• News

    Names of Thrones: Koptische Überlieferungen zu den 24 Presbytern der Johannes-Apokalypse

    Am 6. Februar 2020 begrüßen wir unseren dritten und letzten Gast des Semesters in der Seminarreihe Magic and Religion in Coptic Textual Culture am Lehrstuhl für Ägyptologie Würzburg, gefördert vom Universitätsbund. Prof. Dr. Sebastian Richter ist Professor für Ägyptologie mit dem Schwerpunkt Koptologie am Ägyptologischen Seminar der Freien Universität Berlin und Akademieprofessor der Berlin-Brandenburgischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. In der Vision des Gottesthrons in Kap. 4-5 der neutestamentlichen Offenbarung des Johannes figurieren “24 Älteste (presbyteroi)”. Wie so viele Details des Throns und seiner Entourage, so hat auch das Motiv der Ältesten seine Wurzeln in jüdischen Überlieferungen. Und wie zahlreiche Motive aus dem Bilderschatz der Johannes-Apokalypse, so hat auch das jener 24…

  • 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…

  • 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…

  • News

    Blutrache, Kontroverse, und gnostische Schriften: Die Nag Hammadi Bibliothek

    Am 16. Januar 2020 begrüßen wir unseren zweiten Gast in der Seminarreihe Magic and Religion in Coptic Textual Culture am Lehrstuhl für Ägyptologie Würzburg, gefördert vom Universitätsbund. Herr Dr. Dylan Burns ist Dienststellenleiter für das Projekt “Database and Dictionary of Greek Loanwords in Coptic” an der Freien Universität Berlin, co-Herausgeber von Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies und führender Spezialist für Gnostizismus. Geheimwörte eines verheirateten Jesus, ein beschimpfteter Weltschöpfer—kein Wunder, dann, dass die koptische gnostische Bibliothek aus Nag Hammadi (Oberägypten) kontroversvoll gewesen ist. Doch geht der jüngste Kontroverse in Nag Hammadi-Studien nicht um Gnosis oder Gnostizismus, um negative Darstellung des jüdischen Gottes oder umstrittene Datierungen der Geheimwörter des Jesus, sondern um…

  • Looking at the Coptic Magical Papyri

    Looking at the Coptic Magical Papyri XII: Coptic Dialects

    There is a famous story told by the English printer William Caxton in the introduction to his 1490 edition of the Aeneid, about a group of merchants headed from London to Denmark who stopped along the way at a woman’s house to see if they could get something to eat. One of them, from the North of England, asked if she had any eggs, and she replied that she didn’t speak French, something that must have confused them both, until one of his companions stepped in and told the woman that he wanted eyren. The woman was as English as the merchant, but the problem was caused by a difference…

  • 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…

  • Looking at the Coptic Magical Papyri

    Looking at the Coptic Magical Papyri XI: Magic between Languages

    The previous post in this series introduced the different languages used to write magical texts in Egypt from the second to twelfth centuries CE – Demotic, Greek, Coptic – and discussed their changing usage. In the second and third centuries most magical texts were written in Greek or Demotic, while Greek alone dominated in the fourth century. Greek was then replaced by Coptic from the fifth century, and Coptic itself began to decline in the tenth, as Egyptians increasingly began to speak and write Arabic instead of Coptic. But throughout this period, many Egyptians would have been able to speak, and even read, more than one language, and this is…

  • 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…

  • Looking at the Coptic Magical Papyri

    Looking at the Coptic Magical Papyri X: Egyptian Languages

    One of the most interesting, and most studied, aspects of life in Graeco-Roman and Mediaeval Egypt is the phenomenon of multilingualism. In the 21st century, the vast majority of nation states have a single official or dominant language, and so many of us expect that the same language will be used in almost every context – in the home and at work, in places of worship, and when dealing with the government and legal system. But from a historical, and cross-cultural perspective, this is an unusual situation. More than half of the world’s present inhabitants speak more than one language, which they may use every day in at least one…

  • 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…