Nothing impresses the casual observer of magical amulets more strongly than the partly human, partly animal figures that are carved on them. Many of them, deities with animal heads on human bodies, were familiar to the Egyptians but monstrous in the eyes of a Greek or a Roman. On magical objects made in Egypt or from Egyptian models, such figures are to be expected and need no explanation. A more complex form, of obscure derivation, the cock-headed god with snake legs, has been discussed already (p. 123
ff.). There are still others of undoubted Egyptian origin which are products of a tendency, very ancient in Egypt, to combine two deities in one form. This tendency may have had a political or a theological motive, and often both were at work; but it was taken up and given additional force by the practitioners of that magic which was inextricably interwoven with the religious life of the country. Theological syncretism may account for such a form as that which Budge calls “The god comprehending all gods,” in which the basic figure seems to be that of the young Horus with the addition of attributes borrowed from Re, Amon, and various other gods.1
A hideous compound statuette in Berlin, with characteristics of Horus, Bes, Bastet, and others, is almost certainly magical in intention.2
Just as the adept sought to make his spells powerful by invoking many gods and demons with their manifold names and epithets, so it became natural to an artist in the service of magic to combine in one figure the marks and attributes of all the gods whose aid was invoked, or at least as many as his skill could blend together; and no aesthetic consideration deterred him from fashioning what we should call a monstrosity.
The precursors of the compound figure that appears most frequently on gem amulets have been recognized in a class of objects known as magical stelae, which have been discovered in great numbers; they date from the late dynastic period, but continue into Ptolemaic and even Roman times. They are small stelae with rounded tops, the largest running to about twenty to twenty-four inches in height, the smallest only two or three inches, and so, small enough to be carried on the person (cf. D. 252
); but they seem usually to have been placed in houses and gardens, or buried in them, to protect