Exodus 7:11-12 (ESV):
11 Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. 12 For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron's staff swallowed up their staffs.
What kind of "secret arts" were the magicians of Egypt possibly exercising that would allow them to turn staffs into serpents? Can secular history shed any light on the kinds of occult practices that the Egyptians or contemporary cultures at the time used to practice? Were miracles like that of Exodus 7:11-12 believed to be possible and/or claimed to have happened in Ancient Egypt, according to historical records?
For the interested reader (in case this question ends up getting closed): mirror question on History.SE.