To be or not to be Magic – Formal, functional and contextual changes within the application of magic signs in Coptic sources and the cultural background for these changes (4th-10th. cent.) (Oslo, 2013)
International Conference: Between Image and Text: The Early Medieval ‘Iconology’ of Graphic Representational Signs
26.09.-27.09.2013, University of Oslo, Blindern
- to provide an overview of the formal categorization of magic signs, their contexts and their functions,
- to outline the differences between the application of magic signs in Greek and Demotic ritual practice on onehand and in Coptic practice on the other hand,
- to suggest an interpretation for these changes Accordingly the talk will be divided into three parts.
- The application of magic signs demonstrates a specific way to address higher beings and to communicate with them by means of a “sacred” scripture.
- Magic signs served as an instrument in the process of establishing identity. Tis becomes even more important after the Arab conquest.
- The specific application of the signs in Coptic texts developed from a Greek tradition but was altered and supplemented. This finally resulted in a new understanding and a new concept of magic signs.
To be or not to be magic?
The résumé is focused on this question. Magical signs are by some scholars of Coptic ritual practice used as essential criteria to classify a text as magic. But does this criteria still apply in monotheistic, christian contexts? Did late Coptic practitioners (and their clients) regard the signs indeed as a magical device, or rather as legit means to pay their god and the involved higher beings the necessary respect? How can the research on magical signs support the reconstruction of ancient networks of religious knowledge and their diversification?
Since the work with magic signs is an ongoing project, the arguments should be regarded as preliminary ideas and are open for discussion.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.charakteres.com, https://uni-heidelberg.academia.edu/KirstenDzwiza