The following excerpt is from Eleanor L. Harris’s Ancient Egyptian Divination and Magic.
Ra had a Great Name by which he ruled over the world and all things in full power. This name was unknown to gods, kings, and humankind. It was never spoken and remained hidden so that no magician could ever gain power over him. One day, the great magician-goddess, Auset, plotted to trick Ra into revealing the Great Name to her. In legend, she was successful. Thereafter, Ra was challenged by other gods, kings, and magicians. At times in Egyptian religious history, he lost his absolute power to more powerful gods, whose temples consequently flourished.
Creation was the handiwork of the god Ra and the god Khepera, brought about by the utterance of the Great Name. Subsequently, it was thought that only by pronouncing a name could a person come into being on Earth. Without a name, no person could be identified in the Judgement at death. Use of a person’s name could bring a curse to its owner, or a healing and blessing. The name of a person or living creature is as much a part of his or her being as the soul and other bodies…a person’s name was actually one of the nine bodies*, and was an essential part of that person’s existence. It was thought that a name was the label for a worldly or unworldly creature’s entire existence. That name, however, was vulnerable to manipulation by magic.
The names of gods were channels to their supreme energy. The names of demons and other unworldly beings possessed great power as well. If the name of a god or devil was known and used to summon it, it was believed they had to answer.
Some gods, such as Tehuti, and devils, such as the renowned challenger of Ra, named Apep, were believed to have the power to assume different form. Each form had a unique name. To gain absolute power over a being that changed forms, it was vital to know all of the form-names.
The magician frequently shape-shifted during divination and magic to a god-form, a devil-form, or to the form of any mythical creature like the griffin. The secret names of the form were recited so that the magician’s transformation was ensured and completed. That is why Egyptian scripts contain an abundance of magical names to recite…
Egyptians recognized sound as a direct channel between humanity and the gods. They knew that the practice and use of sounds in the words and names of scripts revealed the real mystery of magic. Proper pronunciation and recital of magical script was ome of the most important principles in working magic.
*Egyptians believed that humans and other living creatures consisted of nine “bodies.” These bodies define why the Egyptians believed that it was possible to invoke a creature’s life force into a statue, and thereby gain the creature’s power. They believed in ghosts and apparitions, which were made possible by the existence of the “ka” body, and the “khu” body… Through different bodies, the Egyptians communicated with the dead, projected out-of-body, assumed other creature’s power, and enjoyed other abilities…