shows an unmistakable ostrich treading on a snake and about to devour a large scorpion; behind him is an ibis attacking a small snake.26
There is little doubt that representations of large birds, especially waders, attacking snakes and other reptiles, were widely accepted as symbols of the victory of good over evil of every kind. As the legend accompanying the rider acclaims the One God who conquers all ills, so the snake-eating bird on the reverse sets forth the same idea in a symbolic form. In the Cyranides
I, H 8, it is said that, if you carve on pyrites a flamingo with a scorpion at his feet and lay under the gem a bit of a certain plant, you will have protection against all poisonous animals, and also against bad dreams, the evil eye, and the stone. The beautiful mosaics found in the church at Ain-et-Tâbga represent various wading birds devouring worms and small snakes among the vegetation of a marshy spot.27
A crude haematite in Mr. Seyrig's collection (D. 106
) represents a long-legged bird, here probably a phoenix, standing on what seems to be a large scorpion with its tail unnaturally prolonged. This is inscribed on the reverse πέπτε, which shows that in this case the design was applied to a stomach amulet. A specimen in the Royal Ontario Museum (D. 308) shows a snake attacked and about to be devoured by a bird resembling an ibis in build, but with a strange crest which springs from a single base and divides into several branches, like the antlers of a stag. Perhaps it was meant to represent the phoenix. A jasper in my possession, unfortunately damaged, has on the obverse a stork with a lizard in his bill, on the other side a few common magical words.28
In another group of these pendants an inscription occupies the entire reverse or else leaves room only for a roaring lion under it. In the simplest specimens the inscription consists only of divine or angelic names, as on a well-executed piece in the Michigan collection (D. 309
) with the neatly engraved words Ιαωθ Σαβαωθ Μιχαηλ; beneath, a lion, front of him a snake, over his back a crescent. A much-corroded pendant of mine has Ιαω Σαβαω Μιχαηλ Γαβριηλ, and the same words appear on a similar one in Mr. Seyrig's collection (D. 310). A more interesting and better-executed pendant, also belonging to Mr. Seyrig (D. 311), is inscribed Ιαω Σαβαω Μιχαηλ Γαβριηλ Ουριηλ χερουβιν σεραπι, followed by a six-pointed star; lion below. σεραπι is, of course, for σεραφιν. The ending -in
is the Aramaic plural sign, which would be expected at this period instead of the Hebrew -im
Unintelligible words are sometimes added after the familiar angel names, as in D. 313, Ιαω Σαβαω Γαβριηλ ου
Γαβριη (lion below), and Seyrig 52, Ιαωθ Μιχαηλ σχασιχαι λιχαννα γαβανχ (lion below, turning his head back towards an eye — the evil eye — over his back). Another specimen in the Seyrig collection (D. 312) goes a step farther in this magical mystification. The obverse shows the rider as usual, the reverse contains only the legend ἐγώ εἰμι νοσκαμαρδοτεναν, of which only ἐγώ εἰμι is intelligible.
26 The medal will be more fully described later in this chapter.
27 See A. M. Schneider, Die Brotvermehrungskirche von et-tâbga am Genesarethsee und ihre Mosaiken (Collectanea Hierosolymitana, IV).