Magic played an important role for centuries in ancient Egypt, and represented a central tenet of religion and everyday life. Magical texts worked to alter the world’s order by using a series of formula and symbols. There were many spells that could be invoked, each with their own purpose. Love-binding spells, wishes for victory and success, and charms for protection and healing are particularly well attested in surviving sources.
This papyrus was made in Egypt between the fourth and fifth century and contains a magical text written in ancient Greek. It is an invocation to the Egyptian deity Bainchooch (‘spirit of darkness’), headed by the phrase ‘I shall give you rest from wrath and soothe your raging’. The text tells the reader to write an inscription on the back of a thin sheet of metal (lamella), which will subjugate them and control their will. The name of this person must be written on the front of the lamella.
The back of the papyrus contains a drawing featuring two figures. The figure on the left-hand side represents a deity, holding the ankh, the Egyptian symbol of life.
- Article by:
- Cillian O’Hogan
- The makers of Greek manuscripts, Papyri
What did books look like in antiquity? In this article, Cillian O’Hogan tells how ancient books were made, and traces the process by which the bookroll was replaced by the codex.