Launching GEMF vol.I

Choosing Tuesday 13th to launch this book is no coincidence: we are talking about the first volume of Greek and Egyptian Magical Formularies (GEMF). This volume, the first in a series of two, is the result of many years of work by a large international team of experts (papyrologists, Greek philologists, Demotic experts, historians of religions, etc.) coordinated by Sofia Torallas and Christopher A. Faraone (University of Chicago). This research work, developed under the auspices of the Project Transmission of Magical Knowledge in Antiquity: The Papyrus Magical Handbooks in Context, aims to offer the public a new vision of the great Greco-Egyptian magical handbooks. This volume is, therefore, the first tangible output of this project.

This new edition, in which we have tried to be as faithful as possible to the text and appearance of these papyri in their manuscript version, includes the Demotic and Coptic texts, and is accompanied by a critical apparatus and a new annotated translation. Through these notes we have sought to provide users with the information and tools necessary to understand some aspects of the complex world of these texts. Each papyrus also has its own introduction, in which aspects of the form, content, history and preservation of each piece are discussed. Our aim with this work, which will soon be followed by a second volume of texts, is to make available to the general and specialist public a reference edition for the study of these testimonies of the ancient (magical) ritual practice.

Tuesday’s presentation took place in the cosy setting of the Fundación Pastor de Estudios Clásicos (Madrid) and was held by Sofía Torallas Tovar (PI of the project, chief editor and professor at the University of Chicago), Alberto Nodar Domínguez (Pompeu Fabra University; papyrologist and expert in palaeographical issues); Raquel Martín Hernández (University Complutense of Madrid, responsible for editing the images and paratextual elements of the papyri) and myself, as editor of one of the pieces. We would like to thank all the friends, family and colleagues who came to the event for the friendly atmosphere in the auditorium.

 

 

Black Inks in Late Antiquity: a Case Study from the Greek Magical Papyri

From 25 to 30 July 2022 the 30th International Congress of Papyrology took place in Paris at the College de France. Every three years, this congress brings together papyrologists from all over the world to share their research and work.

In this context, I have presented a sample of a research project that I would like to develop over the next few months: the study of recipes for the preparation of historical inks from Greco-Roman Egypt.

There are many testimonies of recipes for the preparation of inks that have come down to us from the ancient world.

Their study may seem trivial, because in our current culture we have normalised the act of writing, but the story of ink is the story of a technological invention that revolutionised writing and, with it, the transmission of ideas, our ability to communicate and the preservation of knowledge. The so-called Greek magical papyri (papyri that transmit ritual practices of a non-normative nature) contain several recipes for preparing inks. In this paper (“The Carbon Inks of the Greek Magical Papyri: in search of technical patterns”) I focused on a single case study with the intention of demonstrating two arguments: first, that beneath the apparent diversity of the recipes, some are traceable to the very same method; second, that some of these ritual inks are -as in the case study- ordinary inks adapted to a ritual use.

Continue reading

Heirs of Egypt

Egyptian elements in Greek magical hymns

Although the surviving magical hymns are written in Greek and contain many elements in terms of form and content that link them to the Greek hymnic and poetic tradition, there are also many aspects of these compositions that do not come from the Greek world, but have Egyptian origins. In this paper, and taking advantage of the wonderful opportunity given to me by Professor José Ramón Pérez-Accino to participate in the V Encuentro de Egiptología Complutense (EEC5, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, 30-31 May 2022), I wanted to reflect on some of these aspects.

Magical papyri… fresh off the press!

Faraone, Ch.- Torallas Tovar, S. (eds.), Greek and Egyptian Magical Formularies. Edition, translation and commentary. Vol. I. California Classical Studies, 2022.

Faraone, Ch.- Torallas Tovar, S. (eds.), Greek and Egyptian Magical Formularies. Edition, translation and commentary. Vol. I. California Classical Studies, 2022.

The magical formularies on papyrus are precious witnesses to practices and processes of cultural transmission: i.e. the creation, communication, transformation and preservation of knowledge, both in text and image, across history and between the cultures of Egypt and Greece. More than eighty such handbooks survive, some of them in a fragmentary state. Our book, the work of an international team of papyrologists and historians of magic, replaces Papyri graecae magicae edited by K. Preisendanz, which appeared almost a century ago and has been used as one of the most important sources for the study of Greek magic, augmented in the 1990s by the excellent work of R. Daniel and F. Maltomini, the Supplementum Magicum. Our project has collected all the known magical formularies and fully studied both their materiality and their texts.  The facing English translation with notes replaces The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation, edited by H.D. Betz.  This volume, the first of two, presents the earliest of the handbooks, fifty-four in all, spanning the period from second century BCE to third century CE, in a new edition which includes the original texts in the three languages (Greek, Demotic, Coptic) with a full material description and a facing translation with commentary.

I cannot add anything, except that it is a great honour and pleasure to be part of this team and to finally see published the first volume of this project, in which I have been part of the editorial team of GEMF 30 (the former PGM VI + II).

