Chapter 1 Specimens of Judaeo-Arabic and Arabic Magical Texts from the Cairo Genizah

In: Amulets and Talismans of the Middle East and North Africa in Context
Author: Gideon Bohak
Open Access

In spite of much progress in recent years, the study of the Jewish magical tradition is still in its infancy.*,1 Ancient Jewish magic has received some scholarly attention, and we now have several important corpora of the relevant sources and two reliable surveys of these sources and their historical significance.2 But medieval Jewish magic still lags far behind, with no replacement for Trachtenberg’s classic, but dated, survey of the field, and modern Jewish magic has hardly received any scholarly attention.3 This scholarly neglect is not due to the absence of evidence, which is readily available, but to deep-seated scholarly convictions that Jews should not practice magic, and that even when they do, Jewish Studies scholars should focus on other, more “rational,” or more “important,” aspects of Jewish culture.4

One sub-field where this scholarly disdain is readily apparent is the publication and analysis of the Jewish magical texts from the Cairo Genizah, the used paper storage room of a medieval synagogue, in use from the eleventh to the nineteenth centuries. After many decades of complete neglect, some Genizah magical texts have finally been published over the last thirty years, but the identification, publication, and study of such texts still lag far behind those of most other types of Genizah texts. Like all the other texts from the Cairo Genizah, the magical texts too are haphazardly strewn among the 300,000 Genizah fragments in numerous collections worldwide. They are only fragmentarily preserved, are written in many different handwritings—ranging from professional to semi-illiterate hands—and often are quite hard to read. And yet, the scholarly avoidance of these fragments is due less to the difficulties involved in their identification and decipherment and more to many scholars’ refusal to acknowledge the rich and varied remains of the Jewish magical tradition.5 Only in recent decades have we seen some bolder attempts to edit, translate, and analyse Genizah magical texts, and thus far these efforts tended to focus more on the Aramaic and Hebrew magical texts from the Cairo Genizah, and less on those written in Arabic and Judaeo-Arabic (by which term I refer to Arabic-language texts written in the Hebrew alphabet and read by Jews, regardless of these texts’ specific dialectological features).6 With the exception of some brief sketches by Norman Golb and by Shaul Shaked, a more programmatic essay by Steven Wasserstrom, and a recent study by Charles Burnett and the present author, no attempt has been made to discuss—let alone publish—those Genizah magical texts which are of a demonstrably Arabic or Muslim origin.7 And when it comes to analysing such Genizah fragments, and contextualising them within their wider non-Jewish context, we have only sporadic attempts by a handful of scholars.8 Only in relation to astrology is the situation slightly better, thanks to the pioneering studies of Bernard Goldstein and David Pingree, but even here the number of unpublished fragments far exceeds that of the published ones.9 And when it comes to other forms of divination, such as books of goralot (lot-casting, or sortes), geomancy, physiognomy or dream-interpretation, we have made only some basic steps, but are still far from covering all the materials in these fields.10

The neglect of the Judaeo-Arabic and Arabic magical texts from the Cairo Genizah is not only shameful, it also leads to misleading reconstructions of Jewish cultural history. Reading the published Genizah magical texts one gets the impression that these consist mostly of copies of copies of pre-Muslim Jewish magical texts, often preserved in their original languages and sometimes also translated into Judaeo-Arabic. There is no doubt that in many cases this is true, and we shall examine these processes of transmission and translation in greater detail below, but to this we must add that a large number of Genizah magical texts were borrowed by the Jews from their Arabic-speaking neighbours, and are deeply indebted to the Arabic / Islamic magical tradition. Such texts were read and used by the Jews of medieval Cairo either in their original Arabic manuscripts, or in Judaeo-Arabic copies. In some cases, Arabic magical texts were translated into Hebrew, by Jews whose Arabic was good enough to produce such translations, but who knew that other Jews—including almost all the Jews living in the lands of Christendom—did not possess enough Arabic to make fruitful use of such texts in their original language. Moreover, whole genres of Genizah magical texts which are clearly based on Arabic sources, including elaborate adjurations for summoning and controlling demons, astral-talismanic magic, manuals for finding ancient treasures, handbooks on the medical and magical properties of animal-parts and other substances, and many other magical texts and practices, are either unrepresented or under-represented among the published magical texts from the Cairo Genizah.11 Thus, our view of medieval Jewish magic as practiced in the Islamicate world is deeply flawed, since many of the magical texts and practices that flourished at the time are still missing in the small body of published magical texts from the Cairo Genizah. This glaring lacuna also inhibits the discussion of the Arabic and Muslim origins of much of medieval Jewish magic in the Christian world, and of the potential contribution of the Jewish magical texts to the study of the history of magic in the Islamic world, two topics to which Genizah evidence can make great contributions.12

The present paper does not seek to rectify this imbalance in one fell swoop, but to present a few examples of three basic types of Judaeo-Arabic and Arabic magical texts attested among the Genizah fragments and to show the potential contribution of this material to the study of cultural adaptation and textual transmission, both within a single language and community and between languages and religious groups. In what follows, I shall briefly introduce several different fragments, illustrating a widely divergent set of magical techniques and practices. I make no claim to completeness, and hope to discuss other genres and types of Judaeo-Arabic and Arabic magical texts in future publications. Moreover, I have made no attempt to identify the origins of each of these texts—or even the textual parallels to it—in the Arabic magical tradition, a feat for which I am very ill-equipped. In fact, by publishing these textual specimens here I hope to bring them to the attention both of those Jewish Studies scholars who have yet to recognize the importance of such evidence for the reconstruction of Jewish cultural history, and of those scholars of Arabic and Islam who might be able to identify similar texts from the Islamic world and analyse their significance for the study of the Arabic magical tradition. Moreover, it must be noted that in what follows I generally ignore the numerous Judaeo-Arabic and Arabic fragments relating to astrology, to alchemy, physiognomy, palmomancy (twitch divination), lot-casting (sortes), and many other divinatory techniques, all of which deserve much more attention than they have thus far received, but cannot receive it here. In the present paper, I shall focus mainly on the “magical” texts, in the narrowest sense of that word, that is, on texts which provide instructions for achieving concrete results by manipulating supernatural powers in ways that are not part and parcel of normative Judaism in the Middle Ages, as codified in its halakhic literature.

As noted above, examining the textual history of the Judaeo-Arabic and Arabic magical texts from the Cairo Genizah soon leads to their division into two major types, which may often be distinguished with relative ease: On the one hand, there are translations or adaptations of older Jewish magical texts, originally written in Aramaic and Hebrew, and subsequently transferred into the Jews’ new vernacular, Arabic. Such texts were mostly written in Judaeo-Arabic, but occasionally they were written in the Arabic script as well.13 On the other hand, there are texts of Arabic and/or Muslim origins, some of which display many Muslim elements, while others are non-Muslim in origin, including, for example, Arabic translations of texts originally written in other languages. In some cases, the Genizah even preserves Hebrew translations or adaptations of the Arabic texts, a process which also enabled the dissemination of these kinds of magical texts to the Jews of Christian Europe, who usually had no knowledge of the Arabic language. In what follows, I shall therefore focus first on the former type of texts, and then on the latter. Finally, I shall turn to a third kind of Judaeo-Arabic magical texts, namely those that apparently were de novo Jewish compositions, originally written in Judaeo-Arabic by the Arabic-speaking Jews of the Middle Ages. However, such cases apparently were quite rare.

1 Judaeo-Arabic and Arabic Magical Texts Translated from Aramaic or Hebrew

The Arab conquests of the seventh century placed the Jews of Babylonia and Palestine in an entirely new situation. Rather than being divided between two opposing powers—the Roman Byzantine and the Sasanian Empire—each with its own language(s) and religion(s), the Jews were now living in a world whose main language was Arabic, and whose main religion was Islam. And as the new regime took root, the Jews slowly abandoned their old vernacular, namely Aramaic, and adopted the conquerors’ language, Arabic.14 The shift to a new language had numerous implications, one of which was that older texts, and especially those written in Aramaic, were gradually becoming incomprehensible to the Jews of medieval Cairo. Some knowledge of Hebrew was assured by virtue of it being the language of the Hebrew Bible and of daily Jewish prayer and synagogue liturgy, and Hebrew was still used as a written language by many medieval writers, such as Maimonides, who wrote some of his works in Hebrew, and others in Judaeo-Arabic. But Aramaic was used only in very specific contexts, such as learned discussions between rabbis and in some types of documents—e.g., those connected with marriage and divorce—but even there many of the Aramaic phrases carried over from older times had become frozen and formulaic. Moreover, even those rabbis and scribes who knew Talmudic Aramaic had a much better knowledge of the Babylonian Jewish Aramaic of the Talmud, than of the Palestinian Jewish Aramaic in which less-important rabbinic texts—such as the Palestinian Talmud and the Aggadic Midrashim—were written.

