calls for; and while they are in part unintelligible jargon, the first two words in all five are Ζεθ ἄφοβε. The “fearless Zeth” thus invoked must be the wicked god Set, the enemy of Osiris, Isis, and Horus. Thus one and the same design seems to have been used to represent either of two mutually hostile deities, and we are naturally led to suppose that it was used by two different religious groups. Either similar images were differently interpreted by different schools, or else syncretism had progressed so far that no distinctions counted.
There is further evidence of a negative kind showing that there was no authoritative system which determined the characteristics of these amulets, but rather that various magical practitioners, working with motifs that were widely known, made their prescriptions according to their own notions. Our magical papyri are made up of procedures and formulas supposed to be the work of various masters of magic, and it might therefore be expected that such directions as they give for the execution of gem amulets would be carried out on many extant stones. But close agreement of this kind is very unusual; the design prescribed in the “Sword of Dardanus,” and recognized by Mouterde on a haematite found in Syria, is a remarkable exception.54
Single motifs mentioned in the papyri are common — the ouroboros, Hecate, the lion treading on a mummy, etc.; but the papyri usually add further details that are not illustrated by the stones. The combination of a scarabaeus on one side of a gem and Isis on the other (PGM
V, 239 ff.) might be expected to appear even fortuitously, in view of the common occurrence of the two separate motifs; yet I have not seen them combined just as the papyrus requires. One of the unexplained points in the interrelation of magical books and amulets is the fact that the cock-headed demon with snake legs, who is represented on hundreds of stones, is not described in extant papyri, though the names that accompany him, Iao and Abrasax, occur there numberless times.
These, then, are some of the considerations that warn us not to expect systematic regularity in amulets which may represent many different methods of magic, and which, furthermore, may have been made, or modified, by gem cutters to suit the whims of the purchasers. Yet there is reason to hope that we may still learn much by following scientific methods.
The first need is that the student should see and remember as many of these objects as possible, that he should recognize and bring together into groups all designs and inscriptions that have something in common, and that he should not be confused and diverted from his aim by the inconsistencies, overlappings, and apparent contradictions that he is sure to encounter. In some instances it will be possible to determine the art types from which certain magical designs are derived. Comparison of the inscriptions enables us to ascertain the normal text of certain formulas of prayer or adjuration, in spite of the gross corruptions arising from the illiteracy or the carelessness of the makers. Even in the case of the jargon inscriptions comparison of one amulet with another, and with the magical words that