The African River Horse

The African River Horse June 4, 2020

The unpredictably violent and massive hippopotamus, whose name derives from the Greek for “horse of the river,” was feared and revered in ancient Egypt as much as she is today among the Kalabari of Nigeria. Taweret and Ammit, two hippopotamus deities from the ancient Egyptian pantheon, played roles in rituals surrounding birth and death, while, southwest of Egypt, the mask of the hippo water spirit Otobo was used as part of a ritual ceremony.

Ammit, from WikiCommons

Taweret and Ammit

Both Taweret and Ammit are hybrid creatures whose bodies are part hippo, part crocodile, and part lion—the most dangerous beasts known in Egyptian culture. Taweret, known as the Lady of the Pure Waters, was the fierce goddess of fertility and childbirth. She appears as a pregnant hippo standing upright with sagging breasts. She has the back of a crocodile and the claws of a lioness, and her paws rest on the hieroglyph sa, which means “protection.”

The Egyptians were keen observers of nature, and Taweret’s savagery reflects the very real strength of the bond between a mother hippo and her calf. In fact, bow-shaped knives fashioned out of the hippo’s long canines and inscribed with prayers were key tools in ceremonies to protect children and pregnant women from danger. Sometimes this goddess appears in tomb frescos in which she is meant to assist with rebirth into the next life.

Ammit, the Devourer of the Dead and the Eater of Hearts, was a funerary deity. The Egyptians believed that the heart was the center of intelligence where what we would call the soul resided. In fact, the brain was removed via the nostrils during the embalming procedure and discarded. Ammit appears regularly in painted scrolls with the spells from the so-called Book of the Dead. During the judgment process, the goddess of justice, Maat, supervised the weighing of the heart on her great scales against the symbol of purity, an ostrich feather. Souls she found unworthy were deprived of an afterlife in the presence of the god Osiris. Instead, Ammit, who presided over a lake of fire, devoured these unworthy souls and condemned them to a second death as homeless, restless spirits. All this makes Ammit an ideal deity to petition to rebuke a psychic attack.

Taweret by Jeff Dahl, CC License 4.0

Spell to Rebuke a Psychic Attack

Sometimes brevity in a spell can be misleading. If meant to succeed, any spell said with true, clear intent and with an impassioned plea—starting in the center of the gut, spiraling up through the heart, and then sent hurtling out to the gods and goddesses—will be granted. Do not be afraid of your power. Use it to protect yourself from your enemies, psychic attacks, rage and jealousy, and to exact righteous revenge.

What you need:

One black candle.


To begin, light the black candle. Then say this spell once with power and conviction:

Taweret, Lady of the Pure Waters, come to my aid, for I am unjustly attacked.
Ammit, Eater of the Evil Heart, come to my aid; I seek righteous revenge.
SA! SA! SA! SA! I invoke ye, wise and powerful forces.
Work for me now.

My enemies challenge my power and strike while I am weak.
Jealousy and rage run through them. But I am blameless.
SA! SA! SA! SA! I invoke ye, wise and powerful forces.
Judge my enemies now.

Taweret, Lady of the Pure Waters, may I always be worthy of your blessings.
Ammit, Eater of the Evil Heart, may my heart remain true and escape your wrath.
SA! SA! SA! SA! I thank ye, wise and powerful forces. All evil has been removed.

Why did I choose a black candle? By lighting the black candle,you symbolically burn away all it represents. In this case, the black candle represents evil and all negative forces working against you.


To the southwest of Egypt lies the Niger River delta, the largest in Africa, measuring 27,000 square miles. This dense network of rivers, streams, and mangrove swamps is home to the hippo. The religion of two groups of the people who live there, the Kalabari Ijaw and Igbo, centers on ancestor veneration and the belief in water spirits called owuamapu. The physical environment of these cultures is reflected in their vision of the spiritual world, so, for them, a great body of water separates the land of the living from the land of the dead. The owuamapu share their watery dwellings with the spirits of unborn humans as well as with ancestors.

The Ijaw practice a type of divination known as igbadai, which entails questioning the dead to surmise if they have lived a good life and how they passed away. To preserve a healthy balance between the living and the dead, the Ijaw celebrate in honor of their dead once a year. The ritual festivities include a masquerade in which dancers are accompanied by drumming. The man who dons the hippopotamus mask of the water spirit Otobo— which features large tusk-like protrusions—takes on the qualities of the animal while he dances, threatening both the audience and other dancers. It is not uncommon for the owuamapu to possess him, so it makes sense that Otobo was often invoked to establish contact with the dead.

Spell for Ancestral Scrying

The Ijaw ceremony described above accumulated great amounts of energy through ritual, tradition, and spirit possession. To this day, it still holds power. Use this spell to dip into its energies to contact your own ancestors and spirit guides, and to receive an important message from them.

What you need:

Black ink and a small, shallow receptacle approximately four to six inches in diameter in which to mix the ink and water. I suggest ceramic, plastic, stone, or glass, because the black ink may stain. Otherwise, choose a vessel that you can discard. You will also need some African drumming music.


Fill the bowl three-quarters full with water and add five to six drops of black ink. Stir with something disposable like a straw or piece of wood until the ink is fully blended. Place the bowl on a flat surface. Turn on the drumming music and sit quietly in front of your scrying bowl. Consciously center yourself by taking several deep breaths. Use self-talk to focus, telling your physical body to relax and your mind to stay alert. Breathe normally.

Chant the spell below three, six, or nine times:

Otobo, protect me, Otobo, guide me;
I peer into the sacred waters of the ethers.
Otobo, protect me, Otobo, guide me;
Call forth my ancestors and spirit guides.
Otobo, protect me, Otobo, guide me;
Bring me a life-changing message.

Now focus your gaze on the black water. Ask the spirits of the water (known as undines, or in this case, owuamapu) to give you an important message from a deceased ancestor. Try to keep your mind blank. If a thought comes, let it. Then let it go. Remain still and relaxed as you wait to see your message in the blackness of the water.

Adapted, and reprinted with permission from Weiser Books, an imprint of Red Wheel/Weiser, Horse Magick by Lawren Leo is available wherever books and ebooks are sold or directly from the publisher at or 800-423-7087

About Lawren Leo
Lawren Leo attended Lynn University and Pepperdine University. Since then he has traveled throughout the United States, Great Britain, Western Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, studying esoteric philosophy, magickal arts, and alternative religion, and giving readings. He has been practicing Wicca and High Magick and studying Qabalah for nearly three decades. Presently, he owns a metaphysical boutique called New Moon Books, Crystals & Candles, Inc., in Pompano Beach, Florida, where he also resides. He is also contributing author and editor at the electronic magazine The Familiar and can be reached at You can read more about the author here.

Browse Our Archives