Tuesday, August 23, 2016

On ancient magic

NEWS YOU CAN USE: A Guide to Ancient Magic. In antiquity, love or revenge was just a spell away (Erin Blakemore, SMITHSONIAN.COM).
Call it a happy accident: When a group of Serbian archaeologists recently uncovered a cache of 2,000-year-old skeletons, they unearthed a set of mysterious scrolls covered with Aramaic curses, too. As Reuters reports, the tiny scrolls were contained in what are thought to be ancient amulets and are covered with spells used in “binding magic” rituals of yore.
No, the curses were not in Aramaic, unless you count the word Abracadabra as Aramaic as well.
While the archaeologists work to decipher the scrolls (a process that could never be complete), why not take a moment to catch up on what historians already know about ancient magical rituals?
What follows is not a bad overview of ancient Hellenistic- and Roman-era magic, although it focuses on epigraphic texts and neglects more substantial manuscript discoveries, most notably the Greco-Egyptian Greek Magical Papyri.

There's more on the Serbian amulets here and links.