In addition to the inclusion of texts from newly discovered collections, this work also includes Babylonian incantations on bowls and magic texts from the Cairo Geniza. These manuscripts were neglected for nearly a century. The Geniza texts, though written in the Middle Ages, follow the tradition of Palestinian Jewish magical texts of Late Antiquity, providing valuable information where understanding of later texts was hampered due to damage or incoherence. All texts, as in “Amulets and Magic Bowls” are published with transliteration, translation and commentary. Includes an introduction on the relationship between magic and medicine and magic and liturgy.
How are we to describe the Hekhalot literature? We can hardly do better
than quote the concise presentation given to it by P. S. Alexander:
The so-called hekhalot literature, produced by the Merkabah mystics
of the Talmudic and early Gaonic periods, abounds in magic of
a theurgic nature. The adepts were interested in acquiring secret
knowledge about various subjects — the heavenly world, the
mysteries of nature, the esoteric meanings of Torah, the future course
of human history — and they used theurgic techniques to obtain this
knowledge. Sometimes by means of ritual and incantation, they
ascended to heaven, at others they conjured a powerful angel down
to earth and compelled him to impart the desired information. Some
of their incantations take the form of hymns or prayers which they
believed to be part of the angelic liturgy ... They [the adepts] also
used magic names of great power by means of which the angels could
be controlled and forced to do their will. The Hekhalot tracts are full
of nomina barbara and other unintelligible magic formulae. ... The
names, as well as the rituals they practised in their conventicles,
are very similar to those found on Jewish amulets and incantation
bowls, in Sefer ha-Razim and in the Greek magical papyri (Alexander
1986, p. 361).
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