1938 Pin Up
Ethiopian Magic Scroll
It first shows the figure of a guardian angel with drawn sword. Above the figure is an exceptionally fine series of bands of decoration in the form of laticework and crosses, some incorpating protective eyes. The second shows a grid of nine squares filled with alternating face and cruciform motifs. The third shows a cruciform laticework design. And the fourth shows a schematic eight-pointed star with a central face motif. The original owner’s name (a woman) remains throughout as Wälättä Maryam, accompanied once with her given name Mässäläch.
1. The Legend of Susenyos.
2. Prayer for the “expulsion” of disease and “shätolay”.
[ the demon especially responsible for ailments connected with pregnancy and childbirth.]
3. Prayer against the evil eye.
4. Prayer against rheumatism and sciatica.
5. Prayers against haemorrhage.
6. Prayer against “shätolay”.
7. Prayer against zar wellaj.
[the descendents of zarspirits who take corporal form and who herald the latter ; also the name of a psychic illness caused by zarspirits.]
Ethiopian ‘Magic’ Scrolls
Ethiopian gospel or prayer scrolls, often referred to as ‘magic scrolls’, were believed to hold protective and healing powers, and were carried by the owner at all times. They were inscribed with prayers, spells and charms originally designed to offer protection to their owner. Each one was designed for the individual patron. Inscribed with prayers, spells and charms, the text was often excerpted from sacred books such as Gospels and thus were tolerated by the Ethiopian Church in spite of their connection to magical practices. Clients commissioned their scrolls for diverse reasons, using them to undo spells, restore health, combat sterility and even ward off demons. The dabtara, or ordained cleric responsible for producing the object, specifically tailored the size and content of the scroll to the physical and spiritual characteristics of his client, using painted decoration to enhance the scrolls protective properties
The process began with the selection and sacrifice of a particular animal. The dabtara washed the client in the animals’ blood as part of the process of purification. Three strips of parchment were then made from the skin of the animal and stitched together to form a single scroll equal in length to the height of its owner. The object, therefore, maintained a direct, physical connection to its owner, enhancing the power of its magic.
Ceramic bowl with Aramaic magic inscription
Sasanian / Myic, about 6th century AD
From Kutha (Tell Ibrahim), south Mesopotamia
A magic bowl for protection from demons
This is one of many Late Sasanian and post-Sasanian ceramic bowls and lids which were used in magical ceremonies intended to protect individuals and their relatives or belongings from evil spirits. Spells were written on these vessels in a variety of different scripts and occasionally, the bound spirit and/or magicians were also depicted on the inside of the vessel. The abstract stick-like figure in the centre of this bowl may be a demon.
This form of magic was practiced across the western province of the Sasanian Empire, from northern Mesopotamia to south-west Iran. It was an extension of the practice, widespread during the fourth to seventh centuries AD, in which talismans written on metal sheets were used in order to ward off the powers of evil, to heal people, or to gain the love of a person.
The majority of bowls of this type found in excavations come from south Mesopotamia. Some may have been found in their original positions, placed upside-down, and some scholars have suggested that they may have served as traps for demons.
The inscription on this particular bowl is in Aramaic; although it cannot be meaningfully translated, it does contain references to female demons known as ‘liliths’.