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Paper Information

Journal:   PAZHOHESH-HA-YE BASTANSHENASI IRAN   fall 2017 , Volume 7 , Number 14 ; Page(s) 79 To 90.

The Reflection of Sasanian’ s Belief on Magic and Sorcery in Some Incantation Bowls and Magic Seals (Case Study: Khuzestan and Mesopotamia Area)

Author(s):  FEKRIPOUR KATAYUN*, sharifian fariba, HEYDARPOUR AZADEH
From ancient time, use of magic and sorcery was prevalent among people of different countries. Ancient man lived among a host of frightening, negative demonic forces which he attempted to control or coerce in order to ensure a harmonious and benevolent word-order. They believed on effect of magic on banishing demons and evils and had different ways for making use of them. A vast array of Magic-religious mechanisms evolved to cope with this problem in Sasanian period, including incantation bowls which were produced in vast quantities in Mesopotamia and Khuzistan more specifically in Susa during the sixth and seventh century CE., or may suppose the practice began somewhat earlier, in the fifth or even fourth century C. E. Also some Sasanian seals with special pictures and texts are supposed to be made for purpose of protection against the disease, the evil eyes. The peculiar nature of the incantation bowls raises many questions to which no satisfactory answer has yet been given. The reason for their sudden emergence in the fifth or sixth century CE remains obscure; moreover, the practice seems not to have spread outside a limited geographical region. An incantation bowl, also known as a demon bowl or devil trap bowl, is a form of early protective magic. The bowls were usually inscribed in a spiral, concentric circles beginning from the rim and moving toward the center and may be read in some cases by turning the bowl clockwise and in others counterclockwise. There are also deference’ s in language and script: the texts on extant bowls are in Aramaic, Syriac, Mandaic or Pahlavi (Middle Persian). The language of the bowls is some kind of strange magical jargon incomprehensible to all but demons. It contains formulaic expressions and oral compositions which show a certain play on words normally not found in written texts. They are varying in size, shape, and type of clay. In shape, they are either hemispherical with round or flat bottoms or truncated cones with flat bases. The bowls were buried usually face down but also occasionally face to face with another bowl to form an enclosure and were meant to capture demons. According to a tradition a little salt was placed between two such bowls before they were buried. They were commonly placed under the threshold, or a gate or courtyards, within a household at the four corners of a room or bed and also in graveyards. The study of Incantation bowls is a matter of great interest and importance. They are an important source of knowledge which shed lights on old cultures, practices, beliefs. They constitute the only direct epigraphical documents of Mesopotamia, written mostly by some of the minority groups like Mandaean, Christians, Jews and others. Names that use in texts, may tell us about a person’ s religion. We find clients with typically Persian (presumably Zoroastrian), names in bowls that imply despite the magical powers commonly attributed to the Zoroastrian clergy themselves, some people sought help from sorcerers outside of their community. Since the bowls are original manuscripts, they can teach us a great deal about popular religious practices and certain aspects of social life, family, structure and dwellings and provide precious evidence of how these ancient religious traditions survived or were transformed in one corner of late antique world. This article aims to introduce these two ways of averting evil forces from life in Sasanian period and answer these questions: what was public opinion especially in the Sasanid era about magic and also what kind of information the incantation bowls provide. In introduction of this research paper, first explain about magic and sorcery and also give a short explain about bowls and seals. Afterward, illustrate about bowls and seals separately, showing belief of people and ways of using magic and sorcery in ancient time.
Keyword(s): Incantation Bowl,Seal,Magic,Sorcery
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