The CBd
Bonner, SMA, 187.

Mystik und Magie. From ancient times, according to a statement in Demetrius' essay On Style (71), it was customary to intone the vowels in the worship of the Egyptian gods, and other evidence indicates that this was equally true in the recitation of magical spells. It is therefore enough to say that in many gem amulets the presence of the seven vowels, or some of them, whether in alphabetic sequence or in varied arrangement, was simply a part of a vocal incantation, powerful, like so many magical words, in itself, and without meaning. On the other hand, when we find a star placed under each vowel, as occasionally happens (see D. 228), it is clear that we have to do with the theory, first attested by the mathematician Nicomachus of Gerasa, that the seven vowels are the tones given forth by the planetary spheres.1 It is likely that this idea also explains the placing of a vowel at the end of each ray that surrounds the head of Chnoubis, whose solar aspect connects him with the planetary symbols.2

Certain Hebrew words written in Greek letters are often found in these magical utterances, such as Ιαω, σαβαωθ, ελωι or ελωαι, αδωναι, the names of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and of the angels Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, Suriel, and occasionally others. Ιαβε ζεβυθ is probably another way of writing the names usually represented by Ιαω σαβαωθ, and βασμαδωναι may represent héberbetű, “in the name of the Lord.” There are indications that an effort was made to give various mysterious words a Semitic appearance by ending them with a theta, imitating Hebrew endings in -oth, -ath.

Acting on these hints, various scholars have sought Hebrew or Aramaic words in papyri and amulets, but the search cannot be called fruitful. The proposed interpretations based upon Hebrew are often farfetched and improbable. A conservative judge of these attempts finds an exception σεμεσειλαμ, which may represent héberbetű, “eternal sun,”3 a conjecture that is supported by the fact that the word is often found on bearing solar types, such as Helios in his chariot, the cock-headed god with serpent legs, or the lion-headed Chnoubis serpent. If the interpretation is correct, λαιλαμ may be héberbetű, “forever.” Another word with definite solar associations is μαρμαρουωθ (or -αυωθ), which may mean “lord of lights” or “lord of lords.”4 Ganschinietz has derived ευλαμω from Assyrian ullamu, “eternal.”5 The word occurs on several curse tablets, especially in anagrammatic form,6 but on gem amulets it is usually found with solar figures or symbols.

Such brief words of praise, liturgical fragments, are to be expected in magical chants, and it is disappointing to find that so few can be safely identified.

Egyptologists have had no greater success than Hebraists in explaining

1 Jan, Musici scriptores, p. 276.

2 Matter, Pl. 2 A, 6.

3 Wiedemann, in Bonner Jahrb., 79, 226.

4 M. Schwab, Mém. Acad. Inscr. 10, 410; Brockelmann, Bonner Jahrb., 104, 193.

5 ARW 17, 343.

6 See the indices to Audollent, Defix. Tab.

Last modified: 2012-11-01 18:11:58