This fourth- or fifth-century papyrus, overall well preserved, is one of the Greek magical papyri from the British Library collections. It contains two spells. The first occupies one column and a half, and bears the title ‘binding spell of Astrampsychus’. Astrampsychus was a magician and wise man to whom an oracle book is also attributed. The spell includes an invocation to the Greek god Hermes, praised in all his skills and qualities, to assist, protect and grant prosperity and victory to the person calling on him. The spell is followed by a set of instructions with formulas that will ensure prosperity in business.
The second spell is a request for a dream oracle of Besas (Bes), an Egyptian protector deity. It begins with directions on how to draw Besas and includes an example of the figure presented below: as described later in the text, the figure must be a naked man standing, wearing a diadem, and holding a sword and a wand. To obtain the dream oracle, the inquirer, having drawn Besas on his left hand, must wear a black cloth, and go straight to sleep. The components of the ink used for the drawing are accurately described, followed by a prayer that should be recited towards the setting sun. A further set of instructions is included for those who wish to have a direct vision from the deity.
- Article by:
- Cillian O’Hogan
- Papyri, The makers of Greek manuscripts
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.