongst the elders. May your spirit contend with your enemy and may your soul know the road that leads to the gate of him who shelters the dead. Greeting oh prince.”

Then Prince Hordjedef held out his arms to him and raised him up. The he proceeded with him to the river bank giving him his arm. Djedi then said “let me be given one of the barges so that it may carry for me my children and my books.”  Two boats were made available to him together with their crew and Djedi came northward in the boat of   Prince Hordjedef.

After he had reached the royal residence Prince Hordjedef entered to report to his majesty Khufu. Prince Hordjedef said “King, my lord, I have brought Djedi” and his majesty said “go and bring him to me.” His majesty then proceeded to the audience hall of the palace and Djedi was ushered in.

His majesty said “Why is it Djedi that I have not seen you before?” and Djedi said “He who is summoned comes… summon me and, look, I have come.” Then his majesty said, “is it true that you know how to mend a severed head” and Djedi said “yes I know how to, king, my lord.”

Then his majesty said “Let a prisoner be brought forth who is in prison and let his sentence be executed.” Whereupon Djedi said “but not to a human; doing something like that to the noble flock is not ordained.”

Then a duck was brought forth and its head was cut off. The duck was placed on the west side of the audience hall and its head on the east side. Djedi spoke magic spell and the duck stood up, waddling, and its head likewise. Once the head had reached the body the duck stood up cackling. Then his majesty had a goose brought to him and same was done with it. His majesty then had a bull brought to him, and its head was cut off. Then Djedi said his magic spell and the bull stood up behind him, its leash having fallen on the ground.


Then Khufu said, “It is said that you know the number of chambers in the sanctuary of Thoth.”

Djedi answered: “I beg your pardon, I do not know their number, but I know where they are kept” and his majesty said “so, where” and Djedi said “there is a box of flint in a room called the inventory in Heliopolis and it is in that box.” And his majesty said “go and bring it to me” and Djedi said “it is not I who shall bring them to you.” His majesty said “who will bring it to me?” and Djedi said “the eldest of the three kings who are in the womb of Reddjedet will bring it to you.”

Then his majesty said “These things you say, who is she, this Reddjedet?” Djedi said “she is the wife of a priest of Ra, Lord of Sakhbu, who is pregnant with three sons of Ra, Lord of Sakhbu. He has said this of them: they will perform the rule and ministerial position of the whole of this land. The eldest will become chief priest at Heliopolis.” And his majesty fell into a bad mood on hearing this. Then Djedi said “what is this mood, king, my lord; was it caused by these children I mentioned? First your son shall reign, then his son, and then one of them.”

Then his majesty said “When will Reddjedet give birth?” and Djedi said ” on the fifteenth day of the first month of Peret (the season of growing)” then his majesty said “but that is when the sand banks of Two-fish canal are are cut off. Might I visit myself so that I could see the temple of Ra, Lord of Sakhbu?” Djedi said “then I will let four cubits of water appear on the sand banks of Two-fish canal” and his majesty proceeded to his palace.

Then his majesty said “have Djedi dwell in the palace of Prince Hordjedef and he will be provided with a thousand loaves of bread, a hundred jugs of beer, one ox and a hundred bunches of vegetables, daily; and one did everything as his majesty had ordered.”

~ Adapted from translations by Marc Jan Nederhof and A.M. Blackman

The first of the three pharaohs of the Fifth Dynasty would be Userkaf born to Reddjedet, the wife of a priest of Ra, therefore this story forms part of the prophesy establishing the right to rule of Userkaf, Sahure and Neferirkara Kakai.  This is continued in the final part of the Westcar Papyrus with the story of the birth of the three pharaohs.



  • Lichtheim, M (1975) Ancient Egyptian Literature, Volume I
  • Nederhof, Marc Jan (2008) St Andrews University
  • Mackenzie D (1907) Egyptian Myth and Legend