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A Syriac textual amulet from Diyarbakır   Leave a comment

It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door… (Bilbo Baggins, in Fellowship of the Ring, ch. 3)

Diyarbakır 11/3; 225, p. 208

Diyarbakır, Meryem Ana 11/3; 225 (DIYR 206), pp. 208-211, contains a Syriac amulet of protection against arrows, swords, knives, and spears (gērē, saypē, sakkinē, nayzkē). Texts of this genre are relatively well known in various Aramaic dialects (neither exclusively Jewish nor Christian) and are cast as means to protect someone from certain expected dangers, such as injury or disease. One especially interesting related example is a Syriac charm to protect against cannons and guns (l-kēpay mangniq la-glolay tuppē; see Gollancz, Book of Protection, codex A § 16)! The manuscript in Diyarbakır, copied at the turn of the twentieth century, was recently cataloged for HMML by Grigory Kessel (Marburg University), and its other contents includes inter alia canons, prayers of various kinds, Psalms, poetry, and stories; the Syriac amulet discussed here is preceded immediately by some charms in Garšūnī, and there are still more on pp. 601-735 of the manuscript. The writing is generally legible, but there are a few places where the correct reading is not immediately obvious.

As commonly in such texts, biblical quotations figure here, and they include Pss 46:9, 144:6, and 37:15. The second half of the amulet is made up almost entirely of a litany of various intermediaries by which those weapons are bound from the person bearing those lines (ʿabdāk da-ṭʿin surṭē), including the three young children in the furnace (called acc. to their Heb. names), the “troops of the prophets” (guddē da-nbiyyē) and “bands of the apostles” (siʿātā da-šliḥē), “through the crowning of the martyrs and the supplications of the angels,” and, of course, the Virgin Mary, but also John the Baptist, St. George, Cyriacus and his mother Julitta, Behnam and his sister Sara, Asya the physician, Elijah the prophet, Thomas the apostle, Jacob of Serugh, and the Forty Martyrs.

The many Syriac, Babylonian Aramaic, and Mandaic amulets and magic bowls, have many similarities, and this text might now be added to the already large inventory of the genre for comparison.


See here and here for some bibliography and remarks on magic bowls. Specifically for Syriac amulets, see the Comprehensive Bibliography on Syriac Christianity, s.v. “amulets”.

Posted August 6, 2012 by adam_bremer-mccollum in Bible, Cataloging, Syriac

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