The word „characters” covers a number of different phenomena in the Middle Ages. It might refer to a list of incomprehensible signs and astrological symbols inscribed in a talismanic sigil, to a series of Latin letters used for magical purposes, and also to a written form of verbal incantation, a written charm. Characters were often used in... the field of talismanic or celestial magic in order to name spiritual beings. The paper reviews the use of characters in various medieval sources: textual amulets, necromantic manuals, texts on talismanic magic and the most famous medieval magical summary, the Picatrix.
There are two main methodological approaches in relation to the study of apotropaic magic in the Graeco-Roman world. An historicist one, focused on the formal description of the data and on tracing their possible origins; and a psychologist-functionalist one, which interprets the data as a psychological relief to the anxieties produced by the m...isfortunes of dailylife. I propose to explore here an aspect of apotropaic magic frequently overlooked: its mutual relation with the religion of the State, which creates a common syntactic framework but also tensions and conflicts.
This paper aims to assess the nature of magic and medicine in the extant fragment of the little-known Carmen de viribus herbarum (fr. 64 Heitsch), an anonymous didactic poem of considerable length (216 hexameters have been transmitted) from the third century CE. The Carmen, a poem concerned with the curative powers of som...e fifteen different plants, is an evident descendant of the didactic pharmacological verse tradition of Nicander of Colophon and the like, yet its method of composition, reusing large chunks of Homeric lines, is remarkable. What sets the Carmen apart from the tradition of didactic pharmacology, moreover, is its fascination with magic, a factor virtually absent from the Nicandrean legacy. Next to pharmacological knowledge it repeatedly discusses effective plants against ghosts, apparitions, and witches.
In Sophocles’ tragedies the interweaving of medicine, religion and magic produces a lot of meanings and concepts that show the complexity of the Greek thought of the Fifth century. In his tragedies, Sophocles shows his interest both in the magical and religious medicine and in the new Hippocratic medical science. The aim of this paper is to a...nalyze the conceptual and lexical intertwining that reflects this interest, focusing on the character of Oedipus. In fact, Oedipus is the hero who best embodies this duplicity. At the beginning of the drama he assumes a rational investigation method through which he tries to discover Laius’ murderer and then to heal Thebes from the plague that afflicts it. However, his responsibility emerges during the tragedy; Oedipus’ fault has divine origin and makes him the first cause of the evil of the city. In the Oedipus at Colonus, Oedipus’ body is released from the contamination that had made him the origin of the plague and the hero’s body turns into a sort of magic amulet to protect the polis that will guard it when he will be dead.
This study examines the practice of magic symbols in North Africa to find out whether there was a regional peculiarity in the use of charaktêres that distinguished this area from other parts of the Roman Empire. Two phenomena appear to be more common in North Africa, though they may also occur elsewhere: first, charaktêres as encrypted names,... and second, charaktêres as framing devices. First and foremost, though, some introductory remarks concerning charaktêres in general are made.
In the Ancient World illness was thought to be the effect not of accidental or natural causes, but rather the result of a negative agency, an external attack on the victim’s body. This paper focuses on the diverse strategies used in healing magic attested in the material and textual records from the ancient Near East to Late Antiquity, with s...pecial attention paid to how the cultural status of objects and substances was changed through ritual, a process that, along with the invocations of demons and gods, allowed objects to acquire agency to counterattack the harm inflicted on the victim’s body.
This paper will examine the old-woman healer figure through Greco-Roman literary sources. First, I will discuss briefly the social reputation of old women in comparison with senex and the creation of a negative stereotype around them. After that, I will focus on the triple relation between woman, old age, and medicine in order to...show the reputation of old women as skilled healers. Finally, I will analyse the use of different treatments close to magic, like enchantments and purifications, and the healings of some specific illnesses, such as love, to conclude with a brief overview of the political and social attitude towards them.
