It is probable that the prehistoric Abyssinians, like so many of the peoples who lived to the east, south and west of their country, possessed a vague idea that a great and almighty being existed somewhere in or above the sky, and that in common with the nations around, they believed that this being did not trouble himself to interfere with or direct the affairs of men, and allowed the world and all in it to be ordered by spirits, some good and some bad. It is tolerably certain that they had no religion, in our sense, of the word, of any kind, and that for help in times of want and trouble they appealed to their magicians who, by performing certain acts and reciting formulae, i.e. spells, were thought to be able to defeat the purposes of the powers of evil, and to modify the normal operations of nature. The Egyptians were masters of the art of working magic under the Old Empire, as we know from the spells and incantations and directions for magical ceremonies found cut upon the walls of the chambers in the pyramids of the Vth and Vlth Dynasties at Sa^karah, but we have no evidence that a knowledge
of Egyptian magic made its way into Abyssinia. The Semites of Arabia also possessed a system of magic in the 7th century B.C. or earlier, but no trace of this is to be found in the magical writings of the Abyssinians which we now possess. On the other hand it is certain that a colony of Syrian or Palestinian Jews existed in Abyssinia several centuries before Christ, and traces of their system of magic are visible in the beliefs and prayers of the Fallasha. The magic in common use among the great mass of the population was derived from the Blacks and negroid peoples who lived in southern Abyssinia and further south, and must have been similar to that now known to exist among the Galla and the people who live near Lake Rudolf and in Dar Fur and Kordofan.