Introduction to Ancient Magic Signs

Concise Introduction Ancient Magic Signs

The book will be available in December 2020.

About the Book

The earliest attestations for the use of magic signs date back to the late first century CE. Only about a hundred years later they are spread over the Roman Empire. The signs occur on amulets, curse tablets, gold and silver tablets, gem stones, instruments and many other artefacts. A much wider range of their use is transmitted in ancient ritual manuals, mainly the Greek, Coptic and Demotic manuals. The making and use of over 300 inscribed artefacts is preserved in these manuals, 50 of which depict magic signs. A third source is provided by the literary record.

The number of individual sign types reaches into the thousands, they are attested on more than 1.000 ancient artefacts. Yet until recently no substantial research had been conducted to compile and analyse these tremendous sources systematically. The first comprehensive research project concerning ancient magic signs has been conducted by the author, funded by the German Research foundation for a period of three years.

This introduction provides for the first time a concise overview of ancient magic signs for a broader audience, including overviews of the three major sources: artefacts, manuals and literature, an overview of the different types of signs, their ritual contexts (health, protection, love …), and the beliefs underlying their applications. The time span comprises the first seven centuries, the geographical scope is mainly determined by the borders of the Roman Empire and included are the Latin, Greek, Demotic and Coptic sources.

The overviews are illustrated by examples, step by step readings of selected artefacts and ritual instructions, and a comprehensive compilation of online as well as offline resources for further reading.


Keywords: Magical signs, Magical artefacts, Ancient Magic, Late Antiquity

Table of Contents

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