• 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…

  • Looking at the Coptic Magical Papyri

    Looking at the Coptic Magical Papyri IX: Magical Archives

    In the past posts in this series, we’ve looked at individual manuscripts – how to classify them, where and when they come from, what they were made from, and the forms that they took. But individual manuscripts are only part of the story, so this week we’ll introduce the concept of archives, groups of manuscripts which give us more information than individual manuscripts would on their own. In papyrology an “archive” is a group of documents which were brought together by a historical individual for a specific purpose. Sometimes these are libraries – books which someone might have collected and purchased because they wanted to read them; sometimes they are…

  • 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…