One of the features of the attitude of ancient societies towards the threats of everyday life was a close relationship between spiritual/magical and religious beliefs and the real actions aimed at overcoming dangers. This relationship is visible in the magical iconography of Ancient Egypt and other Ancient Near Eastern cultures – in the form...of demons, minor deities, and other benevolent supernatural beings that can protect people. Images of theses deities are sometimes accompanied by archaeological traces (holes for water, traces of rubbing, touching), indicating that images were also subjects of action. The question is how the magical and religious iconography meets the non-supernatural actions and how this custom could emerge in other parts of the Ancient world and in post-ancient times.
The paper examines hieroglyphs and magic signs resembling hieroglyphs attested in Greek and demotic magical texts.
This paper examines the different magical signs found in Jewish magical texts and artifacts in Antiquity and the Middle Ages. These include especially the Graeco-Egyptian “charaktêres” (ring-letters, Brillenbuchstaben), the Arabic “string letters” (or Siegel), and the Latin sigilla or figurae, to whi...ch one may add a few other types of magical signs. This paper surveys their appearance in Jewish magical texts of different times and places, and analyzes their function within the magical texts where they are found.
In 1911, Auguste Audollent received a lead tablet with a Latin inscription on both sides coming from North Africa. It was lying almost undetected and forgotten for nearly one hundred years until the Hungarian visiting professor György Németh rediscovered it in the storage room of the Musée Bargoin in Clermont-Ferrand, France. The recently fi...nished complete reading of the text and its commentary will be published soon by Gy. Németh and the author of the present paper. This article aims to consider all the word forms and phrases of the tablet which differ from the Latin standard in order to look for an answer if the target, the context and the sources can be identified with the help of linguistic tools.
A silver lamella was found in Aquincum (1927/28), in a burial site which could be easily dated to the latest Trajan or early Hadrian era, but it was published defectively, misread and misinterpreted. Several attempts at re-interpretation in the 1990s and 2000s succeeded only partially. The reading I propose contains distinct textual units begin...ning with characters (among them hieroglyphs), and a Coptic magical logos (παχνουφις). In my opinion, the phylacterion was meant to give protection in the next world, and the writer of the spell was well acquainted with the Egyptian magical traditions.
The Curae herbarum is a late antique medical recipe book made up of 64 chapters; it is mostly based on a Latin translation of the De materia medica by Dioscorides. Chapters 1–32 always end with a precatio to the plant so that it ‘comes with all its healing powers’. The article argues for an erudit...e origin for the precationes of the Curae herbarum, which borrow epithets, phraseology, and verbs of entreaty from the Precatio Terrae and the Precatio omnium herbarum. Moreover, the study of internal references in the precationes demonstrates that they were written with the intention of being placed before the medical recipes, but, for unknown reasons, were instead copied at the end of the chapters without ever occupying the place they were intended for.
This article examines a previously unpublished gold lamella of unknown provenance, datable on palaeographical grounds to the 1st century BCE, give-or-take a half century, either side. The tablet preserves three words written in Greek letters that may contain a GrecoPersian formula of protection in the afterlife for its bearer, Abalala,... a name of pre-Islamic extraction. The study compares the formula with those on a number of shorter ‘Orphic’ gold lamellae to show that the tiny piece represents a ‘Totenpaß’ for the beneficent dead, rather than a protective charm (phylactery) with the usual voces magicae, although the distinction between magic words and meaningful text is not always clear in such instances.
The article tries to reconstruct the inscription of a magical gem found in 1883 in Torontál which went lost by now. For this reconstructive work I used other gem inscriptions and also other magical papyri and lead tablets in order to compare the two types of texts. The inscription contains the Soroor-logos and the Gigantorekta barophita-logos...as well. The gem and the inscription together were used for the protection of the uterus.
For the Greeks, the peony plant had exceptional properties. It was used for many medicinal remedies. The most frequent were gynecological, nervous and mental diseases (insanity), as well as other minor, varied uses. This plant becomes visible at night when the moonlight falls on it. For this reason, it soon became associated with astrological...and magical superstitions. These beliefs passed into the Latin world. It appears in herbaria and in medical treatises. In the Middle Ages it was still a plant frequently used in rural areas.