Guide to the Study of Ancient Magic

David Frankfurter (ed), Leiden: Brill, 2019


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.

(Text from the publisher)

Table of contents


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

The Plan of This Volume – David Frankfurter

Cultural Constructions of Ambiguous, Unsanctioned, or Illegitimate Ritual – David Frankfurter

Mesopotamia – Daniel Schwemer

Iran – Albert de Jong

Egypt – Jacco Dieleman

Greece – Fritz Graf

Ancient Israel and Early Judaism – Yuval Harari

Rome and the Roman Empire – Magali Bailliot

Early Christianity – Joseph E. Sanzo

Roman and Byzantine Egypt – Jacques van der Vliet

The Materials of Ancient Magic – David Frankfurter

The Greco-Egyptian Magical Papyri – Jacco Dieleman

Christian Spells and Manuals from Egypt – Jacques van der Vliet

Binding Spells on Tablets and Papyri – Esther Eidinow

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

Gems – Véronique Dasen and Árpád M. Nagy

Figurines, Images, and Representations Used in Ritual Practices – Andrew T. Wilburn

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

Building Ritual Agency: Foundations, Floors, Doors, and Walls – Andrew T. Wilburn

Dimensions of a Category Magic – David Frankfurter

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

The Magic of Writing in Mediterranean Antiquity – David Frankfurter

Magic and the Forces of Materiality – David Frankfurter

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

Magic and Theurgy – Sarah Iles Johnston

Magic as the Local Application of Authoritative Tradition – David Frankfurter

Magic and Social Tension – Esther Eidinow


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