The impact of the gradual loss of Aramaic, and especially of Jewish Palestinian Aramaic, is readily visible in the Genizah magical texts. First, there are numerous examples of Aramaic texts to which Judaeo-Arabic glosses were added between the lines or on the margins, either by the original copyist or by later readers and users. Such glosses tell us which words the readers found difficult, and therefore in need of an Arabic explanation.15 Second, there is extensive evidence of the translation of older magical texts into Judaeo-Arabic. One well-known example is that of Sefer ha-Razim (the “Book of Mysteries”), a late-antique Jewish magical text for which the Cairo Genizah preserves numerous fragments of the Hebrew original and a handful of fragments of a Judaeo-Arabic translation. This shows that there were many Jews in medieval Cairo who could still read a Hebrew magical text in its original language, but that a Judaeo-Arabic version was deemed useful by at least some readers.16 Another text, Shimmush Tehillim (the “Uses of the Psalms”), is preserved in the Cairo Genizah in only a handful of fragments of the Jewish Palestinian Aramaic original, and far more fragments of its Judaeo-Arabic translation, which clearly was much easier to read for its potential users in medieval Cairo.17 In some cases, we may even see the original text and the translation side-by-side. One possible example is a Genizah bifolium on which we find the Hebrew text of Sefer ha-Razim on one folio, the Judaeo-Arabic text on the other, but as several bifolia might be missing between the two folios, it is not clear how exactly the two texts were arranged in the original manuscript.18 But a much clearer example is provided by a Genizah fragment of Shimmush Tehillim, in which each Psalm is followed by instructions on how to use it, given both in Aramaic and in Judaeo-Arabic, the latter clearly being a translation of the former.19 And in what is perhaps the clearest example of the copying of such texts in two languages, we find a short Jewish Palestinian Aramaic divinatory text intended to help one foretell the price of wheat in the following year, immediately followed by the Judaeo-Arabic phrase: ‮תפסיר דלך‬‎, “the translation thereof,” and the Judaeo-Arabic translation of the very same text.20 But as we can see from the many Judaeo-Arabic fragments of Shimmush Tehillim, the juxtaposition of the original Aramaic text and its Judaeo-Arabic translation was rare, and it was far more common for the “old” Aramaic text to be abandoned in favour of the “new” Judaeo-Arabic version.

In other cases, such as the astrological text known as the Treatise of Shem, we again see several fragments of a Jewish Palestinian Aramaic version of this text, and far more numerous fragments of the Judaeo-Arabic versions, or adaptations, thereof. However, in this specific case we are dealing with a text that definitely did not begin its life in the Jewish world, and that circulated widely in many languages, including Syriac and Arabic.21 Thus, some of the Judaeo-Arabic fragments of this text may not attest to a direct translation from Aramaic, but to a borrowing from medieval Arabic sources, a process which we shall soon examine in greater detail. However, untangling the transmission-history of the Treatise of Shem, which often was modified and “updated” in the course of its transmission, is an issue that only a careful study of all the textual witnesses might elucidate.

Thus far, we focussed on more “literary” works of magic and divination, which are characterized by some kind of internal structure, and which are not very common in early and medieval Jewish magic. Far more common are the individual recipes, transmitted in handbooks that contained numerous magical recipes, copied one after the other in endless, unstructured, succession. Many of the magical recipes found in the Cairo Genizah began their life in late-antique Palestine (or, less frequently, in late-antique Babylonia), and were originally written in Palestinian Jewish Aramaic (with some elements, such as biblical verses or liturgical formulae, written in Hebrew).22 But in medieval Cairo, where this dialect was only poorly understood, the old recipes had to be translated in order to remain useful. However, translating magical recipes is no simple technical issue, since the incantations which are to be recited or written down as a part of the magical recipe might lose all their affective power when transferred to another language.23 Thus, when looking at parallel copies of the same magical recipe in different Genizah fragments, we often note how (a) the ritual instructions, telling the practitioners what to do, are gradually translated into Judaeo-Arabic or Arabic, but (b) the spell to be recited or inscribed is left in the original language, but is more and more garbled as it is copied and re-copied by people who do not fully understand its meaning. Thus, the multi-lingual layering of such recipes often reflects their textual history, and tells us much about the linguistic abilities and dis-abilities of their copyists and users.24

Let us look at one specific example, a recipe for “path jumping,” or instantaneous teleportation, that is found in three different Genizah fragments.25 All three fragments are paleographically dateable to around the eleventh century, and all three originally belonged to larger collections of magical recipes. The fragments are:

  • Cambridge, T(aylor)-S(chechter) AS. 142.28: A single paper folio, which probably came from a larger quire. The extant folio has a standard opening formula (“In the Name of the Merciful One”) in a mixture of Hebrew and Aramaic, immediately followed by the path-jumping recipe which interests us here, and which runs to the end of the recto. On the verso, there is one more recipe, to stop a baby from crying, which runs to the end of the page.

  • Cambridge, T-S AR. 43.91: A single paper folio, which must have formed a part of a larger quire. The recto contains the end of a magical recipe for killing a person (which is paralleled in other Genizah fragments), followed by the path-jumping recipe to which we shall soon turn, and then by the names of the seven angels who stand before God, listed in a textual unit that continued onto the next folio and whose nature is not entirely clear.

  • Cambridge, T-S NS. 322.19: A single paper folio, which consists of a “recycled” piece of paper. In this case, an older Fatimid chancery document, probably written only on one side of the folio, was cut into narrow strips, so as not to be legible to whoever might re-use the paper. The strips were subsequently used to create a vertical rotulus, written on both sides and flipped on a horizontal axis, so that the magical texts on the recto and verso are written upside-down to each other.26 The result of this process is that the magical text on the verso is occasionally interrupted by inverse Arabic words, which are the remains of the Fatimid document from which this paper was recycled (in Fig. 1.1), one can see this in the fifth line of the text of T-S NS. 322.19). Another result is that the paper folio shows stains that run throughout the paper in a cyclical manner, proving that the rotulus was harmed by humidity when it was rolled up (and long after the original chancery document was cut into strips). This fragment contains several different magical recipes, including a recipe to make someone fall asleep, a recipe for protection during travel, two recipes to win charm and grace, the path-jumping recipe to which we shall soon turn, and recipes against eye-pains, for love, and so on.

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Figure 1.1

Three different copies of the same basic recipe

The three fragments differ greatly from each other, but they share in common one recipe, which may be printed synoptically, as follows:27

Table 1.1

Comparing T-S NS. 322.19 / T-S AR. 43.91 / T-S AS. 142.28

T-S NS. 322.19

T-S AR. 43.91

T-S AS. 142.28

‮اذا اردت ان يطوا لك البعد فى سفرك اكتب فى رق / غزال واربطه فى ذراعك الايمن او فى حزامك وهذا هو / בשם אדוניאל רפאל גבריאל עניאל / צוריאל צדקיאל כרוביאל פרתואל / כתרואל טוריאל אתואל / (מספר שורות של סימנים מאגיים ואותיות) איסייה // (סימן מאגי)‬‎

‮אין ארת אין יוטוא עלך אל / בועד פי ספר אכתבוה פי ריק אל /[גז]ל וארבוטוה פי דרעך אלימין / או פי חוזמך: ב֯[שם ]אל רפאל / גבריאל ענ֯אל [ ]יאל צדקיאל / כרוביאל פרחואל כתרואל טוריאל / אתואל (מספר שורות של סימנים מאגיים ואותיות) / איסייה (סימן מאגי)‬‎

‮קפיצת דרך: כתו֯ב במשך צב[י] / ותלי בזרועך דיִמִינָא: ו֯זה כתוב / ב֯[ש]ם אה֯יניאל ר[פ]אל גבר֯[יאל] ענאל: / צוריאל [צ]דקיאל: כרוביאל פרחיאל / נתרואל טוריאל [א]תואל: / (מספר שורות של סימנים מאגיים ואותיות) אוסרייה אתון מלאכיַה / קַדישיָא וכִלקטִיריָא משבחיָא עבדו / לִי אנָא פל׳ בר׳ פל׳ כך וכך א׳ א׳ ס׳ ס׳:‬‎

If you want the distance to be folded before you on your voyage, write on gazelle / skin and bind it on your right arm or on your belt; and this is it (i.e., what you should write): / In the name of Adoniel Raphael Gabriel Aniel Ẓuriel Ẓadqiel Kruviel Partuel / Katruel Ṭuriel (several lines of magic signs and letters) / ??? (Magic sign).

If you want the distance to be folded before you / on a voyage, write it on gazelle / skin and bind it on your right arm / or on your belt: in [the name of …]el Raphael / Gabriel Anael [ ]iel Ẓadqiel / Kruviel Parḥuel Katruel Ṭuriel / Atuel (several lines of magic signs and letters) / ??? (Magic sign).

Path jumping: Write on gazelle skin / and hang (it) on your right arm; and this (is what you should) write: / In the name of Ahiniel Ra[ph]ael Gabr[iel] Anael / Ẓuriel [Ẓa]dkiel Kruviel Parḥiel / Natruel Ṭuriel [A]tuel / (several lines of magic signs and letters) ???,28 You holy angels / and exulted characters, perform / for me, NN, such and such (a deed), A(men) A(men) S(elah) S(elah).

