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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…

  • Looking at the Coptic Magical Papyri

    Looking at the Coptic Magical Papyri III: Boundary-Crossing Texts

    Our last post in this series established two categories of magical manuscripts – formularies, which contain magical recipes, and applied texts, created in the process of magical rituals and embodying their power. We deliberately chose a very clear example to illustrate this division, but in many cases the line between the two is not so obvious. This week we’ll look at a few confusing examples of magical objects which show features of both formularies and applied texts. In most cases, these texts are ambiguous because they show features that we would consider typical of both categories of manuscript. P. mag. copt. Saqqara hypogees F17.10, a small piece of paper with…

  • Looking at the Coptic Magical Papyri

    Looking at the Coptic Magical Papyri II: Formularies and Applied Texts

    Once we have defined magical texts, the next thing we need to do is categorise them. This week we’ll discuss one of the major divisions we use to classify magical papyri – their separation into formularies and applied texts. The distinction is fairly simple: formularies – also called handbooks or grimoires – contain one or more recipes for performing rituals. By contrast, applied or activated texts are objects – such as amulets or curse tablets – created in the course of these magical rituals. One way of understanding this distinction is by thinking about the process of performing a ritual. Before an individual could carried out a magical ritual, they…