• Coptic Love Spells

    Coptic Love Spells I: “You will burn her heart and soul”

    This week’s post is the first in a mini-series about the manuscript Leiden F 1964/4.14. Although this manuscript is only one sheet of parchment, it is a formulary containing a series of recipes, ranging from curses to destroy individuals and separate couples, to those intended to reconcile couples or induce sexual desire. Dating paleographically to the 11th century CE, this formulary is among the latest preserved witnesses to Coptic magic. Edited by Michael Green in 1987, the recipes of this formulary were not included in the collection “Ancient Christian Magic” edited by Marvin Meyer and Richard Smith, and so they are not very well known. As one of the many…

  • Coptic Curses

    Coptic Curses III: “You will shatter the face of so-and-so!”

    This week’s post takes a deep dive into a curse from Kyprianos, our database of Coptic magical texts, by returning to a manuscript already discussed in a previous post: P. Heidelberg inv. Kopt. 681 is a sheet of parchment, cut into a long rectangle measuring 29.5cm by 10.9cm. As introduced in the post Coptic Amulets II: Sending an angel to give grace, this sheet is a formulary – a manuscript containing one or more spell(s) with formulas to be filled in, rather than an activated text – containing the name of the person who would benefit from, or be cursed by, the spell. The flesh side of the parchment, the…

  • Coptic Amulets

    Coptic Amulets III: Take fever away from Thōthphe, the son of Giōrōgia!

    This week’s post takes a deep dive into another example of a healing amulet from Kyprianos, our database of Coptic magical texts: Vienna, Nationalbibliothek K 08637 is a sheet of parchment, cut into a rough rectangle measuring 10cm by 8cm. 7 or 8 horizontal creases suggest that this sheet was folded multiple times, or rolled and then squashed. The text’s eight lines of text and two lines of characters (magical signs) were inscribed upon the flesh side of the parchment, the inward-facing side of the skin, while the hair side, which would have faced outwards, was left blank. This parchment was edited by Viktor Stegemann in 1934, but since then…

  • Coptic Curses

    Coptic Curses II: Flaccid, Limp, and Lying like a Corpse

    This week’s post takes another deep dive into one example of a curse from Kyprianos, our database of Coptic magical texts. Chicago, Oriental Institute Museum E13767 is a sheet of paper cut into a rectangle that measures 6cm in height by 16 in width. One horizontal crease suggests that it was folded vertically only once, while 15 vertical creases suggest it was folded multiple times, or rolled and squashed into a small package of only about 3cm in height and 1cm in width. Bought from a private collection for the Oriental Institute Museum in 1929, it is unfortunately unknown where the manuscript was found. The handwriting of this text suggests…

  • Coptic Amulets

    Coptic Amulets II: Sending an angel to give grace

    This week’s post takes a deep dive into one example of a favour spell from Kyprianos, our database of Coptic magical texts: P. Heidelberg inv. Kopt. 681 is a sheet of parchment, cut into a long rectangle measuring 29.5cm by 10.9cm. Unlike the healing amulet we looked at in the last post in this series, this sheet was not folded nor worn as an amulet. This is because this sheet is a formulary – a manuscript containing one or more spell(s) with formulas to be filled in, rather than an activated text – a manuscript containing the name of the person who would benefit from, or be cursed by, the…

  • Coptic Amulets

    Coptic Amulets I: A Healing Amulet to Save Ahmed from Cold and Fire

    This week’s post takes a deep dive into one example of a healing amulet from Kyprianos, our database of Coptic magical texts: P. Heidelberg inv. Kopt. 544b is a sheet of parchment, cut into a rough rectangle measuring 7.3cm by 6.5cm. This sheet was folded seven times horizontally and twice vertically, producing a tight package of c.1.1cm by c.2.5cm. As we will see, the text itself suggests that this package was to be worn by the client, Ahmed. The text’s 19 lines were inscribed upon the flesh side of the parchment, the inward-facing side of the skin, while the hair side, which would have faced outwards, was left blank. The…

  • Coptic Curses

    Coptic Curses I: Finding a Bowl, Damning a Thief!

    This week’s post takes a deep dive into one example of a curse from Kyprianos, our database of Coptic magical texts: Vienna, Nationalbibliothek K 08304 Pap is a sheet of paper that is roughly square, measuring 7.3cm by 7cm. This square appears to have been folded once horizontally and once vertically, producing a smaller package of 3.6 by 3.5cm. First published by Viktor Stegemann in 1934, who dated the handwriting on this sheet of paper to the 10th or 11th century CE, a translation of this curse appeared more recently in the collection of translations of Coptic Texts of Ritual Power by Marvin Meyer and Richard Smith, where it was…

  • Old Coptic Magic

    Old Coptic Magical Texts IV: The Bilingual Exorcism of PGM IV

    This post is the fourth in a mini-series about bilingual recipes in Egyptian and Greek from the 3rd/4th century papyrus codex PGM IV (Greek Magical Papyrus 4) – the “Bilingual Exorcism” (PGM IV. 1227-1264). This practice is written upon pages 28 and 29 of the codex and departs considerably from the other practices in this mini-series because it seems to derive from a Judaeo-Christian, rather than Pharaonic or Graeco-Egyptian, cultural context. This composite recipe features ritual instructions and invocations in the Greek language, as well as one section written in the Egyptian-Coptic language that makes use of an innovative Old Coptic script. Unlike the other Egyptian-Coptic language sections of the…

  • Old Coptic Magic

    An Introduction to Old Coptic

    As an offshoot to the mini-series of posts on “Old Coptic Magical Texts”, that is, magical texts featuring Egyptian text written in an Old Coptic script, this post provides a brief introduction to Old Coptic writing – at once the parent and sibling of standard Coptic writing. As implied by the name itself, Old Coptic writing is, in most cases, ‘older’ than standard Coptic writing. As such, it is often seen as a predecessor of Coptic writing. But this is only an accurate distinction when the different Old Coptic scripts are compared to the later, standardised, Coptic script. When Old Coptic scripts were first  developed, in the 1st century CE…

  • Old Coptic Magic

    Old Coptic Magical Texts III: The Bilingual Solar Divination through Boy Medium of PGM IV

    This post is the third in a mini-series about bilingual recipes in Egyptian and Greek from the 3rd/4th century papyrus codex PGM IV (Greek Magical Papyrus 4) – the “Bilingual Solar Divination through Boy Medium” (PGM IV. 88-93). This practice, inscribed upon page 5 of the codex, is paralleled among Demotic examples of divinations using boy mediums but here is attested in a bilingual Greek and Old Coptic text. Through bringing about the manifestation of a deity, the practitioner could ask the boy to ask the deity about anything that they wished to know. Although a relatively short recipe compared to those we have looked at earlier, the series of…