Looking at the synopsis, and at the images of the Genizah fragments themselves (see Fig.1.1), we clearly see that these are three different copies of the same basic recipe, with the same spell and the same instructions. Moreover, a close look at the magical signs—some of which look like the ring-letter charaktēres of the Greco-Egyptian magical tradition (correctly identified as ‮כלקטיריא‬‎ in T-S AS. 142.28),29 and some of which look like Greek, Hebrew, or Arabic letters—shows that the multiple copies of this recipe are not the result of oral transmission, but of a careful copying of written texts, whence the accurate transmission of the non-verbal components of the spell.

Looking at the three copies of the same basic text, we immediately note the differences between them. First, we note that the text of T-S AS. 142.28 has a whole sentence that is missing from the other two copies of the recipe, but that the latter two have a magic sign at the end of the recipe which is not found in T-S AS. 142.28, and also provide the possibility of tying the inscribed gazelle skin on one’s belt, which is not there in T-S AS. 142.28. Such differences are extremely common when we examine different copies of a single recipe, and are due both to textual entropy and to deliberate changes by the texts’ copyists and users.30 Second, we note how in T-S AS. 142.28 the title of the recipe is given in Hebrew, and the ritual instructions are given in a mixture of Jewish Palestinian Aramaic and Hebrew (‮משך‬‎, “skin” is good JPA, but ‮צבי‬‎, “gazelle” is Hebrew; in Jewish Palestinian Aramaic it would have been ‮טבי‬‎). But in T-S Ar. 43.91, the same contents are given in Judaeo-Arabic, or, more precisely, in the early Judaeo-Arabic phonetic spelling that is typical of the eighth and ninth centuries, characterized by the writing of many words phonetically, regardless of their spelling in Arabic (‮اردت‬‎ written as ‮ארת‬‎) and by the erratic use of the scriptio plena (‮إن‬‎ written as ‮אין‬‎; ‮بعد‬‎ written as ‮בועד‬‎; ‮اربطه‬‎ written as ‮ארבוטוה‬‎, and so on) and defectiva (‮عليك‬‎ written as ‮עלך‬‎; ‮ذراعك‬‎ written as ‮דרעך‬‎).31 Finally, in T-S NS. 322.19, we find the same Arabic text as in T-S Ar. 43.91, but this time in Arabic letters, mostly without diacritical points.32 Thus, we have before us a clear case of the gradual transformation of a magical recipe, originally written in Jewish Palestinian Aramaic (with some words partly replaced by Hebrew words), then written in an early form of Judaeo-Arabic and then in Arabic, but in the latter two examples it is especially the recipe’s aim and ritual instructions that were translated, with the spell itself remaining more or less as it had been in the Aramaic original.

Before we leave this example, one final note is in order. Arranging the three different copies of the same basic recipe in a chronological order is not the same as offering a relative chronology of the fragments in which they were copied. Given the fact that this recipe probably was copied by many different practitioners from Late Antiquity to the Middle Ages, the fact that one manuscript preserves an earlier version thereof does not mean that the manuscript itself is early, but that it was copied from manuscripts where an earlier form of the recipe could still be found. In the present example, we have three fragments that are roughly contemporaneous, but they preserve the same recipe in an “older,” “younger” and “youngest” version. Moreover, a single manuscript could—and often does—contain “older” copies of some recipes, but “younger” copies of others. Thus, the palaeographic dating of the fragments and the relative dating of specific textual units need not lead to identical conclusions. Manuscripts have their own histories, but so do individual magical recipes.

2 Arabic and Judaeo-Arabic Magical Texts Borrowed from the Arabic-Speaking World

As noted above, the Arab conquests of the seventh century ushered in a new period of Jewish cultural history, in which Arabic became the main language of communication for many Jews. This necessitated the translation of older Aramaic and Hebrew texts into Arabic, as we already saw, but it also enabled Jews to gain access to numerous Arabic texts whose origins lay outside the Jewish community. This new access was all the more important since Arabic quickly became the lingua franca of much of the civilized world, and knowledge of Arabic meant that one could read not only Muslim texts but also Christian Arabic texts, as well as texts whose origins lay in ancient Greece or Egypt, in Persia, in India and elsewhere, as there were many translations from Greek, Coptic, Pahlavi, Sanskrit and many other languages into Arabic.33 Thus, the Jewish magical texts, once translated into Arabic, could be used by non-Jewish practitioners (an issue that lies outside the scope of the present study), and once non-Jewish magical texts written in many languages were translated into Arabic, they could be read and used by the Jewish practitioners. This is why we find in the Cairo Genizah many Arabic and Judaeo-Arabic magical texts whose origins lie in the Muslim world, but also some whose origins lie further afield.

A full typology of all these texts has yet to be produced, but they clearly included many different types of texts from many different provenances. Moreover, they demonstrate the penetration of many new magical and divinatory techniques from or via the Arabic magical tradition into the repertoire of the Jewish practitioners of the Middle Ages.34 Among these, we may note elaborate rituals for summoning demons, the recourse to astral-talismanic magic, or the frequent use of geomancy. We may also add to these many different types of goralot (lot-casting) handbooks, which are hardly attested in Aramaic in the Cairo Genizah (to date, I have found only one such fragment in Aramaic!), but are extremely well attested in dozens of Arabic and Judaeo-Arabic fragments, and in dozens of Hebrew ones, that seem to be based on translations and especially adaptations of the Arabic ones.

As noted above, all this material has hardly received any scholarly attention. What is worse, for this material to be fruitfully analysed, it must be studied side-by-side with similar Arabic texts from the non-Jewish world, many of which have never been published either.35 Thus, any real progress in the study of these texts will have to be made by way of a close collaboration between experts in medieval Jewish magic and experts in medieval Islamic and Arabic magic, but at present no framework for such a collaboration has ever been created.

Among the many Arabic-language magical texts from the Cairo Genizah that were borrowed from the outside, some are written in the Arabic alphabet (and may have been produced by non-Jewish scribes), but a large number are written in Hebrew letters. This reflects the frequent process whereby the Jewish practitioners felt that they, or their disciples, would find reading a Judaeo-Arabic text much easier than reading an Arabic one, and therefore transliterated existing Arabic texts. In some cases, this may also reflect the activity of professional copyists, who transliterated Arabic texts in the Hebrew alphabet (as was suggested to me by Judith Olszowy Schlanger). The shift from one writing system to another may also have involved the transformation of the texts themselves—for example, when “un-Jewish” elements were censored out, or “Jewish” elements were added—but to trace such processes, we would have to compare the Judaeo-Arabic versions with their Arabic counterparts, and this has never been done. What we can show, however, is that deciphering Arabic texts—and especially those written in very cursive hands and without diacritical points—was a difficult task, and this difficulty is reflected in the Judaeo-Arabic transliterations. In some cases, we can see how a scribe left some words in their Arabic original, in the midst of his Judaeo-Arabic text, apparently because he was not sure which Arabic word is lurking there, and thus preferred to produce a graphic copy of the problematic word, in the hope that he, or a later reader, would one day know how to transliterate it correctly.36 In other cases, some of the errors in the Judaeo-Arabic text might be attributed to the faulty transliteration of letters which resemble each other in the Arabic alphabet, but not in the Hebrew one. And in all these cases, it is clear that the Judaeo-Arabic versions were produced from written Arabic sources, and not from the oral transmission of these texts.

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Figure 1.2

A magical text arranged according to the Muslim calendar

As a case in point, showing what one Muslim magical text looks like when it is found in a Judaeo-Arabic version in the Cairo Genizah, I adduce a text that is found in a quire of which I have thus far found two different fragments, T-S K. 1.113 and T-S Ar. 43.116, paleographically datable to the twelfth or thirteenth century, and displaying codicological features (tall and narrow pages; see Fig. 1.2) that might point to an origin in the regions of Persia or Iraq. The two fragments contain other texts as well, including what look like Arabic poems, an aggressive magical text based on Gen. 4:14, and some scribbles, but these may have been added on the blank pages of the original manuscript, and will not be dealt with here. It is the magical text on which I wish to focus, and it runs as follows:

