• Greek Magic

    Tantalus amulets: Image, word and body

    In today’s blog post, we are going to take a break from Coptic sources, and we will focus on Greek magical gemstones. Several thousand engraved magical gemstones have been discovered, with the peak of production in the second and third centuries CE, although they had already been in use for centuries by that time, and would continue to be used for hundreds of years after. Although their origin is generally unknown, it is assumed that they were produced somewhere in the eastern Mediterranean area; they combine Egyptian and Greek elements, together with Hebrew or Babylonian influences. The script is generally Greek, but the deities or symbols depicted are often Egyptian…

  • 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…