Guide to the Study of Ancient Magic


In the midst of academic debates about the utility of the term “magic” and the cultural meaning of ancient words like mageia or khesheph, this Guide to the Study of Ancient Magic seeks to advance the discussion by separating out three topics essential to the very idea of magic. The three major sections of this volume address (1) indigenous terminologies for ambiguous or illicit ritual in antiquity; (2) the ancient texts, manuals, and artifacts commonly designated “magical” or used to represent ancient magic; and (3) a series of contexts, from the written word to materiality itself, to which the term “magic” might usefully pertain.

The individual essays in this volume cover most of Mediterranean and Near Eastern antiquity, with essays by both established and emergent scholars of ancient religions.

In a burgeoning field of “magic studies” trying both to preserve and to justify critically the category itself, this volume brings new clarity and provocative insights. This will be an indispensable resource to all interested in magic in the Bible and the Ancient Near East, ancient Greece and Rome, Early Christianity and Judaism, Egypt through the Christian period, and also comparative and critical theory.

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Biographical Note
David Frankfurter, Ph.D. (1990) Princeton University, is Professor of Religion at Boston University. A scholar of ancient religions, Frankfurter is the author of Religion in Roman Egypt (Princeton, 1998); and Christianizing Egypt (Princeton, 2017), as well as many articles on magic and popular devotion.

Contributors are: Magali Bailliot, Gideon Bohak, Véronique Dasen, Albert de Jong, Jacco Dieleman, Esther Eidinow, David Frankfurter, Fritz Graf, Yuval Harari, Naomi Janowitz, Sarah Iles Johnston, Roy D. Kotansky, Arpad M. Nagy, Daniel Schwemer, Joseph E. Sanzo, Jacques van der Vliet, Andrew Wilburn.
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Notes on Contributors

Part 1: Introduction

1 Ancient Magic in a New Key: Refining an Exotic Discipline in the History of Religions
David Frankfurter

2 The Plan of This Volume
David Frankfurter

Part 2: Cultural Constructions of Ambiguous, Unsanctioned, or Illegitimate Ritual

3 Introduction
David Frankfurter

4 Mesopotamia
Daniel Schwemer

5 Iran
Albert de Jong

6 Egypt
Jacco Dieleman

7 Greece
Fritz Graf

8 Ancient Israel and Early Judaism: Wonders, Power, and Social Order
Yuval Harari

9 Rome and the Roman Empire
Magali Bailliot

10 Early Christianity
Joseph E. Sanzo

11 Roman and Byzantine Egypt
Jacques van der Vliet

Part 3: The Materials of Ancient Magic

12 Introduction
David Frankfurter

13 The Greco-Egyptian Magical Papyri
Jacco Dieleman

14 Christian Spells and Manuals from Egypt
Jacques van der Vliet

15 Binding Spells on Tablets and Papyri
Esther Eidinow

16 Jewish Amulets, Magic Bowls, and Manuals in Aramaic and Hebrew
Gideon Bohak

17 Gems
Véronique Dasen and Árpád M. Nagy

18 Figurines, Images, and Representations Used in Ritual Practices
Andrew Wilburn

19 Textual Amulets and Writing Traditions in the Ancient World
Roy D. Kotansky

20 Building Ritual Agency: Foundations, Floors, Doors, and Walls
Andrew Wilburn

Part 4: Dimensions of a Category Magic

21 Introduction
David Frankfurter

22 Spell and Speech Act: The Magic of the Spoken Word
David Frankfurter

23 The Magic of Writing in Mediterranean Antiquity
David Frankfurter

24 Magic and the Forces of Materiality
David Frankfurter

25 The Magical Elements of Mysticism: Ritual Strategies for Encountering Divinity
Naomi Janowitz

26 Magic and Theurgy
Sarah Iles Johnston

27 Magic as the Local Application of Authoritative Tradition
David Frankfurter

28 Magic and Social Tension
Esther Eidinow

All interested in magic in the Bible and the Ancient Near East, in ancient Greece and Rome, in Early Christianity and Judaism, in Egypt through the Christian period, and in comparative and critical theory.
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