‮‭(T-S K 1.113)‬ אסמא מקדסה לכל שהר מגרבה / ואיאם֯ אלמעלומאת אנזלת עלי בני / אסראיל והי אלאסמא אלתי כאן / יעמל בהא סלימאן בן דאוד עליה / אלסלאם ודו אלקרנין פי אלמ‭[ ]‬ל‭[ ]‬את / ואלפנאטיס37 אלתי ג׳אורתהא / [ ]חואיגהם באדן אללה פמן כתב֯ / שי מן הדה אלאסמא פליתק֯ / באללה סרא ועלי֯ ניה38 פאן אללה / תבארך ותעאלי לא י֯גוז אן יכון אסמה֯ / אלא עלי טהר ואיאך אלדנס ואלגנאבה / אסם אלשהר ⟨אלאול⟩ אלמחרם יכתב פי רק / גזאל ויכון [ ]א֯ים39 נהארה כלה ויבכרה / בעוד רטב ויגסל גסדה במא חאר / מ֯ן קבל כתאבתה ויכון ענד גרוב / אלשמס וישדה עלי עצ׳דה אלאימן / ויגעל כתאבתה עלי שכל אלו֯ח40 או / כאתם סלימאן פילתקי בה אל / סבאע פלם יהמה מנהם שי (סימנים מאגיים) ‭(T-S Ar. 43.116)‬ צפר כ׳ת׳ עלי צפיחה נח֯א[ס] / ויבכרה בלבאן דכר וישד עלי / עצדך פאנה לא יעמל פיה / אלסם למן41 אלחיה ואלעקרב / (סימנים מאגיים) / רביע אלאול י⟨כ⟩תב42 רק גזאל ויבכרה / במצטכא ויגעלה פי קארורה / ויעלק נאחיה לא יציבה ארץ / ולא סמא ויסמי אסם מן / שית ואסם אמה פאנה יאתיה / סריע אן שא אללה והדא אלד֯י יכתב / (סימנים מאגיים) / רביע אלאכר יכתב פי רק גזאל / ויבכרה בסגרה מרים ותשדה / עלי נפסך פאנך לא תטלב / חאגה אלא קצית לך / (סימנים מאגיים)43 גמאדי אלאול44 יכתבה פי / רק גזאל ויבכרה בלבאן דכר / וישדה עלי נפסך פאנך לא / תצלב45 נכאח אחד אלא קרית עליה / פאן ארדת לא ‭}‬ת‭{‬יגאמע אמראתך / גירך או גאריתך או צדיקתך / פאכתב הדא אלכתאב ואעמל / אלכאתם פי אצבעך אלאוצט46 פאנה[א]‭?‬ / לא ת֯בדר47 עלי מגאמעת גירך / (סימנים מאגיים)‬‎

Holy names for every month, tested. / And this (?) knowledge came down (from heaven) to the sons of / Israel, and these are the names which / Solomon the son of David, peace be / upon him, and Alexander the Great (Dhū al-Qarnayn), were using in their ??? / and ??? that ??? / their needs, with God’s help. And whoever writes / any one of these names should trust / God at heart and with intent. And God—/ may He be praised and exulted—his Name cannot be (used) / unless in (state of) purity, and you should beware of impurity and uncleanliness. / The name of the first month, al-Muḥarram: One should write it on gazelle skin / and it should stay there (?) all that day, and he should fumigate it / with wet aloe and wash his body in hot water / before writing it, and (this should be) at sunset; / and he should fasten it to his right arm / and form its writing in the form of a tablet (?) or / a Seal of Solomon.48 And with it, should he come across wild beasts, he would not be bothered by them at all. (Magic signs). // (T-S Ar. 43.116) Ṣafar: Write (it) on a copper lamella / and he should fumigate it with male frankincense and fasten to / your arm and then the venom will not affect him / whenever a snake or a scorpion (bites him). / (Magic signs). / Rabīʿ al-awwal: One should write (it on) gazelle skin and fumigate it / with mastic and put it in a small vessel / and hang (it) in a place where neither the earth / nor the sky can harm it and he should name the name of whoever / you wish and his mother’s name and then he will come to him / quickly, God willing; and this is what he should write: (Magic signs) / Rabīʿ al-ākhar: One should write (it) on gazelle skin / and fumigate it with cyclamen49 and fasten it / on yourself and whatever you will ask / will be fulfilled.50 (Magic signs) / Jumāda al-ūla: One should write it on / gazelle skin and fumigate it with male frankincense, / and he should fasten it on yourself and you will not / be denied sexual intercourse with anyone, but you would be received hospitably (?). / And if you wish that no one other than you will have sex with your wife / or your maid servant or your female friend, / write this text, put / the seal on your middle finger and then / she will not rush to have sex with anyone but you. / (Magic signs).

The text deals with holy “names,” by which it refers to special magical signs which are associated with each month of the Muslim year, and how to use them for different aims. It begins with a short introduction, which states that this knowledge descended upon the sons of Israel, presumably when they received the Torah on Mt. Sinai, and that it was used by King Solomon—one of the most famous practitioners of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim magical traditions—and that it also was used by Alexander the Great, or Dhū al-Qarnayn, who is mentioned in the Qurʾan (18: 83–101) and who was well known to Jewish writers in the Arabic world. The introduction then instructs the practitioner to use the names only in a state of purity, a common feature of both Jewish and Muslim mystical and magical texts.51 Thus, with the possible exception of the reference to Dhū al-Qarnayn, the introduction could easily have been that of a Jewish magical text, akin to—though much shorter than—the introductions to Sefer ha-Razim or the Sword of Moses.52 Similarly, the aims for which these names are used (to protect oneself from wild beasts and noxious reptiles, to assure a woman’s sexual fidelity, and so on), and the manner in which they must be used (including writing them on gazelle skin, fumigating them with special kinds of incense, fastening them on one’s body, wearing them on one’s finger, and so on) are so common and banal that they could easily have belonged in a Jewish magical text. But the structure of the text, which is arranged according to the Muslim calendar, with the extant folios covering the first five months of the year—‮المحرم‬‎, ‮صفر‬‎, ‮ربيع الاول‬‎, ‮ربيع الاخر‬‎ and ‮جمادى الاولى‬‎—certainly argues for a Muslim origin of this text. Moreover, the magical signs which are to be written, and which look like Arabic letters and numerals placed on a string, and arranged either as a long line or as a square tablet (see Fig. 1.2, where one can note how different the magic signs are from those in Fig. 1.1), are very typical of Arabic magic, and are unattested in pre-Islamic Jewish magic.53 Even some of the text’s obvious errors are due to the transliteration from an Arabic source, which probably was written without diacritical points, or with only some of them in place. This is why the producer of the Judaeo-Arabic text wrote ‮סגרה‬‎ rather than ‮שגרה‬‎ (i.e., reading ‮ش‬‎ as ‮س‬‎).54 He also began to write ‮תגאמע‬‎ before realizing that the verb must be masculine, and corrected it to ‮יגאמע‬‎ (i.e., reading ‮يجامع‬‎ as ‮تجامع‬‎), and he frequently shifts between 2nd person and 3rd person verbs (e.g., ‮ויבכרה … ותשדה עלי נפסך‬‎), in a way that makes my English translation of the text sound quite awkward. This confusion is easily explained by the absence of the two dots above or below the first letter of the word that would have made a distinction between Arabic tāʾ, for the second person, and yāʾ for the third person singular respectively. And although I have not yet found this text outside the Cairo Genizah, this probably is a reflection of my own ignorance of the Muslim magical tradition. Here, students of Islamic and Arabic magic will need to pass the final judgment on the text’s origins, but my working hypothesis is that this is a Muslim magical text, which a Jewish practitioner transliterated in the Hebrew alphabet, perhaps slightly modifying it as well, but without trying to re-write it in a more “Jewish” manner.

3 Original Judaeo-Arabic Compositions

Thus far, we have seen one example of a Genizah magical text with Judaeo-Arabic and Arabic that began its life in Aramaic, most likely in late-antique Palestine, and one example of a Judaeo-Arabic transliteration of a non-Jewish magical text. In both cases, many more examples of these processes could easily be adduced. But can we also find in the Cairo Genizah original Judaeo-Arabic or Arabic magical texts, produced by the Jews of Cairo as de novo compositions? Here, the issue becomes far more tricky, and to date I have found very few Genizah fragments which may have been composed by Jews in the Arabic language. One intriguing example is found in T-S NS 90.1, a single folio from a larger quire, which is paleographically dateable to the thirteenth century. The scribe who wrote this text sporadically added some Arabic diacritical points and vocalization marks on the Hebrew letters (see Fig. 1.3), a feature that is attested in other Judaeo-Arabic Genizah fragments as well, and that might suggest that here too we are dealing with a Judaeo-Arabic transliteration of an Arabic text, and an attempt to preserve some of its diacritical points. But in this case, the text’s contents strongly argue against that possibility. Not only does the text contain an introduction that is made up of praises of God, of the kind that is very common in books composed by Jews in Judaeo-Arabic, this introduction displays a long overlap with the introduction to Kitāb al-mawārīth (“The Book of Inheritances”) by Saadiah Gaon (882–942), the famous Jewish leader and polymath.55 The text runs as follows:

