The CBd
Bonner, SMA, 234.

that the principal figure represents a constellation; but since the star has a spherical center and six rays, Chabouillet's suggestion that it represents the sun should not be ignored. He was wrong, however, in saying that the moon is also present. What he took for a crescent is really a claw of the Scorpion, damaged but unmistakable, upon which Ophiuchus stands, as on the Vatican planisphere and in the lines of Aratus (Phaen. 83–86):

                              ὁ δ' ἐμμενὲς εὖ ἐπαρηρὼς
     ποσσίν, ἐπιθλίβει μέγα θηρίον ἀμφοτέροισι
     Σκορπίον, όφθαλμοῖς τε καὶ ἐν θώρηκι βεβηκὼςs

Ptolemy's description of Ophiuchus, which takes the point of view of the observer on earth, places the snake's head at the right and proceeds from it to the left, following what an astronomer friend tells me is his invariable practice. The London haematite, when viewed in an impression, has the same orientation, and the man stands in a three-quarter front position. Since the Paris fragment is oriented in the opposite direction, with the snake's head at the observer's left and the man in three-quarter back view, there is reason to think that it represents the constellation as seen from above on a celestial globe; and in fact the Ophiuchus on the celestial globe held by the Farnese Atlas has the same position.21 The same is true of the Ophiuchus in the Vatican planisphere.22

In the Michigan collection there is another stone, obtained in Egypt, bearing the design of Ophiuchus, in this instance oriented to the right with the man in front view, thus agreeing with the impression of the London haematite.23 The material is smoky-gray chalcedony, and the work is extremely crude. The man is a miserable caricature of the human form. A strange-looking bird sits on his head, and there is an eight-rayed ring sign in the left field and another, less completely executed, at the right. Next below, a character resembling psi and an imperfect star. Under this design are the seven vowels arranged as a palindrome (with a careless repetition of upsilon) followed by a few indistinct letters and more vowels in no significant order. The value of this wretched specimen consists in the fact that it proves the Serpent-Holder to have been used as an amuletic device.

The reason for the use of Ophiuchus in magic is to be found in some words of Manilius (5, 389–393):

Anguitenens magno circumdatus orbe draconis
cum venit in regione tuae, Capricorne, figurae
non inimica facit serpentum membra creatis.
accipient sinibusque suis peploque fluenti
osculaque horrendis iungent impune venenis.

21 Gori, Thesaurus gemmarum astriferarum, III, Pl. 6; Thiele, Antike Himmelsbilder, Pl. 6.

22 Boll, Sphaera, Pl. I.

Last modified: 2012-11-02 14:08:21