• Podcast

    Podcast #3: Koptische Magie und Alchemie mit Sebastian Richter

    In our third podcast episode – recorded this time in German – we sat down with Professor Sebastian Richter from the Free University of Berlin, expert on Coptic language and papyrology to discuss, among other topics, the possible relationship between Coptic magical and alchemical texts. What did alchemy mean in the context of Byzantine and Islamic Egypt? What alchemical processes do the manuscripts edited by Professor Richter uncover, and who wrote them? Listen and enjoy! In unserem dritten Podcast – ausnahmsweise in deutscher Sprache aufgenommen – haben wir uns mit Prof. Sebastian Richter von der Freien Universität Berlin zusammengesetzt, um die mögliche Beziehung zwischen koptischen magischen und alchemistischen Texten zu…

  • Podcast

    Podcast #2: Coptic Magic and Gnosticism with Dylan Burns

    In our second podcast episode, we discuss the relationship between magic and Gnosticism with the scholar Dylan Burns, expert on the topic. What is Gnosticism? Is there a connection between Coptic magical texts and Gnostic texts? How does Dylan Burns perceive contemporary academia? Please, have patience with these lower quality podcasts before we figure out a way of increasing the audio quality. Thank you! You can listen to our podcast here, or you can find it on Spotify, Stitcher and Podcast Addict. Our podcast is available on iTunes as well. A link to the podcast is also on the sidebar, on the right.

  • Podcast

    Podcast #1: Coptic Magic with Jacques van der Vliet

    In the first podcast episode, created by the Coptic Magical Papyri project based at the University of Würzburg, Germany, we discuss ancient magic with professor Jacques van der Vliet of the University of Leiden, an expert on Coptic manuscripts, Gnosticism and ancient magic. Who was the ancient magician? What were his magical practices? You can listen to our podcast here, or you can find it on Spotify, Stitcher and Podcast Addict. Our podcast will be coming soon on iTunes as well. A link to the podcast is also on the sidebar, on the right.

  • Case Study

    Bricks of birth: “The names of the three bricks upon which Mary gave birth”

    The National Library in Vienna houses a unique document – a fragmentary sheet of paper from the 11th century CE Vienna Nationalbibliothek K 10335 Pap, containing the following short magical text:  “The names of the three bricks upon which Mary gave birth: Akramak, Ouaramak, Akr…”  Why is this text so interesting? It seems to attest to the use of birth bricks in 11th century Egypt, and their association in Egyptian Christianity with the birth of Jesus. The tradition of using birth bricks is attested in pharaonic Egypt in two different contexts – in the funerary domain, and in the domain of childbirth. In 2001, the American Egyptologist Josef Wegner discovered…

  • News

    Coptic Magical Papyri on the Road: Bodily fluids in Egypt and the Middle East Conference in Montpellier (5-7 September 2019)

    Last week, we had the chance to participate at what some of the attendees called a “revolutionary” conference on bodily fluids in sunny Montpellier. Marginal topics, especially touching upon the anthropology of the body, have not been the focus of events and publications up until the very recent years. The attendance was high, with many academics coming from France, Germany, Italy, or the United States. The topic of the body and its fluids is certainly gaining in popularity in the last few years, with many monographs, PhD theses and articles written on this issue. Therefore, it did make sense for the researchers to come together to discuss the matter. As…

  • Theory of Magic

    Anthropology of Magic IV: Lévi-Strauss on Magic

    In this week’s post, we are going to explore the famous article by Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908-2009) “The Sorcerer and His Magic” which appeared in 1963, and is still a classic study for anyone interested in healing rituals. The question we are trying to find an answer to in our research on Coptic magic is whether and how we can reconstruct ritual practices when many pieces of the puzzle are missing. How could Lévi-Strauss’s analysis of indigenous North American thought be useful for us? Lévi-Strauss was an influential French anthropologist and one of the founders of structural anthropology. Among his most important works are Mythologiques I-IV, an important study of mythologies…

  • News

    Coptic Magical Papyri on the Road: Concepts of Humans and Nature between Specificity and Universality. Conference, Mainz, 15-17 July, 2019

    The Research Training Group 1876 “Early Concepts of Humans and Nature: Universal, Specific, Interchanged” welcomed over 30 speakers and 4 poster-creators to the Johannes Gutenberg-University in Mainz in the middle of July. This research training group, based at the same university, explores concepts of humans and nature intra-culturally and also trans-culturally, with textual, iconic and material sources being their starting point. The group also regularly update their blog, where their activities can be followed. The aim of the conference was to attempt to find universal, cross-cultural basic patterns of humans and nature and their specific implementations in various early societies. The conference was divided into 3 panels: (1) on the…

  • News

    Coptic Magical Papyri on the Road: The Language of Magic Conference, Pescara

    At the end of May 2019, the International Society for Folk Narrative Research (ISFNR) committee on “Charms, Charmers and Charming” organised the 12th annual interdisciplinary conference in Pescara, Italy. What was the topic? The language of magic. As this is a subject very important for our project, we decided to participate as well, particularly to hear what other academics have to say on the matter. The event was hosted by the D’Annunzio University of Chieti–Pescara. Pescara is a coastal city and the capital of the Abruzzo region. The settlement predates the Roman conquest and one of the most important historical figures was the 6th century bishop Cetteus, who is also…

  • Greek Magic

    Tantalus amulets: Image, word and body

    In today’s blog post, we are going to take a break from Coptic sources, and we will focus on Greek magical gemstones. Several thousand engraved magical gemstones have been discovered, with the peak of production in the second and third centuries CE, although they had already been in use for centuries by that time, and would continue to be used for hundreds of years after. Although their origin is generally unknown, it is assumed that they were produced somewhere in the eastern Mediterranean area; they combine Egyptian and Greek elements, together with Hebrew or Babylonian influences. The script is generally Greek, but the deities or symbols depicted are often Egyptian…

  • Theory of Magic

    Anthropology of Magic III: Superstitions in Antiquity and Today – Nothing Has Changed

    Even those who consider themselves to be “rational” sometimes slip and fall into the pit of superstition. Some of us, however, happily dwell in it. Nonetheless, calling a particular belief a “superstition” can have terrible, even life-threatening, consequences. One who believes in what others may call superstition, generally takes it seriously and does not consider it some “erroneous belief”, but a matter-of-fact. The Merriam-Webster gives two definitions of superstition: “(1) a belief or practice resulting from ignorance (…) and (2) an irrational abject attitude of mind toward the supernatural, nature, or God resulting from superstition.” A contemplation of this emotionally burdened term is called for, due to the two, starkly…