• News

    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…

  • 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…

  • 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…

  • 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…

  • Old Coptic Magic

    Old Coptic Magic II: The Bilingual Divination of PGM IV

    This post is the second 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 ritual on pages 4 and 5 (PGM IV. 52-87) of the codex features a series of ritual instructions in Greek and invocations in Egyptian in a complex composite recipe for bringing about a theophany – the manifestation of a deity. This kind of recipe appears very often in the Greek and Demotic magical texts, and we saw another example from this same codex in the last post in this series. In the Greek-language ritual instructions that begin this composite recipe, the practitioner…

  • News

    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…

  • News

    Coptic Magical Papyri on the Road: Deciphering the Uncertain (Oxford, 24-25 June, 2019)

    Conference season continued for our project with “Deciphering the Uncertain”, a two-day conference hosted by The University of Oxford China Centre. Organised by two Doctor of Philosophy Candidates at the University of Oxford, Flaminia Pischedda (Oriental Studies (Chinese)) and Domenico Giordani (Classics), the conference aimed to present a comprehensive, comparative appraisal of the structural features underpinning the universal human concern of uncertainty in “Early Text Cultures”. Ambitious in scope and execution, the conference featured panels on Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Israel, Pre-Islamic Arabia, China, Japan, India, Central Europe, and Eastern Europe and Russia. The practices that were compared and contrasted across all these regions were those typically called…

  • News

    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…

  • Old Coptic Magic

    The Bilingual Direct-Vision of PGM IV

    This post is the first in a mini-series about bilingual recipes written in Coptic-Egyptian and Greek from a codex of magical texts dating to the end of 3rd or early 4th century CE – the “Great Magical Papyrus of Paris”, also known as PGM IV (Greek Magical Papyrus 4). The codex contains 72 pages, 66 of which are inscribed with a total of 3,274 lines of text. PGM IV is therefore the lengthiest of all the magical handbooks preserved from antiquity, roughly the dimensions of the average travel guide. The texts from PGM IV considered in this mini-series are among the earliest evidence for magical texts in Coptic. These recipes…