The 'wise woman' at Deir el-Medina
A small number of Ramesside documents from the site of Deir el-Medina, the village built for craftsmen of the royal tomb at Thebes, refer to a 'wise woman' (in Egyptian rxt) as someone able to assist in apparently supernatural ways with urgent unsolved cases, such as the example below on one remarkable ostracon (Letellier 1980). A man writes to a woman after the death of two children; from the contents of the letter, it seems that the boys were twins, perhaps not long surviving birth to the man and his wife. The woman receiving the letter is not the wife, - was she the midwife at the birth, or their nurse? Evidently in such cases it was usual practice to consult a wise woman, and the man is writing to ask her why she has not done so.
Who is this wise woman? She is not named in the letter, indicating that there is just one such woman in the immediate environment at least in this case.
What did she do? The end of the letter below refers to identifying a god, presumably the supernatural force considered responsible for the death.
Was she any special age? The surviving documents do not mention age, and age may not have played any role in crediting her with special powers.
Dd qn-Hr-xpS.f n inr-wAw
y ix pAy.t tm Smt n tA rxt Hr pA aDd 2 ir mwt m-di.t Hn.t
nDnD.t m-di.t n tA rxt Hr pA mwt ir pA aDd 2
n pAy.w SAy n tA.w rnnt
tw.t nDnD n.i mtw.t ptr n anx ink anx n tA.w mwt
ir pA nTr nb nty iw.tw n t ...
iw.t hAb n .i Hr rn.f ...
(The man) Qenherkhepshef addresses (the woman) Inerwaw:
So why haven't you gone to the wise woman about the two boys who died in your charge?
Consult with the wise woman about the death of the two boys:
was it their fate? was it their nurturing?
You are consulting for me, and considering my own life and the life of their mother.
If there is any god you are told of ...
you should write to me with the name...
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