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December 12 , 2008

The Demotic Magical Papyrus of London and Leiden (The Leyden Papyrus)


THE MS., dating from the third century A.D., which is here edited for the first time in a single whole, has long been known to scholars. Its subject-matter – magic and medicine – is not destitute of interest. It is closely connected with the Greek magical papyri from Egypt of the same period, but, being written in demotic, naturally does not reproduce the Greek hymns which are so important a feature of those papyri. The influence of purely Greek mythology also is here by comparison very slight – hardly greater than that of the Alexandrian Judaism which has supplied a number of names of Hellenistic form to the demotic magician. Mithraism has apparently contributed nothing at all: Christianity probably only a deformed reference to the Father in Heaven. On the other hand, as might have been expected, Egyptian mythology has an overwhelmingly strong position, and whereas the Greek papyri scarcely go beyond Hermes, Anubis, and the Osiris legend, the demotic magician introduces Khons, Amon, and many other Egyptian gods. Also, whereas the former assume a knowledge of the modus operandi in divination by the lamp and bowl, the latter describes it in great detail.

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