The CBd
Bonner, SMA, 18.

images, characters, and significant names. In fact, a prepossession in favor of the occult has been the principal obstacle to a better understanding of these interesting objects. Religious influences do indeed manifest themselves in many ways, and there is some ostentation of mystery, because wherever there is magic there is secrecy. But the connections between the designs and inscriptions and the doctrines of any contemporary religion are too tenuous to justify us in accepting these amulets as important documents of religious history. A few here and there may be viewed in that light; in the great majority of examples we cannot definitely prove that the wearer of the amulet was a follower of the religion that might seem to be indicated by his pendant or ring. In that age of syncretism interest in extraneous doctrines and cults was very active, and it worked effectively with the well-known tendency of believers in magic to regard omne ignotum pro mirifico. Not every person who wore a ring engraved with the words Iao Sabaoth was a Jew, not every pendant with a figure of Aphrodite arranging her hair was worn by a Greek woman, not every stone inscribed Abrasax belonged to a member of a Gnostic sect. To state these facts may lessen the interest in these amulets that a student of religion might otherwise feel, but it at least contributes something to our understanding of the muddled magic prevalent in the early centuries of our era.
Another misconception is that a classification can be worked out into which all amulets of this period can be fitted. In a rough way we can distinguish certain types characterized by similar designs and legends; but the number of amulets that conform closely to such types is small as compared with specimens that vary from the standard, or combine features belonging to two or more types. The disposition to combine sometimes goes very far. In the remarkable bronze heart belonging to the Petrie Collection in University College, London, it would seem that the maker tried to bring together, in a sort of omnibus amulet, all the magical designs and formulas that he knew.51 We also have to reckon with a behavior like that of the makers and the users of patent medicines. Until they were restrained by law, the less scrupulous manufacturers of these nostrums were wont to claim for their products many virtues besides the one, itself dubious, which the chemical ingredients might seem to indicate; and ignorant patients will use their favorite patent preparation for many other ailments than the one it was intended to cure. They will even take liberties with a legitimate prescription given by a qualified physician. We find in the magical papyri various charms for which miscellaneous powers are claimed; in the first three lines of P. Mich. III, 154., a brief formula is described as giving favor, victory, and protection, and reversing spells. A similar crisscrossing of designs and their supposed powers is found in the gem amulets. Delatte has shown convinc-

51 Petrie, Amulets, No. 135 aa; pp. 30 ff., Pls. 22 and 49. See also a small stele illustrated in Montfaucon, II, 2, Pl. 167. It closely resembles a bronze Horus stele in the Geneva Museum, the back of which shows several figures that are common in magical designs, Osiris, Harpocrates on the lotus, the anguipede, pantheos, cynocephali; published by Deonna, Rev. Arch., 18 (1923), 119–131. An illustration appears on Pl. XXIV, Fig. 5.

Last modified: 2012-09-20 10:38:24