TM-Magic — Religious, Ritual, Magic and Divinatory Texts

An online database of metadata.
Franziska Naether / Mark Depauw
(Universität Leipzig / Universität zu Köln and K.U.Leuven)
Version 1: October 2007

TM-Magic is a the first thematic database hosted by Trismegistos and tries to fill a gap between projects such as the LDAB, HGV and BCD by collecting metadata of somewhat "dubious" nature: all things "religion", "ritual", "magic" and "divination" / "mantike".

Eventually, texts of this sort have been described as "paraliterary" or "subliterary", sometimes "documentary" or "liturgical". In fact, the entries compiled here bear features of all these (modern) categorizations, sometimes all in one book. Therefore, another approach has been necessary: the conquest by genre. TM-Magic comprises currently of some 2500 entries in Greek, Demotic, Coptic and other languages ranging between the late pharaonic period till medieval times originating from Egypt, but not solely limited to.

We have large posh ritual handbooks on papyrus and parchment, spells on human bones to wish an opponent a disease, neatly folded golden amulets with somewhat cryptic voces magicae, fascinating oracle books, love spells to fetch the man or woman you desire.

As well, we do not sticking to old-fashioned labelling of separating "magic" from "religion" — which is to our mind an unprofitable approach. The majority of genres covered here played an essential role in the (daily) religious life of people in ancient times. Heading for a sociolinguistic point of view, a curse does not differ that fundamentally from a prayer. On a newer treatment of these problematic terms, see the relevant articles in the Thesaurus cultus et rituum antiquorum, Vol. 1-5, Los Angeles 2004-5.

Besides the Greek, Demotic and Coptic magical papyri (Papyri Graecae et Demoticae et Copticae Magicae) with their manifold spells, charms and receipts, the following genres can be explored here:

  1. - oracles ("ticket" oracle questions, book oracles, e.g. the Sortes Astrampsychi, dream texts)
  2. - prophecies
  3. - letters to gods, dead, for the afterlife
  4. - prayers, pleas, incantations
  5. - amulets
  6. - horoscopes and calendars for divinatory ends
  7. - texts concerning astrology / astronomy / alchemy / medicine

Due to organizational issues of Trismegistos, not all "religious" and "ritual" texts have found their way in TM-Magic. For the Book of the Dead papyri e.g., consult the HHP database; religious votive inscriptions (proskynemata) can be find in our upcoming IGLE database. Not implemented here are also the self-dedications, contracts of hieroduly, liturgical texts (doxologies, trishagioi, litanies), the big ritual hand books (Book of the Fayum, Book of the Temple, Book of Thoth, Documents of Breathing, The Daily Temple Ritual, The Apis Embalming Ritual) mummy labels, prostagmata, secondary documents concerning mysteries, cult guilds, and temple management.

However, the user might peruse the whole Trismegistos database for that purpose. It goes without saying that a lot of texts are missing here and await their inclusion.

Comments, suggestions and information on missing texts can be directed to Franziska Naether (