An ancient Egyptian handbook that has been in the possession of Macquarie University's Museum of Ancient Cultures in Sydney, Australia, since 1981, has finally been deciphered. According to Macquarie University professor Malcolm Choat and University of Sydney professor Iain Gardner, the book contains magical spells that residents of ancient Egypt drew upon, to make all kinds of wishes come true.

The twenty-page hand-written book that is made of bound parchment (referred to as codex by experts), includes 27 spells complete with text, illustrations of magic rituals, images and words of power. Among them are charms that help businesses succeed, make evil spirits vanish and help cast love spells. There is even one that cures "black jaundice," a fatal bacterial infection that exists till today.

In case you are wondering, ancient magicians did not use wands like Harry Potter and Hermione Granger. Instead, they cast their spells with specific actions. For example, to gain mental control over a person, the book recommends chanting some magical words over two nails and then hammering them into the sides of the target's door frame.

Though Choat thinks that the people who performed the charms were neither priests nor monks, he is unsure of their identity. He believes that the ritual practitioners probably did not reveal themselves for fear of being labeled as "magicians." Also, while the text seems to address only males, the spells were applicable to women as well.

Written in Coptic, an ancient language that was spoken from the 2nd to the 17th century AD, "The Egyptian Handbook of Ritual Power", as it is now called, is believed to be 1,300 years old, dating all the way back to the 7th or 8th century.

In addition to the spells, the book also reveals interesting details about the era in which it was written. Judging from the style of the text, Choat and Gardner think that its author lived in the ancient city of Hermopolis, in Northern Egypt. Several mentions of Jesus Christ and Seth, the third son of Adam and Eve, have led them to believe that the writer(s) belonged to a Christian sect called "Sethians." Denounced as heretics by church leaders, they completely disappeared by the 7th century. The researchers think this handbook, the first to provide detailed information about the sect, may be a rare and only glimpse into the rituals of this group in their final years of existence!

While that is certainly exciting, Choat and Gardner who have documented their research in the recently published "A Coptic Handbook of Ritual Power," are just getting started. They now plan to dig through the museum's entire collection of 640 ancient papyri to see what other interesting information they can decipher!