Talk: From illegibility and secrecy to a ritual writing system? The use of Charaktêres in Coptic sources
The Sixth International European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism (ESSWE) Conference: Western Esotericism and deviance
1.-3. June 2017, University of Erfurt (Germany)
From illegibility and secrecy to a ritual writing system? The use of Charaktêres in Coptic sources
The earliest attestations for the use of Charaktêres are preserved on a Greek curse tablet from Athens and in a cryptographic Greek ritual manual from Egypt, both dated to the first century CE. Within a few decades the use of Charaktêres increased dramatically and artefacts with their depictions were distributed all over the Roman Empire. Charaktêres in Greek, Latin, and Demotic sources were basically illegible – despite the fact that several signs resemble Greek letters – and in the majority of cases their functions remain unclear until today. However, in Coptic texts the use and understanding of Charaktêres seem to have underwent a paradigm shift, namely from illegibility to a legible writing system, and their legibility became an essential part of their usage.
My paper is structured in three parts:
In part one I will provide a short overview of the use and function of Charaktêres in Greek, Latin, and Demotic sources including a look at the ratio of artefacts depicting and those not depicting magic signs.
Part two takes a look at a Corpus of Coptic texts that have been classified as “magic”, the occurrence and application of Charaktêres attested in these texts, and their development from illegibility to a ritual writing system.
The final part is dedicated to outline possible reasons for the paradigm shift and my theory of the crucial role of the underlying mindscapes concerning concepts of communication with higher powers for this shift.
Contact: Kirsten Dzwiza, firstname.lastname@example.org