d26162688e2317

Figure 1.3

A set of magical recipes preceded by a long introduction

‮‭(T-S NS. 90.1r)‬ בשם אל עולם / תבארך56 אללה אלהי אסראיל אלדי כאן קבל / כל כאין ולא אלכינונה לה וצף אול לכל אל / אואיל ולא אלאואיל לה נעת אלאזלי אלד׳י לם / יזל לם ישתרך מעה פי אזליתה שי מן אל / אשיא אלואחד אלאחד אלמנפרד באלוחדאניה / אלדי ליס ואחד באלחקיקה סואה מבתדי / כל אבתדא ולא אבתדי לה פרק אבתדא֯ה֯ / אלכלק בינהם ובינה מ֯פנ֯י כ֯ל פאן֯ ולא פנא / לה֯ כ֯לק֯ אלעאלם לא מן מ֯אהיה ואת[קנה] / [בלא] כ֯יפיה ונצבה לא עלי אסס֯57 / פשהדת אלכלאיק בחדת אנפסהא / אנה אלטאיק אלעצ׳ים אלקאדר קבל כל קבל / ובעד כל בעד וכיף58 יבתדי מא לם יכון אן֯ ‭(T-S NS 90.1v)‬ ו[ אלאב]רץ ואלאג׳דם וברו גמיע אל / א[ ]סא[ ]כלק אללה וקיאם אל / מיית מן אלמ֯[ות?] ואלס֯יראן פי אלהוא (.) / פאמא סיר אלבס֯א֯ט פאנך תאכד בסאט / מרבע ותכתב עלי ארבע א[רכ]אנה אלתוטיה / ותעלק אלמג׳מרה פי ידך אליסרי ואלקצ֯׳ב / פי אליד אלימני ותתכלם בעד אלתבכיר / באלאסם ותאמר אלבסאט אן יסיר אלי / אית ארץ׳ תריד ⟨(.)⟩ ואמא רד בצר אל / אעמא פאנך תאכד קטע֯ה֯ טין תג֯ע֯ל֯הא / כבתין ותעמלהא עלי מחאג׳ר [ ] / אעמא ינצ׳ר מן סאעתה ⟨(.)⟩ ואמא אל / אבכא פאנך תאכד דהן אליאסמין ויסיר / מן אלזעפראן ותעמל מנה בין עיניך‬‎

‮‭(on the margins)‬ נקלת מן כת֯א֯ב֯ ר׳ של[]ון‬‎

(T-S NS 90.1r) In the name of the eternal God. / Blessed be the God of Israel, who has been before / all existent but existence does not describe Him. The first of all / the first things and the first things are not His description. The eternal who does not / cease to be. Nothing among things shares His eternity. / The Only, the One, the Unique in His oneness, / He who there is indeed no One apart from Him. The beginner of / all beginning, but He has no beginning. He separated, at the beginning / of creation between them (i.e., the created things) and Himself. He who brings to an end all things that end and has no / end. He created the world not from essence and perfected it / with no quality, and established it on no foundations. / And the created things, by virtue of their own newness, testified / that He is the Great Almighty, (who is) before all before / and after every after. For how shall that which had not existed begin to (T-S NS 90.1v) [ curing? the le]per and the invalid, and healing all the / [ ] God’s creatures, and raising / the dead from [death?] and travelling in the sky. And as for the travelling of the carpet, you should take a square / carpet, and write the introduction on its four corners / and you should tie the incense burner to your left hand, and the rod / to your right hand and after the fumigation you should recite / the Name and order the carpet to travel to / whichever land you wish. And as for returning the blind man’s / sight, you should take a piece of clay, make from it / two balls and place them on the blind man’s / [eye] sockets, (and) he shall see at once. And as for the much crying (baby?), you should take jasmine oil and a bit / of saffron and place some of it between your eyes59

(on the margins) Copied from the book (?) of R. ŠL[ ]WN

This text is highly unusual, in several ways. Least of all its peculiarities, it offers a recipe for making a flying carpet, a magical aim for which I know of no other Jewish parallels, but which fits well in the world in which the Arabian Nights came into being.60 Practices for making blind men see or for stopping babies from crying are, of course, far more common in the Jewish, as in any other, magical tradition, but the text on the subsequent folio probably included recipes for healing lepers and raising the dead, which are almost as unique in the Jewish magical corpus as the one for the flying carpet. All this is quite unusual, but the long introduction which precedes the magical recipes is far more intriguing, as I have yet to see another Jewish magical text that begins with so much verbiage about God’s uniqueness and eternity. Finally, and most surprisingly, most of this introduction is closely paralleled in an introduction to one of Saadiah Gaon’s halakhic manuals.61 For a magical text to show such close parallels with a halakhic manual is extremely unusual, and the explanation of this phenomenon must lie in the fact that because such praises of God were quite repetitive, they could easily be “borrowed” by one writer who used the work of another writer. But it must also point to the fact that the author of our magical text took his cues neither from older Jewish magical texts nor from the magical texts of the Arabic-speaking world around him, but from the Judaeo-Arabic halakhic and philosophical tractates with which he was familiar. However, not only did he open his collection of magical recipes with the kind of introduction one would expect in a halakhic, exegetical or philosophical tractate, he also turned that introduction (‮אלתוטיה‬‎, i.e., ‮التوطئة‬‎) into a powerful spell, to be written on the four corners of the carpet in order to make it fly.

The text’s indebtedness to other genres of Judaeo-Arabic literature would also explain two additional peculiarities: First, that the introduction moves from general praises of God to those aspects of His greatness that are relevant to this specific text (including ‮אלסיראן פי אלסמא‬‎, “travelling in the sky,” which is covered by the first recipe), this being a very typical feature of such introductions.62 Second, that each recipe begins with ‮פאמא‬‎ or ‮ואמא‬‎, “And as for,” which is very different from all other magical recipes books found in the Cairo Genizah, whose recipes usually begin with ‮באב‬‎, “a gate, section,” or with ‮ל-‬‎, “For xxx,” or with ‮אדא ארדת‬‎, “If you wish (to do xxx).”63

One final clue pointing to the Jewishness of this text is the note on its lower margin, “Copied from the book (?) of R. ŠL[ ]WN.” Unfortunately, the exact name cannot be deciphered, but the title “R(abbi)” seems quite clear. Whether this Rabbi composed our text or copied it from an earlier source I cannot say, but the close proximity between this text and Saadiah’s shows that it too is an original Judaeo-Arabic composition, and not a transliteration of an existing Arabic magical text.

4 Conclusion

The fragments from the Cairo Genizah include numerous magical texts, many of which contain at least some words, phrases, or whole sections in Judaeo-Arabic or Arabic. But the presence of Judaeo-Arabic and Arabic in the Genizah magical texts clearly reflects three different processes. On the one hand, it reflects the extensive copying and editing in Genizah times of older Jewish magical texts, many of which were written in languages that were no longer in daily use among the Jews of medieval Cairo—Hebrew, and especially Aramaic. Such texts had to be translated—in their entirety, or only in part—into the new vernacular, Arabic, and the translated sections could be written either in Judaeo-Arabic or in Arabic. On the other hand, the abundance of Arabic and Judaeo-Arabic fragments also reflects the frequent use by Jews of magical texts that came to them from the Arabic-speaking world that was all around them. Such texts could be read and used either in Arabic copies or in Judaeo-Arabic transliterations, and in some cases could even be translated into Hebrew, especially when desired by Jews who knew no Arabic, such as those living in Christian Europe.64 But in addition to these two processes, for each of which dozens of additional examples could easily be adduced, we see a third process, that seems to have been far less common, namely, the composition of new magical texts, written by Arabic-speaking Jews in Judaeo-Arabic (and perhaps also in Arabic): new compositions with obvious connections to the Jewish and Muslim/Arabic milieus in which they were produced. But before ending this paper I would like to stress once again that even this basic typology of the Judaeo-Arabic and Arabic magical texts from the Cairo Genizah is only tentative, and will have to be reworked in light of future research. Moreover, the only way to make real progress in this field is by combining the efforts of experts in the Jewish magical tradition and experts in the Arabic one. If the Jewish practitioners of medieval Cairo could collaborate so closely with their Muslim counterparts, then so should we.

*

The research for the present paper was funded by the Israel Science Foundation (Grant No. 986/14). I dedicate this paper to the memory of Alexander (Sándor) Fodor (1941–2014), an expert in Arabic magic and a true friend. I am grateful to Aviam Ben Naim for his assistance in deciphering and translating the Arabic texts, to Edna Engel for the paleographical analysis and dating of the Genizah fragments, and to Shaul Shaked and Petra Sijpesteijn for many helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper.

1

For a fuller substantiation of this claim, and a call for action, see Gideon Bohak, “Prolegomena to the Study of the Jewish Magical Tradition,” Currents in Biblical Literature 8, no. 1 (2009): 107–150.

2

See Gideon Bohak, Ancient Jewish Magic: A History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008); Yuval Harari, Jewish Magic before the Rise of Kabbalah, trans. Batya Stein (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2017); both monographs provide full bibliographies.

3

See Joshua Trachtenberg, Jewish Magic and Superstition: A Study in Folk Religion (New York: Behrman’s Jewish Book House, 1939); for a preliminary survey of the Jewish magical tradition, see Yuval Harari, “Jewish Magic: An Annotated Overview,” El Prezente: Studies in Sephardic Culture 5 (2011): 13*–85* (Heb.); for modern Jewish magic, see Gideon Bohak, “How Jewish Magic Survived the Disenchantment of the World,” Aries—Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism 19 (2019): 7–37.