 

Hymns to (en)chant to the gods

In a 1991 article, Fritz Graf tried to dismantle the view of magic as a ritual field dominated by coercion and alien to persuasion. Already Plato insists that magicians, in addition to casting spells, know how to “persuade the gods.” Graf, who was later followed by many other researchers, added his contribution to the discussion on the existence (or not) of a distinction between magic and religion by means of a practical exercise: the analysis of some magical logoi that are indistinguishable from a literary-religious hymn in terms of form and content. Well, among the logoi used in magical practices, this feature is particularly striking in connection with a specific set of compositions: the hymns of the Apollonian sphere.  I devoted my doctoral dissertation to them (Edición y comentario de los himnos a Apolo, Helio y el Dios Supremo de los papiros mágicos griegos, 2017) and this brief paper within the colloqium El género hímnico: desde el lejano Oriente hasta el Oriente grecorromano (University Complutense of Madrid, 20th-21st January, 2022).

Continue reading

Amor, loco y embrujado

‘Crazy love’ is not just the name of a song. It is a very old idea and well rooted in our culture today. In this paper, I discussed about love understood as a form of mania (‘madness’), the Greco-Latin roots of this idea and its reflection in the popular beliefs of Greco-Egyptian magic.

 

 

“Loco/Locura de amor” es el título de innumerables canciones, películas, libros, que describen enamoramientos, pasiones… pero también crímenes. El que ama intensamente ama “con locura” y el que se deja llevar por los celos, el amor le arrebata el juicio y “pierde la cabeza”. ¿Cuántas veces hemos dicho que alguien que nos gusta “nos vuelve locos”? El amor, entendido como pasión erótica, y la locura están estrechamente ligados en nuestro imaginario.

Continue reading

Your religion… is magic to me

Inaugural Lecture of the III International Meeting of Researchers in Religious Sciences 

On 13 October I had the pleasure of opening the III International Meeting of Researchers in Religious Studies, organised by the Association of Young Researchers in Religious Studies (AJICR) at the University Complutense of Madrid, with a lecture on the complex definition of the concept of “magic” in Antiquity.

Continue reading

Naming the Gods (with Originality)

Mechanisms of lexical creativity in the divine epiklêsis of PGM

After reading several articles on the hapax of the divine epiklêsis of Greek Magical Papyri (PGM), I realised that there was a question that any researcher addressed: how does this lexical innovation take place? what mechanisms were used to create this specific type of vocabulary? Why are these new terms created? Therefore, this paper explores the ways in which the authors of the practices of Greek Magical Papyri innovate in the lexical field in connection with the creation of new vocabulary to give substance to the qualities of the divine entities invoked.

Paper presented at the International Conference Incantatory Words: Greek and Egyptian Languages in the Magical Papyri, University of Chicago Center of Paris, Paris, 27-28th September 2021

This time, the photo is for the long-awaited reunion after a long year and a half of pandemic virtual meetings.

Después de leer varios artículos sobre hapax en la epiklêsis divina de los Papiros Mágicos Griegos (PGM), me di cuenta de que había una pregunta que ningún investigador abordaba: ¿cómo se produce esta innovación léxica? ¿qué mecanismos se utilizaron para crear este tipo específico de vocabulario? ¿Por qué se crean estos nuevos términos? Este trabajo, presentado en el coloquio internacional Incantatory Words: Greek and Egyptian Languages in the Magical Papyri (University of Chicago Center of Paris, París, 27-28 de septiembre de 2021) he explorado las formas en que los autores de las prácticas de los papiros mágicos griegos innovan en el campo léxico en relación con la creación de un vocabulario para dar contenido a las cualidades de las entidades divinas invocadas.

More on magical hymns

Strategie di adattamento e innovazione nel rituale magico: il caso degli inni

Scholars agree that the so-called Greco-Egyptian magicians made extensive use of various forms of ritual expression also employed in religious rituals, to the extent that, in many respects, Greco-Egyptian magic does not differ from ritual practices considered to be religious. This study aims to explore the exceptional ability of these ritualists to adapt elements of the religious realm to different ritual contexts through the analysis of a particular type of magical logos, the hymn. Specifically, I will focus on the analysis of the strategies and mechanisms that were adopted to make possible the adaptation of a form of expression born from and for a religious context to the multicultural and multi-religious ritual environment of magic. This paper addresses this and other questions linked to the field of the resilience of ritual elements in Late Antiquity, within the panel Dinamiche rituali e strategie di resilienza nella tardoantichità, organised and coordinated by Professor Mariangela Monaca (Università di Messina).

Paper presented at the 18th Annual Conference of the European Association for the Study of Religions (EASR-IAHR Regional Conference), Pisa (Italy), 30.08– 3.09.2021

Continue reading

Apollo-Helios or Apollo and Helios?

The god Apollo in Greco-Egyptian magical papyri

This paper focuses on Apollo as this divinity is represented in Greco-Egyptian magical texts. This god, thoroughly studied in the religious sphere of the Ancient world, has been scarcely examined in the realm of Greco-Egyptian magic. For this reason, this paper offers a detailed examination of the verbal depictions (invocations) and plastic representations (drawings and statuettes) of Apollo in Greco-Egyptian magical papyri. Special attention will be given to the existence of different compositional layers in the texts, in order to better delineate the portrait(s) of Apollo in this particular ritual setting.

 

Paper presented at the international conference Calling upon Gods, Offering Bodies. Strategies of Human-Divine Communication in the Roman Empire from Individual Experience to Social Reproduction, hosted by the University of Málaga, 23-25 June 2021, Málaga (Spain).