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    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…

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    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…

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    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…

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    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…

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    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…

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    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…

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    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…

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    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…

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    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…

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    Coptic Magical Papyri on the Road: Greek Curse Tablets of the Classical and Hellenistic Periods, Athens

    Last weekend (7-9 July 2019), I was fortunate enough to serve as a chair for the third conference in the series “Curses in Context”, organised by Christopher A. Faraone and Sofía Torallas Tovar of the University of Chicago at the Norwegian Institute at Athens. This fascinating conference series is aimed at understanding the material remains of curse rituals in the ancient Mediterranean – the short texts, usually written on lead, with which speakers of Greek, Latin, Aramaic, Coptic, and other languages tried to destroy their enemies and seduce potential lovers. These texts are particularly important for our knowledge of the ancient Mediterranean – not only because they are rich sources…