4

For this point, see Jeffrey Howard Chajes, “ “Entzauberung” and Jewish Modernity: On “Magic”, Enlightenment, and Faith,” Jahrbuch des Simon Dubnow-Instituts 6 (2007): 191–200; Gideon Bohak, “Gershom Scholem and Jewish Magic,” Kabbalah 28 (2012): 141–162 (Heb.); and cf. the following note.

5

For fuller discussions of this issue, see Steven M. Wasserstrom, “The Magical Texts in the Cairo Genizah,” in Genizah Research after Ninety Years: The Case of Judaeo-Arabic, eds. Joshua Blau and Stefan C. Reif (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 160–166; Mark R. Cohen, “Goitein, Magic, and the Geniza,” Jewish Studies Quarterly 13 (2006): 294–304.

6

For the most important publications, see Joseph Naveh and Shaul Shaked, Amulets and Magic Bowls: Aramaic Incantations of Late Antiquity (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1985); Joseph Naveh and Shaul Shaked, Magic Spells and Formulae: Aramaic Incantations of Late Antiquity (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1993); Lawrence H. Schiffman and Michael D. Swartz, Hebrew and Aramaic Incantation Texts from the Cairo Genizah: Selected Texts from Taylor-Schechter Box K1, Semitic Texts and Studies 1 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1992); Peter Schäfer and Shaul Shaked, Magische Texte aus der Kairoer Geniza, Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism 42, 64, 72, 3 vols. (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1994–1999); Emma Abate, Sigillare il mondo: Amuleti e ricette dalla Genizah: Manoscritti magici ebraici della biblioteca della Alliance Israelite Universelle di Parigi (Palermo: Officina di Studi Medievali, 2015). For a broad survey of the Genizah magical texts see Gideon Bohak, “Towards a Catalogue of the Magical, Astrological, Divinatory and Alchemical Fragments from the Cambridge Genizah Collections,” in From a Sacred Source: Genizah Studies in Honour of Professor Stefan C. Reif, eds. Ben Outhwaite and Siam Bhayro, Études sur le Judaïsme Médiéval 42, Cambridge Genizah Studies Series 1 (Leiden: Brill, 2010), 53–79.

7

See Norman Golb, “The Esoteric Practices of the Jews of Fatimid Egypt,” American Philosophical Society Yearbook (1965), 533–535; Norman Golb, “Aspects of the Historical Background of Jewish Life in Medieval Egypt,” in Jewish Medieval and Renaissance Studies, ed. A. Altmann (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1967), 1–18, esp. 12–18; Shaul Shaked, “An Early Magic Fragment from the Cairo Geniza,” in Occident and Orient: A Tribute to the Memory of Alexander Scheiber, ed. Robert Dán (Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó and Leiden: Brill, 1988), 361–371; Shaul Shaked, “Between Judaism and Islam: Some Issues in Popular Religion,” Peʿamim 60 (1994): 4–19 (Heb.); Shaul Shaked, “Medieval Jewish Magic in Relation to Islam: Theoretical Attitudes and Genres,” in Judaism and Islam: Boundaries, Communication and Interaction (Essays in Honor of William M. Brinner), ed. Benjamin H. Hary, John L. Hayes, and Fred Astren (Leiden: Brill, 2000), 97–109; Steven M. Wasserstrom, “The Unwritten Chapter: Notes Towards a Social and Religious History of Geniza Magic,” in Officina Magica: Essays on the Practice of Magic in Antiquity, ed. Shaul Shaked, IJS Studies in Judaica 4 (Leiden: Brill, 2005), 269–293; Charles Burnett and Gideon Bohak, “A Judaeo-Arabic Version of Ṭābit ibn Qurra’s De Imaginibus and Pseudo-Ptolemy’s Opus Imaginum,” in Islamic Philosophy, Science, Culture, and Religion: Studies in Honor of Dimitri Gutas, eds. Felicitas Opwis and David Reisman (Leiden: Brill, 2012), 179–200; Gideon Bohak and Charles Burnett, Thābit ibn Qurra On Talismans, Pseudo-Ptolemy On Images 1–9, Liber prestigiorum Thebidis of Adelard of Bath (Florence: SISMEL Edizioni del Galluzzo), 2021.

8

See Karl R. Schaefer, Enigmatic Charms: Medieval Arabic Block Printed Amulets in American and European Libraries and Museums (Leiden: Brill, 2006), who edits a few Arabic block printed amulets from the Cairo Genizah, and Gideon Bohak and Ortal-Paz Saar, “Genizah Magical Texts Prepared for or Against Named Individuals,” Revue des Études Juives 174 (2015): 77–110 for a prosopography of the Genizah magical texts.

9

For the astrological fragments, mostly in Judaeo-Arabic and Arabic, see Bernard R. Goldstein and David Pingree, “Horoscopes from the Cairo Geniza,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 36 (1977): 113–144; Bernard R. Goldstein and David Pingree, “The Astronomical Tables of al-Khwarizmi in a Nineteenth Century Egyptian Text,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 98 (1978): 96–99; Bernard R. Goldstein and David Pingree, “Astrological Almanacs from the Cairo Geniza,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 38 (1979): 153–175, 231–256; Bernard R. Goldstein and David Pingree, “More Horoscopes from the Cairo Geniza,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 125 (1981): 155–189; Bernard R. Goldstein and David Pingree, “Astronomical Computations for 1299 from the Cairo Geniza,” Centaurus 25 (1982): 303–318; Bernard R. Goldstein and David Pingree, “Additional Astrological Almanacs from the Cairo Geniza,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 103 (1983): 673–690. For another astrological fragment, see below, n. 31. For broader surveys, see Paul Fenton, “Les Manuscripts Astrologiques de la Guénizah du Caire,” in Le monde juif et l’ astrologie, ed. Jacques Halbronn (Milano: Archè, 1985), iii–xvii; Bernard R. Goldstein, “Astronomy and the Jewish Community in Early Islam,” Aleph 1 (2001): 17–57.

10

For these divinatory techniques, and their representation in the Cairo Genizah, see Israel Friedlaender, “A Muhammedan Book on Augury in Hebrew Characters,” Jewish Studies Quarterly 19 (1907): 84–103; Blanca Villuendas Sabaté, La Geomancia en los manuscritos judeo-árabes de la Gueniza de El Cairo, Cordoba Near Eastern Research Unit, Series Judaeo-Islamica 2 (Córdoba: CNERU-CSIC, 2015); Blanca Villuendas Sabaté, “Arabic Geomancy in Jewish Hands: Specimens from the Cairo Genizah,” in Geomancy and Other Forms of Divination, eds. Alessandro Palazzo and Irene Zavattero, Micrologus Library 87 (Firenze: SISMEL Edizioni del Galluzzo, 2017), 271–288; Blanca Villuendas Sabaté, Onirocrítica islámica, judía y cristiana en la Gueniza de El Cairo: edición y estudio de los manuales judeo-árabes de interpretación de sueños. Estudios árabes e islámicos 23 (Madrid: CSIC, 2020).

11

For the impact on the Jewish world of Muslim demonological tracts, see Gershom Scholem, “Bilar the King of Devils,” Jewish Studies 1 (1926): 112–127 (Heb.) (repr., with many additions, in Gershom Scholem, Devils, Demons and Souls: Essays on Demonology by Gershom Scholem, ed. Esther Liebes (Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi, 2004), 9–53 (Heb.)); Gershom Scholem, “Some Sources of Jewish-Arabic Demonology,” Journal of Jewish Studies 16 (1965): 1–13 (repr., with many additions, in Scholem, Devils, Demons and Souls, 103–115 (Heb.)); in both papers, Scholem displays no familiarity with the many Genizah fragments that shed much light on this issue; for astral-talismanic magic, see Burnett and Bohak, “A Judaeo-Arabic Version,” and Bohak and Burnett, Thābit ibn Qurra On Talismans; for the Egyptian manuals for finding buried treasures, see Christopher Braun, “Treasure Hunting and Grave Robbery in Islamic Egypt: Textual Evidence and Social Context” (unpubl. PhD diss., University of London, 2017) (who refers to the Genizah evidence, but does not analyse it in depth).

12

For some inroads into this vast field, see Alexander Fodor, “Goldziher and Magic in Islam,” in Goldziher Memorial Conference (June 21–22, 2000), eds. Éva Apor and István Ormos (Budapest: Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, 2005), 51–65; Yair Zoran, “Magic, Theurgy and the Knowledge of Letters in Islam and Their Parallels in Jewish Literature,” Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Folklore 18 (1996): 19–62 (Heb.); Yair Zoran, “ “The Great Name” and Its Powers in Islam, and Their Parallels in the Jewish World,” Bein Ever le-Arav 9 (2017): 70–95 and 10–11 (2019): 91–114 (Heb.); and cf. Gideon Bohak, “Jewish Magic in the Middle Ages,” in The Cambridge History of Magic and Witchcraft in the West, ed. David Collins (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 280–283.

