• 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…

  • News

    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…

  • 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…

  • 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…

  • 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…

  • 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…

  • News

    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…

  • 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…

  • 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…