USHABTI: Death, Magic, and the Afterlife in Ancient Kush



"WsB": Wesheb, the ancient Egyptian word meaning "to answer" perfectly defines the role of Nubian and ancient Egyptian ushabtis or shawabty's. These small funerary figurines were stored in the tombs of deceased Kushite royalty for hundreds of years during the Napatan period from about 750 to 270 B.C. The photo shows ushabtis taken from the tomb of Pharaoh Taharqa, a pharaoh of Egypt and qore (ruler) of the Kingdom of Kush during the 25th Dynasty. Made of gray serpentinite, these ushabtis were discovered on the floor in front of Pharaoh Taharqa's sarcophagus.

Ushabtis generally measured around 10 centimeters tall and were often carved to appear mummified, with a hoe in each hand and a rope with a seed pouch over the shoulder. These funerary figurines were meant to magically animate in the Afterlife to carry out manual labor and other tasks on behalf of the deceased when the inscribed 'Shawabty Spell' was spoken. Taken from Chapter 6 of the ancient 'Book of the Dead,' the spell called upon the shawabty to irrigate marsh, plough fields, and ferry sand from east to west at the command of the god Osiris in Paradise.

Photocredit: Smithsonian National Museum of African Art

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Writing Tip: Create Your Story Around Big Events!

Create your story around big events! It’s easy to get lost in your own story. Descriptions of food, historical information, an intriguing conversation - all of these can make your story believable and better, but it won’t make up for whether or not you’ve been able to hold your reader’s attention. When you are writing and outlining your story try something new. Instead of just starting at the beginning and starting to write, follow these steps. Ask yourself what your story is about, how it begins, how it ends, and then list at least five big events that will occur during your story. Look at the following examples below.

-Fighting off a rabid dog to save a loved one (Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God)

-A slaughter at a wedding (George R.R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords)

-Stealing an egg from a dragon (J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)

In J.K. Rowling’s case, each competition (saving a golden egg from dragons, rescuing your loved one from mermaids, fighting your way through an enchanted maze) during Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was a big event for the reader to get excited about and look forward to. These are all events that keep a reader interested. When reading your book you want to make sure that the only thing your reader is doing is turning the page with excitement, on the edge of their seats with bated breath as they ask themselves - what happens next?!


Notoriously Shy? Afraid of Public Speaking? Don’t have a clue what to say? That’s perfectly fine if you’re going to be yourself! With that said, I want to encourage self-published authors to step outside of their comfort zones. Or surround yourself with people who will push (Read: kick, pull, drag) you outside of it. Sometimes you may find yourself in situations you never planned on, wouldn’t dream of, and are still trying to find ways out of if you can help it. However, being a self-published author means you will have to be your own company, your own marketing campaign, and your own brand. Here are just a few ideas to get you on your way. The worst thing they can do is say no!


  1. Reach out to book clubs in your area and tell them about your  work!
  2. Have a young adult novel? Reach out to high school teachers and librarians!
  3. Is there a library near you? Donate a book or suggest yours for the collection!


There are many ways to promote yourself, but you’ll never know what works until you give it a try. And don’t give up. The people who succeed never do.


How lovely when you find a book so intoxicating that you can’t put it down! Ms. Gyasi’s words brought each character and scene to life so much so that a reader could almost feel the ocean breeze against their own skin.  Her ability to juxtapose class and privilege across both regions, countries, and states is a testament to not only how well researched this book is, but, in its own way, how events affect people in different ways across generations. My sister recommended this to me as she knew I had a heavy interest in pre-colonial history and I was not only impressed with Ms. Gyasi’s ability to weave a story, but to turn each character’s own curiosity and trepidation into the reader’s! 

I highly recommend that you buy this book if you enjoy learning about the culture and community of Ghana, the perils of the Gold Coast slave trade, the struggle of freed slaves to find work after the Civil War, mining and worker’s rights and challenges, and the beating heart of black men and women in the United States. Ms. Gyasi demonstrates the danger of ignoring, denying, and refusing to pass down one’s history, no matter how ugly it is. Homegoing is a story of forgiveness, love, pride, and hope.  I encourage you all to take the time to add it to your summer reading.

It will definitely hold your attention from page to page!


So many people I know have amazing ideas. Ideas on books, movies, artwork, children’s games, nonprofits, and new inventions. Few have followed their gut and actually made their dreams, ideas, or plans a reality. Just do it! What do you have to lose? Okay, pause. I can already hear the excuses starting to roll in and I’m sure they sound something like this:

…I don’t have any spare time.

…I get home too late.

…I’m so tired after work.

…I’m too old to start. 

I made the same excuses too, but I decided to follow my dreams. None of these excuses are enough to stop that wriggling worm that’s eating its way into your mind at random times during the day reminding you of the fantastic idea you have, squirming around in your subconscious wondering why you haven’t plucked it from your brain and put it onto paper. Well guess what? It’s not going away. Any. Time. Soon. When it finally does go away the only thing it leaves behind is REGRET. The internet is at your fingertips to find resources on how to make your plan happen. And simply because this site is dedicated to BOOKS I’m here to tell you that the amazing story you have bottled up inside those fingers just waiting to fly over a keyboard or race a pencil across a page is what we are waiting for. Give the people what they want! Simply because I know people like examples and motivation that they can get things done, here are a few: 

1. The Martian? Originally written by a computer programmer on his own website and self published and sold on Amazon for - wait for it- 99 cents! He took calls from his CUBICLE on book and movie rights while fixing computer glitches!

2. Girl With a Pearl Earring? Written by Tracy Chevalier (and later made into a movie) after her agent asked her if she had any more ideas on her next work - to which she answered she’d been thinking about the origins of a girl in a painting that hung in her house…that happened to be wearing pearl earrings. 

If you’re still not convinced, the only thing I have for you is my favorite line from the movie Inception: Do you want to take a leap of faith? Or become an old man, filled with regret, waiting to die alone? 

I’m rooting for you!…So why are you still reading this post when you should be writing? ;-)