The CBd
Bonner, SMA, 160.

cut on the reverse of a Michigan haematite which has the triple Hecate on the obverse; it resembles the common pantheos type in having a bird's tail and two wings on each side, and in standing on the elliptical cartouche formed by an ouroboros.21


Like other fathers of the Church, Athanasius denounced with particular bitterness the Egyptian gods of partly human, partly animal form. Among them he mentions ὀφιοκέφαλοι, “snake heads,” a group about which we should like to know more;22 but for the moment it is enough to note that he is speaking of the gods of pagan Egypt, not alluding to Gnostic mythology. Origen found in the διάγραμμα of the Ophianic Gnostics an account of seven archons in the form of animals; the fourth of these, called Raphael, had the form of a dreadful hissing serpent.23 So far as we can judge, the serpent-headed deities or demons that are represented on amulets have nothing to connect them with Gnosticism. It is scarcely possible to give names to these strange monstrosities; in particular, it is uncertain whether any given human body with serpentine head is a special manifestation of a great divinity or, perhaps, is merely the god of a zodiacal decad. In the Hermetic Sacred Book of the Decans it is said that the third decan of Libra has the name of Φοῦ, μορφὴν δὲ τὸ μὲν πρόσωπον ὄφεως, τὸ δὲ σῶμα ἀνθρώπου, ἐπὶ δὲ τῆς κεφαλῆς βασίλειον ἔχων, ἑστὼς ἐν περιζώματι: “In form he has the head of a snake and the body of a man; he has a crown on his head, and stands clad in a loincloth.”24

This description applies to a group of three amulets of which the best is a haematite published by Barry.25 Here, as dynastic reliefs, the human trunk is shown facing, but the serpent head and neck and the feet are turned to the left. The snake is bearded and has a prominent crest, which Barry takes to be the skhent or double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. The extended right hand holds the was scepter, the left holds the ankh. The demon wears only a kilt or apron. The points of resemblance are striking, but scarcely enough to identify him with the decan described in the Hermetic treatise. Some magical words which encircle this figure do not seem to occur elsewhere. On the reverse, however, is a well-known palindrome (αβεραμενθω κτλ.), with two other magical words. There is nothing to identify this demon; the palindrome on the reverse has been found in connection with Harpocrates, but nothing can be safely inferred from that.

A very similar design is engraved on a stone in the Metropolitan Museum;26 the only difference is that the object carried in the left hand, IMG, is not the ankh, unless we have a simplified form of it. It may be a variant of the sign for protection, sa, IMG or IMG.27 The reverse bears the name Μιχαηλ, which reminds

22 Contra Graecos 9 (PG 25, 20 B).

23 Contra Celsum 6, 30 (100, 10–12, ed. Koetschau).

24 Ruelle, Rev. de philol., 32 (1908), 266.

25 Ann. du serv., 7, 248, Pl. 1, 10.

27 Gardiner, Egyptian Grammar, Sign-list, V 17.

Last modified: 2012-10-30 12:39:30