THE EGYPTIAN SORCERER'S APPRENTICE
There is a story told by the ancient writer Lucian about a man named Eucrates who traveled to Egypt to learn about their mysteries. His first stop was in Thebes in southern Egypt. He wanted to see the two colossal statues of Memnon. At that time, it was known that one of the statues uttered sounds. During his visit to the statues, Eucrates reported that he heard one of the statues speak. In fact, the statue gave him 7 oracles that he felt were so secretive that he never told them to anyone as far as we know. It is interesting to note that in later ancient times, one of the statues needed repair. It was reported that after it was repaired it never again uttered any sounds.
Next, he traveled by boat to northern Egypt. Also traveling on the boat was a magician-priest of Memphis. It was alleged that Isis herself taught him magic. While on the boat, Eucrates observed this man performed many supernatural acts. Eucrates wanted to learn the magic from the magician so he persuaded the magician to invite him to stay with him. In his travels, Eucrates always took many servants with him. The magician requested that Eucrates dismiss all his servants as they would not be needed while he was staying with him. Eucrates obliged and dismissed all his servants. Eucrates noticed that the magician had no servants at all. If there was a chore to be done, the magician would put a piece of clothing on a door bolt, pestle, or a broom. After the magician spoke some magic words over it, the object would become alive and do the chore. When the task was completed, the magician would speak some additional words and the object would become inanimate again.
Eucrates, to say the least, was very interested in learning this trick. Unfortunately, the magician was very secretive and would not reveal how it was done. One day, when the magician was repeating the incantations over a pestle, Eucrates heard him and learned the magic words. What we only know today is that the word spoken contained three syllables. We do not know what word was. Well, one day the magician went out. Eucrates decided to try his new learned incantation on a pestle and commanded it to fetch water. He was successful and the pestle became alive and began fetching water for him in a vase. Eucrates than ordered the pestle to stop fetching the water. Unfortunately, Eucrates did not learn the magic words to stop the pestle and return it to an inanimate object. It just keep bringing water. Well, in desperation, he cut the pestle in two, but than both halves began taking up vases and bringing water. The magician arrived just in time as the house was being inundated to stop the pestles.
Most of us are familiar with this story as seen in Walt Disney's "Fantasia". The story was based on this one of an Egyptian magician-priest. In Fantasia, Mickey Mouse is the apprentice, the broom is the pestle, and the buckets are the vases. True or false, this tale shows that the Greeks believed in Egyptian magic.
Ancient Egyptian Magic, Bob Brier, 1980.