Thursday, 3 May 2012

Greek Magical Papyri

I was so much happy and excited when I got to know about such ancient text as "Greek Magical Papyri" (Papyri Graecae magicae). It eventually gives and answer on the question about practice of magic in ancient Greece and Hellenic countries as well as it gives us first magical instructions in a written form. I have also found that there is not much information in the internet about it and moreover, not so many images of it though I found some and I hope they are genuine.
"Greek magical papyri" is the name given by scholars to a body of papyri from Graeco-Roman Egypt, which each contain a number of magical spells, formulae, hymns and rituals. The  materials in the papyri date from 2nd century BC to the 5th century AD. The manuscripts came to light through the antiquities tarde, from the 18th century onwards. One of the best known of these texts is the so-called Mithras Liturgy (Wiki).
I must say that the papyri has a very strange look, it has not only script in it but some pictures too and I would like to know the reason. It looks more like some kids' drawing to me as well.

Greek magical papyri sheet
I found the text of "Greek magical papyri" here. So what is the content of this papyri. Mainly the texts included in it are :
  • instructions for magical rituals
  • different magical spells
  • guidance on how to deal with demons
  • formulae
  • curses
  • hymns
and other miscellaneous.
The text of "Greek magical papyri" contains references to various gods and demons, Greek, Egyptian and Jewish. In "Papyri graecae magicae III. 1-59" are found names of Hermes, Hekate (papyri spelling), Hermekate (perhaps merging of Hermes and Hekate) and some Meliouchos. In another papyri IV.4-25 there are names of Egyptian and Jewish gods: Osiris, Anubis, Thoth, Sabaoth. Also Zeus is mentioned there. Moreover, angles are also met in the text.
As I had said above there were images in the papyri too. I consider them to be images of Gods or demons with the spells written in the borders of their body.
Greek magical papyri sheet
 The "Greek magical papyri in translation Including the demotic spell, Second edition" book  explains pretty well the origin, history of discovery and the meaning of "Greek magical papyri". The author of the "Introduction to the Greek magical papyri" Hans Dieter Betz says that beside the insight into syncretism of Greek, Egyptian, Jewish and even Babylonian ancient religions, the papyri also "provides many insights into the phenomenon of magician as a religious functionary(...) Some of the magicians writing and using the spells may have been associated with temples of Egyptian and Greek deities".
The author had good words about the meaning of magic in the time of papyri creation: " In a transitional culture like Graeco-Roman Egypt, a religious functionary who operated as a crisis manager became a necessity to the lives of ordinary people. This role the magician was bale to fulfill". This is what I was saying about the origin of magic   , that it appeared as a support for those who needed it, and the person who performed had a special knowledge, so that he or she could communicate with the world of demons and dead.
Papyri is an amazing written source for the study of magical knowledge in ancient times and we also shall value it as any other opportunity to get a little bit closer to the understanding of how our ancestors lived.  

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