Saturday, September 18, 2010

More on Bible Lands Museum Jewish magic exhibit

A walk through the subconscious

The exhibition 'Angels and Demons' at the Bible Lands Museum focuses on the rich history of sorcery in Judaism.

By Benny Ziffer (Haaretz)

There has been a sort of exorcism going on in the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem over the past few months. An exhibit called "Angels and Demons" - curated by gifted Assyriologist Filip Vukosavovic, whose life story would make a great novel - tells the story of this young Montenegrin's love for Israel and his decision to join his fate to that of Jerusalem, by researching incantations and amulets related to Jewish tradition.

The exhibit displays the entire history of Jewish magic, from the early Middle Ages onward, in the form of objects, some of which you wouldn't suspect of being useful for sorcery if it weren't for the explanations provided. These items embody humanity's fears, past and present, in the face of danger. A seemingly shapeless lump of clay turns out to be a little sculpture of a person with its hands and feet tied, signifying the desire of its owner to symbolically bind evil so it won't harm him. And there are angels for all seasons, whose names are no less strange than the powers attributed to them. Their role? To defend people in difficult times, whether from the evil eye, bad health or other problems.

Nice article, but I think he means "unconscious." (The text of the article also uses "subconscious," so it's not an editor's error.) Also, "sorcery" is usually reserved for offensive magic that aims to harm another person. Most of the magic discussed here does not seem to come under that category.