UNUSUAL, OBSCURE, AND PROBLEMATICAL TYPES
The title of this chaρter should suggest that its matter cannot be set forth with even the moderate regard to system that has marked the earlier parts of the book. In fact, only a few illustrations can be chosen from many possible ones. There are not many collections of magical amulets, even small ones, that do not comprise one or more specimens that are either unique in their design or else have so few relatives that comparison helps but little to explain their purpose and meaning.1
Besides their inherent difficulties, some amulets that seem to stand alone, or almost alone, have been published with so many technical faults that the student is left uncertain about various details and hesitates to propose an explanation of them.
Yet it is not strange that many designs carry no meaning for us. Some of them were devised by magicians with special reference to the needs of their customers, and we have no way to judge the appropriateness of the figures and symbols employed to the personalities or situations for which magical aid was desired. Further, not a few unusual specimens owe their obscurity to a decadence, not to say a degradation, of the ideas that informed earlier work of the kind. Divine figures are less accurately characterized, and their actions and attributes lack significance. The inscriptions — which, it is true, are often unintelligible, even in better amulets, because they use magical words — not merely become meaningless but also give the impression that they meant nothing even in secret codes. They often seem to be made up of letters written at random; and the letters are sometimes so debased that they cannot be assigned to any alphabet.
In view of these irregularities, the specimens to be discussed here are introduced no significant order, but merely as individuals or groups that are some way puzzling or out of the ordinary.
PIG AND SNAKE
Some years ago a private owner sent me for examination a rather large green jasper set in a modern ring (D. 348). The stone is a horizontal oval, 16 x 23 mm. At the right the obverse shows a large pig walking to left on the tail of a lion-headed snake, which has turned its head back to right as if to attack the pig. There are six rays round the lion-snake's head. It is of course the ordinary form of Chnoubis, a deity that seems to have solar
1 It is to be regretted that very few pieces of the remarkable Borgia collection have been reproduced in illustrations. Zoega's full and minutely careful descriptions do all that words can to make up for this lack; but it is likely that modern illustrations would bring out relationships that cannot be asserted on the basis of the descriptions alone.