Bonner, SMA – PDF, 82.
means “Set the womb of So-and-So in its proper place, thou who (liftest up) the disk of the sun.” τάσσον an irregular and vulgar substitute for τάξον. The use of the phrase τῆς δεῖνα shows that the amulet was placed in the maker's stock for sale to any woman, not ordered for an individual customer. The buyer would, of course, substitute her own name in repeating the prayer. I would supply the word ἐξαίρων after the article ὁ, because ὁ ἐξαίρων τὸν κύκλον τοῦ ἡλίου is a phrase attested no less than three times in magical invocations.11 Thus the sentence, as even Du Molinet saw, is clearly a charm or prayer to rid the woman who wore the amulet of the suffering incident to uterine displacement. A much longer charm for the same purpose, to be written on a lamella of tin and tied on with threads of seven colors, may be read in a London magical papyrus.12
Du Molinet's matter-of-fact explanation of the inscription on his gem was rejected by Matter in his Histoire critique du gnosticisme.13 Obsessed as always by his belief that these amuletic designs concealed an exalted, mystical meaning, Matter held that the scenes represented a psychostasia or weighing of souls in the Egyptian Hades. This fanciful notion seems to have been suggested by the balanced position of some of the deities standing on the horizontal lines in the upper field. The vessel in the lower part of the design he dubbed the “Vase of Sins,” an absurd name which has been brought down to our own times by the uncritical acquiescence of museum curators. Within the last ten years some of the most important collections of such amulets still bore labels written in accordance with Matter's hallucination.
In 1836 H. Koehler published in the Memoirs of the St. Petersburg Academy an essay on a letter of Rubens to Peiresc (the one of August 3, 1623), the purpose of which was to elucidate the class of amulets that we are here examining.14 Rightly rejecting Matter's notions about them, he wrongly attacked the interpretation of Peiresc, which he might have treated more tolerantly had he seen all the pertinent letters of Peiresc and Rubens instead of the single one that was then accessible. Lacking the context, he misinterpreted some allusions Rubens' letter, and made wild and mistaken guesses about certain personal matters which Peiresc's previous letters set in clear light. The antiquary Chaduc had incurred Peiresc's displeasure by some churlish behavior — he had refused to give Peiresc an impression of one of his gems, though Peiresc would have returned the courtesy — and Peiresc had reported the incident to Rubens. Koehler rightly perceived that the amethyst presented to Rubens must have been a forgery, and he jumped to the conclusion that had been made at Chaduc's orders and put in Peiresc's way, with the hint that the design represented the deified matrix. He also suggested, without a particle of evidence, that the uterine amulet published
11 PGM IV, 1324–1326; VII, 300, 367–368. ἐξαίρων is to be preferred to ἐξαιριῶν. Preisendanz vacillates between the two.
12 PGM VII, 260–271. The organ is adjured: στάθητι καὶ μένοις ἐν χώροις ἰδίοις.
13 Ed. of 1828, III, 51–53; Pl. II C, 3–9.
14 “Erläuterung eines von Peter Paul Rubens an Nicolas Claude Fabri de Peiresc gerichteten Dankschreibens,” Mém. Acad. St.-Petersbourg, Ser. 6, 3, 1–34, especially 11–13 and 18–24.