The CBd
Bonner, SMA, 22.



CHAPTER II


NATIONAL ELEMENTS AND INFLUENCES


I. EGYPTIAN


In the previous chapter it was asserted that Egyptian ideas and practices exercised the strongest influence upon the making and the use of the amulets that are commonly called Gnostic, and the arguments supporting that statement may now be set forth briefly. The very great number of magical amulets that have come down to us from the first few centuries of the Christian era suggests that in some way magic had got a stronger hold upon the people of those times than ever before. Even after proper allowance is made for a certain shift of popular interest in religion, and for a growing demand, on the part of simpler folk, for new religious cults and for practices, religious or magical, that would answer their personal needs, it still seems that the upward surge of faith in charms and amulets must be explained in part by a thrust from without. That impulse is most likely to have come from Egypt. The Greeks and Romans themselves thought of Egypt as a fount of magical literature and magical practice,1 and modern Egyptology has shown that Egypt, more than other regions of the ancient world, gave magic a regular, generally recognized place in human life. As Professor A. H. Gardiner puts it, “There cannot be the slightest doubt that īke' (magic) was part and parcel of the same Weltanschauung as created the religion which it deeply interpenetrated.”2 That statement was based upon a profound knowledge of Egyptian texts and monuments dating from the dynastic period, and it remains true to the end. The magic of the Greek papyri is predominantly Egyptian, and the numerous agreements between the formulas and designs prescribed in the papyri and those actually found on the amulets show clearly enough from what source many of the latter were drawn.

The influence of Egypt manifests itself in certain general tendencies, which may be noted before considering details. First, there is the custom of making amulets from durable materials and with a specialized, immediately recognizable character, a custom that was undoubtedly more widespread in Egypt than in Greece. Secondly, it was customary to combine more or less elaborate charms or incantations with figures of gods or other superhuman beings believed to carry magical power. As we have seen, the stelae of Horus illustrate this tendency in late dynastic times, and they



1 Lucian Philops. 31, 34. See also Joan. Chrys. Hom. in Matt. 8, 4 (PG 57, 87), where Egypt is called “the mother of magicians, who discovered and passed on to others every kind of witchcraft.”

2 In the article “Magic,” ERE VIII, 262b.




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