the magical words, although they had equal or greater reason to expect it. The papyri that record the magical language are of Egyptian origin, and so are a great majority of the amulets. Further, there are Old Coptic passages in some of the Greek magical papyri, and certain sacred names, such as Osoronnophris, Phre, Esies (the Good Osiris, the Sun, the Drowned One) indicate a knowledge of some Egyptian words. Yet the Egyptian elements that can be certainly identified are very few. Βαινχωωωχ, b3 n kkw
, “soul of darkness,” is an equation accepted by competent authority.7
Jacoby's ΕΤΟΝ ΦΒΑΙ ΦΡΗ, “who art the soul of the sun,” seems to be a sound interpretation.8
ΝΤΟΚΟΝΒΑΙ, “thou art the lord of souls (neb bai),” is no more than a guess which assumes some phonetic changes that authorities on Coptic might question.9
Encouraged by the slight progress that has been made, some of the more hopeful writers on the subject have looked forward to a time when many more magical words and formulas will be interpreted through the collaboration of experts in Greek, Egyptian, and the Semitic languages. A skeptical attitude towards this hope may look like a confession of linguistic incompetence; nevertheless, I doubt that such efforts can illuminate any large area of this dark region, because a great part of the magical language was neither expected nor intended to be understood.
Some magical words, it is true, were definitely associated with certain ideas in the minds of those who spoke or wrote them, and they would call up the same ideas in the minds of an initiated group. They seem to have been secret names, code names as it were, for certain divinities. More than once in magical literature an operator claims to have the secret name (κρυπτὸν ὄνομα) of the being whom he invokes, and it was evidently assumed that the knowledge of such names assured the magician's control of the gods and demons that must respond to them. Gem amulets seem to give more help than papyri picking out such names, because a single magical word, presumably of special significance, is often engraved on a stone representing a single figure; whereas the writers of magical books generally construct long invocations with such an accumulation of magical vocables that the relation of the individual words to the deities invoked is quite obscured. Examples of these secret names will be listed and briefly discussed later on (pp. 196
Other units of magical language have as good a claim, so far as their formation is concerned, to be considered names, or at least significant words, as those mentioned in the last paragraph; but since they have not been observed to occur repeatedly in significant associations, and have not been identified as belonging to any known language, we are forced to one of two assumptions. It may be that mere charlatanism is at work, and the meaningless words are intended only to impress the ignorant and credulous; yet in view of the
9 Bonner, Byz.-neugriech. Jahrb., 9, 376. I now think that the Michigan stone mentioned there is a forgery based on an early illustration, such as Chiflet, Pl. 3, 14. But the inscription is attested not only by Chiflet, but also by B. M. 56024; cf. also PGM IV, 2755, IX, 14.