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Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Concerning the Greek Magical Papyri


The literature presented in the Greek Magical Papyri is a syncretic collection of texts originating from a diversity of sources. Hymns, spells, priestly invocations, conjurations, magical assistants, ritual instructions, remedies, curses and a unique theology are all part of the Greek Magical Papyri. Dating from the early Hellenistic era to Late Antiquity, the Papyri present a unique synchretism with an interplay of Egyptian, Hellenic, Hebrew, Persian, Babylonian, Chaldean, Gnostic and Coptic magic and religion. However, the Egyptian and Hellenic traditions being the most dominant display a Hellenisation of Egyptian religious thought and an Egyptisation of Hellenic religion, with the Magos as the focal point conjuring arcane forces of the magical cosmos and also performing at times the duties of a religious functionary. On the whole, one could possibly argue in effect that the Greek Magical Papyri present an alternative attempt to initiate a new religious movement altogether with unified religious beliefs, practices and a magical worldview, for according to Sigmund Mowinckel, in his book Religion and Kultus, he writes,

Magical thinking and its practical application, called ‘magic’, is not a kind of religion, but a worldview, that is, a particular way to understand things and their mutual connectedness. Magic is the Weltanschauung which in a certain way is analogous to the view of the universe as we today attempt to formulate it on the basis of the laws of causality and the interaction between cause and effect, demonstrated by physics, chemistry, biology and psychology.

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