an ἀκατάσβεστον πύρεθρον.250
In the course of the narrative he uses the words πύρωμα and φλόγωσις to describe the condition; hence there is no doubt that he means “inflammation.” But fever and inflammation were closely related in the minds of the ancients, as in ours; πῦρ occasionally, and πυρετός regularly, mean “fever.” On our amulet the combination of ὄλεθρον, suggesting a wasting illness, with πύρηθρον seems to point to fever as the condition that the writer of the charm had in mind.
Despite the chance resemblance of ιβι to the name of the ibis, the inscription that accompanies the birds probably does not refer to them in any way; it is simply an example of childish, babbling repetition of similar syllables which were felt to have some magical value. This seems to be proved beyond question by the occurrence of the same sounds in a magical charm carved on a figurine in the Louvre representing a hawk. The text, which has been published by Damn, is too long to quote in full.251
It is carved on the back and wings of the hawk, which bears on its breast a representation of Horus-Harpocrates on the lotus flower. The charm begins ἐγώ ἰμι ὁ ἐπὶ τοῦ λωτοῦ τὴν δύναμιν ἔχων, ὁ ἅγιος θεὸς ἑξεῖς ιβει αβει σελτι βελτι. Two of the words on our amulet occur here. ἑξεῖς is for ἑξῆς, which in this connection seems to mean “in order, as follows.” After several other magical words we find (I. 5) αβι ειβι βι ο βη, like the Hildesheim gem except for a difference in the order of the first two words. As other examples of these “babbling charms” I may cite two that are most conveniently accessible in Preisigke's Sammelbuch, 2021 and 3573; one has ßους βοαι βουα βους, the other βους βος βοαι βοα, and in each case there are additional elements. In a London magical papyrus we find Μελιβου Μελιβαυ Μελιβαυβαυ as a sacred name associated with Hephaistos.252
Several others could be gathered together.
The reverse side of the Hildesheim stone is completely covered with an inscription of seven lines; several letters are indistinct and doubtful. It is without meaning to us, but the last line, σαλβαναχαμβρη, is well known as a divine or demonic name, occurring on a number of amulets of various types, and often in the papyri. There is some reason to think that it is a secret name of Harpocrates; but magical names are not always consistently applied. The whole inscription, which I cite for the encouragement of those who believe that a meaning can be found in all such jargon, is as follows:
2 A. Mai, Spicilegium Romanum, III, 578 (miracle 60); also in PG 87, 3, 3636 A, where some words of the text have been carelessly omitted.
3 A. Dain, Inscr. grecques du Musée du Louvre: les textes inédits, pp. 178 f., No. 204.
4 P. Lond. 121 (PGM VII, 379, 384).