How nightmares turned a Swansea professor into a demon hunter
This university expert wanted to study dreams but nightmares interested her more... then demons.
Dr Kasia Szpakowska might not automatically be what you first think of when envisaging a demon hunter.
She describes herself as a dog and nature lover whose paradise is California and, over the past 14 years, the beautiful Gower peninsula.
But Dr Szpakowska, Associate Professor of Egyptology at Swansea University, has spent years tracking down little known demons, especially those from Ancient Egypt.
'Demons abound in the media today'
She will be one of the lead speakers at an international conference in Swansea University this spring exploring the range and variation of demonic entities the Ancient Egyptians believed capable of harm and help.
The conference will also examine a "demon base" (database) of around 4,000 Ancient Egyptian demons uncovered by Dr Szpakowska and others in the Ancient Egyptian Demonology Project.
Canadian-born Dr Szpakowska, who worked for many years in California, said: "Demons abound in the media today - from tales of possession, to the labelling of political policies as "demonic," to the channelling of spirits for healing.
"In both the modern and ancient world, intangible entities embody and are blamed for a host of physical and psychological afflictions, as well as being called upon to aid the sufferer. These beings are known in many cultures by many names.
Finding information on demons 'is difficult'
"A sample of terms includes: gremlins, imps, faeries, ghosts, daemons, genies, mischwesen, monsters, small gods, angels, and invisibilia."
Asked how she became drawn to the world of demons, Dr Szpakowska said: "I was initially interested in researching dreams but quickly found the equally interesting world of nightmares was being ignored.
"It was through studying nightmares I realised in the ancient world people attacked by what were then invisible bacteria or viruses gave a face to their ill fortune - often a demonic one.
"While the demons may have been familiar to the Ancient Egyptians, finding information on them today is difficult. There is currently no single source for the scholar or interested person to consult for further information regarding these beings.
Conference delegates to be given tour of 'magical Gower'
"A number of general encyclopaedias of gods and kings exist, as well as specialised resources on divine names and epithets. To remedy this gap, our project has created a database of these entities.
"Our approach combines philological, iconographic, and archaeological analysis. Because of the limited time available for this database, we include only four types of evidence: Coffin Texts, early Book of the Dead manuscripts, ivory wands (apotropaia), and decorated headrests."
Dr Szpakowska, who has lived in Swansea for 14 years, loves Gower and delegates to the conference in March will be given a tour of "magical" Gower.
She said: "There are legends of fairies and ghosts in Gower - demonic figures are all around us in legend and even in stone in church gargoyles."Speakers at the conference include Wael Sherbiny who is already well known outside Egyptology for his discovery of a 2.5 metre, 4,000-year-old artefact, containing spells and depictions of gods, the longest and oldest leather manuscript from ancient Egypt.
Stuart Tyson Smith, a consultant for the Stargate, The Mummy and The Mummy Returns movies, will also be a speaker.
Dr Spzakowska said: "While gods such as Osiris or Isis are familiar, the darker side of religion and ominous entities in ancient Egypt such as Sehaqeq, Fiery-Breath, or Consumer of Hearts, have remained in the shadows.
"New digital technology has allowed our project to explore their world and make it accessible."