• News

    Coptic Magical Papyri on the Road: Colloque GIS Religions, Lyon (8-10 October 2019)

    From the 8th to the 10th October 2019, GIS Religions: pratiques, textes, pouvoirs (“Scientific Interest Group, Religions: Practices, Texts, Powers”) organised a conference in Lyon focusing on the theme of “tradition”, a key concept in past and present understandings of, and debates about, religion and religious practices. Within this large conference, two panels focused on the theme of “magic”, and its relationship to tradition. Organised by Nicole Belayche (EPHE, PSL / AnHiMA) and Thomas Galoppin (ERC MAP Toulouse, ERASME / associé AnHiMA), the first panel was centered on the questions of the transmission of ritual knowledge, and how this served to establish or claim authority, while the second explored the…

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    The Apocalypse of Paul (Visio Pauli): The Riddle of the Coptic Text

    Over the next few months we will be running a seminar series entitled Magic and Religion in Coptic Textual Culture at the Department of Egyptology of Würzburg, inviting specialists in this field to discuss their research. Funded by the University of Würzburg Universitätsbund, our first guest will be Jacques van der Vliet of the University of Leiden, who will be speaking on the 28th November 2019. His topic is the Coptic Apocalypse of Paul. The Apocalypse of Paul or Visio Pauli (CANT 325) is one of the most fascinating and influential apocryphal texts from Late Antiquity. Translated into practically all languages of the Christian world, it profoundly shaped the medieval imagination of Heaven and Hell, up to and including…

  • Looking at the Coptic Magical Papyri

    Looking at the Coptic Magical Papyri VIII: Changes in Manuscript Formats

    In last week’s post we discussed the four major formats used in Coptic magical formularies – the roll, the codex, the rotulus, and the sheet. As we noted, the roll was the original form of the book, a long horizontal sheet of papyrus written with a series of vertical columns, while the smaller sheet was a smaller piece of papyrus with a single column used for short texts, such as notes. But the period which saw the appearance of Coptic-language magic – the fourth to fifth centuries – was also a period of transformation in writing technology, as the predominant format shifted from roll to codex. This change is an…

  • Looking at the Coptic Magical Papyri

    Looking at the Coptic Magical Papyri VII: Manuscript Formats

    In the last blog post in this series, we looked at the different materials upon which magical texts might be written – from papyrus sheets to lead tablets, and from parchment to animal bones. In this post we’ll look at the different ways that these raw materials could be turned into manuscripts which could be written upon, while in the next we’ll look at the ways in which the use of these formats changed over time. These two posts will discuss some of the material presented by Korshi Dosoo and Sofía Torallas Tovar at the 29th International Congress of Papyrology in July of this year, but it will leave aside…

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    2019 Review: One Year of the Coptic Magical Papyri Project

    It’s hard to believe it, but a whole year has now passed since the three members of our project first sat around a table in Würzburg and began to talk about our new project on Coptic magic. In this post, we’ll discuss some of our achievements so far, and what we have coming up in the next year. The Kyprianos Database Our biggest achievement so far is the Kyprianos database, which we’re already using as a work tool in our study of ancient magic.  The core of the database consists of the Coptic magical manuscripts. We began with two pre-existing lists of texts, one created by Franziska Naether for Trismegistos…

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    Coptic Magical Papyri on the Road: The 29th International Congress of Papyrology, Università del Salento, Lecce, 28 July-3 August 2019

    This year’s summer conference season ended with the International Congress of Papyrology, one of the largest events in our field, with over 400 attendees visiting the city of Lecce in the sunny south of Italy. As usual, we will only discuss the papers touching on ancient magic here, but the range of topics was very diverse, touching on subjects from the economics of Ptolemaic Egypt to newly discovered ancient novels, and the future of the discipline of papyrology, and the abstracts for the other talks can be found on the conference website. Andrew T. Wilburn (Oberlin College, Ohio) presented a fascinating paper looking at the relationship between magical texts from…

  • Religion in the Coptic Magical Papyri

    Religion in the Coptic Magical Papyri

    This ten-part series gives an overview of Egyptian religious and social change from the first to thirteenth centuries CE, looking at some of the ways that these changes are reflected in Coptic magical texts. I: “Paganism” and Christianity II: Greek Gods in Coptic Magic III: Manichaeans and Magic IV: Sethian Gnosticism and Magical Texts V: Magic and Gnostic Ritual VI: Christianity and Magic VII: Monks and Magic VIII: The Bible and Magic IX: Judaism and Coptic Magic X: Islam and Coptic Magic

  • Religion in the Coptic Magical Papyri

    Religion in the Coptic Magical Papyri X: Islam and Coptic Magic

    The inhabitants of the Arabian peninsula have a long history with their neighbours in the land of Egypt. Herodotus tells us about a garrison of Arab soldiers stationed at Elephantine in southern Egypt, a claim perhaps confirmed by Arab names in fifth-century BCE papyri from the city. Arabs later appear in Ptolemaic and Roman papyri in professions as diverse as barber, farmer, and gymnasiarch (magistrate of a culturally-Greek city). But Egypt’s relationship to the Arab peoples was transformed with the development of Islam in the early seventh century CE, as the Prophet Muhammad (ca. 570-632) forged a new state in the Arabian Peninsula, founded upon a monotheistic religion which understood…

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    Coptic Magical Papyri on the Road: 7th Biannual Conference of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism (Amsterdam, 2-4 July 2019)

    With conference season still in full swing, last week saw the seventh biannual conference of ESSWE – the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism – in Amsterdam. This was an incredibly diverse conference, with papers on fields ranging from Christian Kabbalah to spiritual cinema, and from the anthropology of modern New Age practices to the second sight in Victorian Scotland. Over a hundred talks in all, they were bound together by a set of common themes – consciousness, altered states, and extraordinary experiences. Here we will only be able to summarise very briefly the papers which discussed topics related to the ancient Mediterranean, but for those who would…

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    Coptic Magical Papyri on the Road: The 19th Conference of the Association Francophone de Coptologie (Ottawa, 19-22 June, 2019)

    Northern-hemisphere summer is typically conference season in our field, and the conferences continued last week with the meeting of the Francophone Coptology Association (Association Francophone de Coptologie, or AFC) in Ottawa, Canada. Founded in 1982, the AFC is one of the world’s largest membership organisations for Coptic studies. French-speaking scholars have long been interested in Coptic – Jean-François Champollion, who deciphered hieroglyphs in the 1820s, claimed in a letter to have studied the language so much that he dreamed in Coptic, and the tradition of French-language scholarship, in countries such as Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, and of course, France, has remained vital to the present day. The topics covered in the…