13

For the choice of language and script in the Genizah fragments as a whole (with a brief mention of the magical texts), see Esther-Miriam Wagner, “A Matter of Script? Arabic and Judaeo-Arabic in the Genizah Collections,” in Jewish-Muslim Relations in Past and Present: A Kaleidoscopic View, ed. Josef Meri, Studies on the Children of Abraham 5 (Leiden: Brill, 2017), 115–136.

14

For this process, see Rina Drory, The Emergence of Jewish-Arabic Literary Contacts at the Beginning of the Tenth Century (Tel-Aviv University: Porter Institute, 1988) (Heb.), who deals (pp. 25–28) with the non-canonical status of the magical texts, but not with their linguistic aspects; Joshua Blau, The Emergence and Linguistic Background of Judaeo-Arabic: A Study of the Origins of Neo-Arabic and Middle Arabic, 3rd rev. ed. (Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi, 1999), esp. 18–24.

15

See, for example, Schäfer and Shaked, Magische Texte, vol. 2, No. 27 (= T-S K 1.74), where ‮דיו‬‎, “ink” is glossed with ‮חבר‬‎; ‮משך טבי‬‎, “gazelle skin” is glossed with ‮רק גזאל‬‎, and so on, the glosses apparently added by two different hands. Such glosses are well attested outside the Genizah as well, and see, for example, the many Judaeo-Arabic glosses on the Aramaic text of the Sword of Moses, as found in MS Sassoon 290, for which see Yuval Harari, Ḥarba de-Moshe (The Sword of Moses): A New Edition and a Study (Jerusalem: Academon, 1997), 176–183 (Heb.).

16

For the Hebrew fragments, see Bill Rebiger and Peter Schäfer, Sefer ha-Razim I und II—Das Buch der Geheimnisse I und II, Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism 125, 132, 2 vols. (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2009), vol. 1, 121*–152*, 184*–185*; for the Judaeo-Arabic fragments, see there, 153*–183*, 186*–188*. See also Alexander Fodor, “An Arabic Version of Sefer Ha-Razim,” Jewish Studies Quarterly 13 (2006): 412–427; Dóra Zsom, “Another Arabic version of Sefer Ha-Razim and Ḥarba De-Moše: A New Sifr Ādam Manuscript,” The Arabist: Budapest Studies in Arabic 37 (2016): 179–201.

17

For Shimmush Tehillim, see Bill Rebiger, Sefer Shimmush Tehillim—Buch vom magischen Gebrauch der Psalmen: Edition, Übersetzung und Kommentar, Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism 137 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010). For the Aramaic fragments of this text, see Schäfer and Shaked, Magische Texte, vol. 3, Nos. 78–84; the Judaeo-Arabic fragments remain mostly unpublished, but see Rebiger, Sefer Shimmush Tehillim, 31 and n. 132.

18

See Rebiger and Schäfer, Sefer ha-Razim, G33 (= T-S AS 143.426) and G34 (= T-S AS 143.429).

19

The fragment is T-S NS 228.23, and covers Psalms 61 to 63. See also Schäfer and Shaked, Magische Texte, vol. 3, No. 78 (= T-S Ar. 36.122 + T.S. NS 151.36), where a short excerpt from a Judaeo-Arabic text of Shimmush Tehillim is followed by an Aramaic version of (the whole of?) Shimmush Tehillim.

20

The fragment is T-S NS 309.51, and it was discussed by Reimund Leicht, Astrologumena Judaica: Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der Astrologischen Literatur der Juden, Texts and Studies in Medieval and Early Modern Judaism 21 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2006), 73–75.

21

See Alphonse Mingana, “Some Early Judaeo-Christian Documents in the John Rylands Library,” Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 4 (1917): 76–85; James H. Charlesworth, “Rylands Syriac Ms. 44 and a New Addition to the Pseudepigrapha: The Treatise of Shem, Discussed and Translated,” Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 60 (1978): 376–403; Leicht, Astrologumena Judaica, 45–55, and the excellent survey of this and related texts in Alessandro Mengozzi, Trattato di Sem e altri testi astrologici (Brescia: Paideia, 1997).

22

See Joseph Naveh, “Hebrew Versus Aramaic in the Epigraphical Finds, Part II,” Leshonenu 57 (1992–1993): 24–29 (Heb.).

23

For this well-known issue, much discussed by ancient and modern theoreticians of the potential efficacy of magical spells, see Stanley J. Tambiah, “The Magical Power of Words,” Man n.s. 3 (1968): 175–208 (repr. in Tambiah, Culture, Thought, and Social Action (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1985), 17–59); Naomi Janowitz, Icons of Power: Ritual Practices in Late Antiquity, Magic in History (University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2002), esp. 19–43. The Jewish practitioners of medieval Cairo were not necessarily aware of such discussions, but clearly were aware of the danger that a translated spell might not work.

24

For these processes, see also Gideon Bohak, “The Jewish Magical Tradition from Late Antique Palestine to the Cairo Genizah,” in From Hellenism to Islam: Cultural and Linguistic Change in the Roman Near East, eds. Hannah M. Cotton, Robert G. Hoyland, Jonathan J. Price and David J. Wasserstein (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 324–339; Gideon Bohak, “A Jewish Charm for Memory and Understanding,” in Jewish Education from Antiquity to the Middle Ages: Studies in Honour of Philip S. Alexander, eds. George J. Brooke and Renate Smithuis (Leiden: Brill, 2017), 324–340.

25

For a useful survey of Jewish “path jumping” rituals, but no discussion of the Genizah fragments, see Mark Verman and Shulamit H. Adler, “Path Jumping in the Jewish Magical Tradition,” Jewish Studies Quarterly 1 (1993/94): 131–148.

26

For the frequent “recycling” of Fatimid chancery documents in the Cairo Genizah, see Marina Rustow, The Lost Archive: Traces of a Caliphate in a Cairo Synagogue (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2020). For the common occurrence of rotuli in the Cairo Genizah, see Gideon Bohak, “The Magical Rotuli from the Cairo Genizah,” in Continuity and Innovation in the Magical Tradition, eds. Gideon Bohak, Yuval Harari, and Shaul Shaked, Jerusalem Studies in Religion and Culture 15 (Leiden: Brill, 2011), 321–340; Judith Olszowy-Schlanger, “Cheap Books in Medieval Egypt: Rotuli from the Cairo Geniza,” Intellectual History of the Islamicate World 4 (2016): 82–101; Rustow, The Lost Archive, 383–400.

27

In the following transcriptions, [‮א‬‎] stands for a lacuna in the manuscript, ‮א֯‬‎ stands for a letter whose reading is doubtful, {‮א‬‎} stands for a deletion by the scribe, ⟨‮א‬‎⟩ stands for an interlinear or marginal addition by the scribe, and (‮אאא‬‎) are my own comments. In the translation, regular brackets enclose explanatory words which must be added for the translation to make more sense.

28

I am puzzled by the word ‮אוסרייה‬‎ / ‮איסייה‬‎; it might be a plural form of ‮איסרא‬‎, meaning either “angels,” or “bindings, charms,” or the Greek word ousia, “essence,” which is frequently found in Greek magical texts in the sense of “stuff belonging to the client or potential victim,” but in either case the word does not seem to belong here. In Judaeo-Arabic, ‮איסיה‬‎ means “entity, being,” but this too would not fit the context. Moreover, it is clear that the copyists of T-S NS.  322.19 and T-S Ar. 43.91, and perhaps even of T-S AS. 142.28, had no idea what this word means, and they probably thought it was a vox magica. For such processes of textual corruption, which are very common in the magical texts, see Claudia Rohrbacher-Sticker, “From Sense to Nonsense, From Incantation Prayer to Magical Spell,” Jewish Studies Quarterly 3 (1996): 24–46.

29

For a brief survey of these magic signs and their frequent occurrence in the Jewish magical tradition, see Gideon Bohak, “The Charaktêres in Ancient and Medieval Jewish Magic,” Acta Classica Universitatis Scientiarum Debreceniensis 47 (2011): 25–44.

30

For these processes, see Bill Rebiger, “Unterweisung, Überlieferung und Aktualisierung von magischem Wissen im Judentum: Ansätze zu einer Textpragmatik,” Frankfurter Judaistische Beiträge 36 (2010): 31–55, and cf. Petra M. Sijpesteijn, “Arabic Medical-Magical Manuscripts: a Living Tradition,” in this volume. For the textual instability of medieval Jewish texts in general, see Miriam Frenkel, “Book Lists from the Cairo Genizah: A Window on the Production of Texts in the Middle Ages,” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 80 (2017): 233–252.

