Bonner, SMA – PDF, 86.
protector of children. The goddess Thueris, who sometimes appears among the deities in the upper field, was apparently a guardian of pregnant and nursing women.29 Other gods are present only because of their general powers of protection and help.
We may now add a few pieces of evidence that corroborate Delatte's interpretation. Jalabert and Mouterde have published an inscription carved on the reverse of an amulet marked by its design as belonging to this class: κατάσχες τὴν μήτραν Μαξείμας ἧς ἔτεκεν.30 The text is slightly emended, but this is certainly what the engraver intended. κατάσχες, “check,” “restrain,” suggests that Maxima's complaint was the same as that of the woman who was healed by the touch of Jesus' garment.31
The significance of the key in this type is emphasized by several gems in which a deity touching it or manipulating it. The most striking example of this is a stone in my possession, a fine red carnelian clouded with white, one of the most perfectly preserved of its kind (D. 141). The uterine symbol is here shown without the serpentine appendages that usually extend from its top, probably because the young Harpocrates is sitting on the vessel. He has one leg extended, the other bent and drawn up under him, just as he is often shown sitting on a lotus flower. His left hand rests upon the knobbed handle of the great key, as if he were about to turn it. The inscriptions are unusually elaborate; on the obverse is Ακτιωφι Ερεσχιγαλ Νεβουτοσουαληθ, followed by the seven vowels. The three names are often found, singly or combined, in the magical papyri. Ereschigal is properly the name of the Babylonian goddess of the underworld, to whom Persephone approximately corresponds,32 but in the magical papyri, where syncretism has gone so far as to fuse most of the goddesses together, it is given to others as well. Aktiophis appears as a moon-goddess in the great Paris magical papyrus, and a little later in the same text the same deity is addressed by all three of these names, Aktiophi Ereschigal Neboutosoualeth.33 The invocation that follows brings together as one entity Artemis, Persephone, Selene, Aphrodite, and Hekate. The same names are applied to Hekate-Persephone another place, to Aphrodite in still another.34 On the reverse of the gem, after Ororiouth we find the palindrome αεμειναεβαρωθερρεθωραβεανιεμεα, followed by some characters and a group of vowels. Delatte noted that the palindrome is used in invoking Typhon, and we have already seen that that god plays a part in the mythology of this type.35 In some noteworthy specimens of the
29 See Erman, p. 147.
30 Inscr. gr. et lat. de la Syrie, I, 21, No. 222.
31 It is strange that the name of Maxima's mother does not appear. If the stone was not broken at that point, one wonders whether, since there was not room on the face, the name could have been scratched on the edge of the stone and overlooked by the editors. I found a name so placed on an amulet in the British Museum, to which we shall return later (p. 105).
32 PGM IV, 337, identifies Ereschigal with Koure Persephone.
33 PGM IV, 2474, 2484 f. It is not easy to see why these three names should be included in an invocation to Set-Typhon (PGM XIV, 23) as part of his αὐθεντικὸν ὄνομα.
34 PGM IV, 2749 f., 2913.
35 Delatte, op. cit., pp. 80, 87. He cites PGM IV, 197; add XIV, 24, where the formula is abbreviated.