Religion, superstition and magic are modern labels, notions that integrate a series of beliefs about human relationships with the natural and divine world. And while these concepts may seem clearly distinguishable today (and, even so, I may assure you that it is not so clear to demarcate their boundaries), it is very difficult to define them if we move from one culture to another and, above all, if we move in time.
In ancient Greece, for instance, there was no term equivalent to our term “religion” and the Greek term μαγέια, “magic”, was a loan word, formed on an Iranian term that designated the religious actions of the Persian priests. Similarly, the Latin term religio does not exactly translate our notion of religion either.
That said, what is magic is difficult to understand without taking the concept of religion as a reference point, but, at the same time, it is incorrect to understand them as a pair of opposites, because in reality they are not. They are rather two ways of understanding the aforementioned relationship, which can coexist in time and space. The pivot of this coexistence is the norm.
I have devoted part of my research career to study different aspects of the ritual world in Antiquity, with a special focus on Greco-Roman Egypt and the so-called Greek magical papyri.
This is the name given to a collection of papyri from Greco-Roman Egypt, written in Greek, Demotic and Coptic languages, which contain ritual practices of a “non-normative” nature. Reading and studying these texts in order to understand how these practices differ from or resemble the religious contemporary norm is part of my work. Here you will find some of my work in this field:
- 2020 “Los Hermeneumata de PGM/PDM XII (=GEMF 15): la Dreckapotheke mágica a examen”, Cuadernos de filología clásica: Estudios griegos e indoeuropeos 30 (2020), pp. 149-174. [DOI: https://doi.org/10.5209/cfcg.68481]
- 2018 “El complejo mundo de la retórica mágica: una mirada más allá de la coacción”, Cuadernos de filología clásica: Estudios griegos e indoeuropeos 28 (2018), pp.171-193. [DOI: https://doi.org/10.5209/CFCG.59392]
- 2018 (with Eleni Chronopoulou), “The Irresistible Attraction of Purity: Accusations of religious transgression in magical texts from Late Antiquity”, in Peels, S. – Carbon, J.M. (eds.), Katharos: Concepts of Purity and Rituals of Purification in the Ancient Greek World (Kernos, Suppl. 32). Liège, Presses Universitaires de Liège, pp.281-298. ISBN : 978-2-87562-159-7
- 2016 (with Emilio Suárez de la Torre and Eleni Chronopoulou), “A la vez igual y diferente: notas sobre el vocabulario ‘religioso’ de los textos mágicos griegos”, in Calderón, E. y Perea, S. (eds.), Estudios sobre el vocabulario religioso griego. Madrid-Salamanca, Signifer. Monografías y Estudios sobre la Antigüedad Griega y Romana, nº49. ISBN: 978-84-16202-09-6, pp. 210-233.
- 2015 “¡Salve Helio! Análisis estilístico-funcional de la fórmula χαῖρε en los papiros mágicos griegos”, in Suárez de la Torre, E., Blanco, M. y Cronopoulou, E. (eds.), Los Papiros Mágicos Griegos: entre lo sublime y lo cotidiano, Barcelona, Clásicos Dykinson, ISBN: 978-84-9085-410-5, pp. 87-105.