Magic and Ritual in the Ancient World

Magic and Ritual in the Ancient World

Magic and Ritual in the Ancient World

Magic and Ritual in the Ancient World

Synopsis

This volume contains a series of provocative essays that explore expressions of magic and ritual power in the ancient world. The essays are authored by leading scholars in the fields of Egyptology, ancient Near Eastern studies, the Hebrew Bible, Judaica, classical Greek and Roman studies, early Christianity and patristics, and Coptic and Islamic Egypt.

The strength of the present volume lies in the breadth of scholarly approaches represented. The book begins with several papyrological studies presenting important new texts in Greek and Coptic, continuing with essays focusing on taxonomy and definition. The concluding essays apply contemporary theories to analyses of specific test cases in a broad variety of ancient Mediterranean cultures.

Excerpt

If the title of the present volume, Magic and Ritual in the Ancient World, is reminiscent of an earlier volume in the Brill series Religions in the Graeco-Roman World, it should come as no surprise. In August 1992 Paul Mirecki and Marvin Meyer invited a series of colleagues from a variety of disciplines to an international conference, held at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, on “Magic in the Ancient World.” The scholars in attendance all addressed the phenomena of ancient magic and ritual power from the perspectives of their own disciplines, but they did so with a particular concern for the general issues of definition and taxonomy. From that conference there emerged a volume, edited by Meyer and Mirecki and published in 1995 by Brill, entitled Ancient Magic and Ritual Power. As noted in the introduction to the volume, “An understanding of 'magic' as 'ritual power' … permeates many of the essays in this volume” (4).

The present volume comes from a similar scholarly conference. In August 1998 Meyer and Mirecki assembled the magoi once again— many of them the usual suspects—at a second international conference, held at Chapman University in Orange, California, and the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity of Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, California, on “Magic in the Ancient World.” (This conference was made possible through the generous support of the Griset Lectureship Fund and the Wang-Fradkin Professorship of Chapman University and the Coptic Magical Texts Project of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity.) As at the Kansas conference, Jonathan Z. Smith delivered a plenary lecture, and the scholars at the California conference similarly employed the methods and perspectives of their disciplines to discuss ancient magic and ritual power. And as at the Kansas conference, the volume emerging from the conference, Magic and Ritual in the Ancient World, seeks to contribute to the continuing discussion of magic and ritual power in the ancient Near East, Judaism, Greco-Roman antiquity, and early Christianity, with an additional contribution on the world of Coptic and Islamic Egypt.

The strength of the present volume, we suggest, lies in the breadth of scholarship represented. While, as in the previous volume, issues of description and classification are everywhere apparent or assumed in these essays (and especially in Part 2), and the understanding of magic . . .

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