31

For Early Judaeo-Arabic in Phonetic Spelling, see Blau, Emergence and Linguistic Background of Judaeo-Arabic, 241–243, and Joshua Blau and Simon Hopkins, Early Judaeo-Arabic in Phonetic Spelling: Texts from the End of the First Millennium, vol. 1 (Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi, 2017), esp. 26–30 (Heb.). For a published magical text written in EJAPS, see Shaked, “An Early Magic Fragment,” and cf. the astrological text in EJAPS published by Yosef Tobi, Poetry, Judeo-Arabic Literature, and the Geniza, Jewish Culture in Muslim Lands and Cairo Geniza Studies IV (Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University, 2006), 51–55 (Heb.). I am currently preparing more such texts for publication in the second volume of Blau and Hopkins, Early Judaeo-Arabic in Phonetic Spelling.

32

The fact that the text written in Arabic letters is found on a “recycled” chancery document may be due to pure coincidence, but may also reflect the activities of a scribe whose proficiency in writing Arabic was related to the access he had to such used pieces of official documents.

33

For a broad survey of this process, as reflected in the book-lists from the Cairo Genizah, see Moshe Sokolow, “Arabic Books in Jewish Libraries: The Evidence of Genizah Booklists,” in The Medieval Mediterranean: Cross-Cultural Contacts, eds. Marilyn J. Chiat and Kathryn L. Reyerson (St. Cloud, Minnesota: North Star Press, 1988), 96–100.

34

For the impact of these new techniques on the Christian world see, for example, David Pingree, “The Diffusion of Arabic Magical Texts in Western Europe,” in La Diffusione delle Scienze islamiche nel Medio Evo Europeo (Rome: Academia Nazionale dei Lincei, 1987), 57–102; Jean-Patrice Boudet, “The Transmission of Arabic Magic in Europe (Middle Ages—Renaissance),” Micrologus 28 (2020) (= The Diffusion of the Islamic Sciences in the Western World): 143–166.

35

For useful starting-points, and much further bibliography, cf. Ursula Hammed, “Arabic Magical Texts in Original Documents—A Papyrologist Answers Five Questions You Always Wanted to Ask,” in this volume.; Jean-Charles Coulon “Amulets and Talismans in the Earliest Works of the Corpus Bunianum”, in this volume.

36

See, for example, Burnett and Bohak, “A Judaeo-Arabic Version of Ṭābit ibn Qurra’s De Imaginibus,” 183.

37

The contents of this sentence still elude me; فناطيس, “reservoirs, cisterns, containers,” does not seem to fit the context here, unless it refers to some apocryphal traditions about Solomon and Alexander the Great with which I am not yet familiar.

38

Or, ‮ועל[א]ניה‬‎, i.e., “secretly and in public.”

39

The word may have been נאים, or קאים, but even the reading of the aleph is uncertain.

40

The reading might also be אלנח; for lack of a better solution, I take it as an error for אללוח, “the tablet,” especially given the shape of the magical sign for this month, which is shaped like a square rather than a horizontal line. Another possibility is that he tried to write אלנחו, “the manner.”

41

I assume that a word like לסעה or לדגה, “stung / bit him” fell out of the text here. Another possibility is that the text should have read אלסם מן אלחיה ואלעקרב, “the venom of the snake and the scorpion,” but the reading למן is certain.

42

The word פי, “in / on,” fell out of the text here.

43

Here the magical sign clearly was too long to be copied in a single line, so the copyist “folded” it into the next line.

44

Either the scribe forgot a yod, or he thought that the month’s name was جمادى الاول rather than جمادى الاولى.

45

I.e., תסלב.

46

I.e., אלאוסט.

47

I.e., תבאדר?

48

For the “Seal of Solomon” in Islamic magic, see Hans Alexander Winkler, Siegel und Charaktere in der Muhammedanischen Zauberei (Berlin & Leipzig: De Gruyter, 1930), 65–69; Rachel Milstein, The Seal of Solomon (Jerusalem: Tower of David Museum, 1995); Ali Faraj, “A New Incantation Bowl with Arabic Inscription,” Quaderni di Studi Arabi, Studi in onore di Francesca Lucchetta n.s. 11 (2016): 214–216.

49

For ‮שגרה מרים‬‎, Marwān ibn Ǧanāḥ, Kitāb al-Talḫīṣ, says that ‮فقلامينس يقال إنّها شجرة مريم‬‎, i.e., it is the cyclamen (κυκλάμινος). See Gerrit Bos, Fabian Käs, Mailyn Lübke and Guido Mensching, Marwān ibn Ǧanāḥ: On the Nomenclature of Medicinal Drugs (Kitāb al-Talḫīṣ), Islamic History and Civilization 170 (Leiden: Brill, 2020), No. 711. I am grateful to Gerrit Bos for this reference.

50

Or, more literally, “you will not ask / for something without it being realized for you.”

51

See, for example, Michael D. Swartz, “ ‘Like the Ministering Angels’: Ritual and Purity in Early Jewish Mysticism and Magic,” AJS Review 19 (1994): 135–167.

52

For such introductions in pre-Islamic Jewish magical and mystical texts, see Michael D. Swartz, “Book and Tradition in Hekhalot and Magical Literature,” Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy 3 (1994): 189–229.

53

For these magical signs, see Winkler, Siegel und Charaktere, and Tewfik Canaan, “The Decipherment of Arabic Talismans,” Berytus 4 (1937): 69–110, 5 (1938): 141–151 (repr. in Magic and Divination in Early Islam, ed. Emilie Savage-Smith (Aldershot: Ashgate/Variorum, 2004), 125–177). For their entry into the Jewish magical tradition, see Bohak, “The Charaktêres,” 28, 35–36, 43.

54

It must be noted, however, that the spelling ‮סגרה‬‎ might also reflect the pronunciation of this word in the scribe’s time, and note the references to ‮אלסג׳רה‬‎, “the tree” (from which Moses’ rod was taken), in MS St. Petersburg, RNL: Yevr.-Arab. I 858, as transcribed in the Friedberg Genizah Project.

55

For this text, see the recent edition by Robert Brody, Halakhic Monographs of Rav Saadia Gaon (Jerusalem: Yad Harav Nissim, 2015), 11–125 (Heb.), to which I refer below.

56

The text from תבארך to ובעד כל בעד is closely paralleled by Saadiah’s text, pp. 12–14 Brody, except for the biblical prooftexts that are adduced in Saadiah’s text and are not adduced in our text. Apart from this major difference, there are only minor differences between the two texts, and in some places the text here can help improve the readings in Saadiah’s text, where the manuscript evidence for this passage is incomplete (see Brody, Halakhic Monographs, 4–5). Many of the specific phrases found in this text are paralleled in other Judaeo-Arabic texts, but noting all these shorter parallels would take us too far afield.

57

There is a long blank space in the text here, which may be due to some words becoming utterly effaced, or to a space which the copyist left blank in order to fill it later with words he could not read in the text before him. A comparison with Saadiah’s text shows that several sentences are missing here, so the second possibility is far more likely.

58

Saadiah’s text has ‮וכיף יכאלפה מן לם [יכן]‬‎, but the parallel seems to break off here. It seems as if our text now moves to more specific issues, that will later be covered by the magical recipes themselves.

59

The text probably should have read “his eyes.” Recipes to prevent babies from crying are extremely common in the Jewish magical tradition, and we already encountered one such recipe above, in our description of T-S AS 142.28.

60

For this famous motif, see Marina Warner, Stranger Magic: Charmed States and the Arabian Nights (Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2013), 59–70; for its entry from the Muslim to the Jewish world, especially in the Hebrew story of King Solomon and the Ant (Adolf Jellinek, Bet ha-Midrasch: Sammlung Kleiner Midraschim, vol. 5 (Vienna: Brüder Winter, 1873), 22–26), see Nabil Watad, “The Story of King Solomon, the Flying Carpet and the Ant: A Narrative Circuit between Judaism and Islam” (unpubl. MA thesis, Tel Aviv University, 2009) (in Arabic).

61

An alternative interpretation to the one offered below would consist of seeing the two sides of the page as unrelated to each other. As the verso displays vertical and horizontal lines used to erase the text, it is not impossible that this side came first, was erased, and the halakhic text was copied on the recto, which originally was blank. However, it must be noted that the two sides were written by the same hand, and that the recipe for making a flying carpet clearly refers to writing ‮אלתוטיה‬‎, “the introduction,” presumably the introductory invocation on the recto.

62

See Brody, Halakhic Monographs of Rav Saadia Gaon, 13*–14*, and Miriam Goldstein, “Judeo-Arabic Versions of Toledoth Yeshu,” Ginzei Qedem 6 (2010): 39*–41*.

63

At present, I am aware only of one other magical text whose recipes begin with ‮ואמא‬‎, namely T-S NS. 150.216, a fragment of Shimmush Tehillim in which each section begins with ‮ואמא‬‎, followed by the incipit of the next Psalm, and then by its magical uses.

64

For this well-known process see, for example, Gad Freudenthal, “Arabic and Latin Cultures as Resources for the Hebrew Translation Movement: Comparative Considerations, Both Quantitative and Qualitative,” in Science in Medieval Jewish Cultures, ed. Gad Freudenthal (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 74–105.

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