• 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…

  • 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…

  • 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…

  • 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…