Images of power and the power of images.

Magical drawings in Graeco-egyptian magical formularies.

Graeco-roman magical formularies have attracted the attention of scholars since their first publications during the 19th century. Eversince, an increasing number of studies have been devoted to these amazing texts. Most of them were based on the text of these formularies from different perspectives: philology, history of religions, philosophy, gender studies. Being the text the main focus of all of the studies, other particularities of these ancient books, like materiality, techniques of composition, and drawings and designs, have been neglected.

Drawings and designs are common in Graeco-egyptian magical handbooks and, curiously, their study and interpretation have not been attended in depth by scholars. However, magical drawings are a key feature to better understand the magical significance of these texts. Magical drawings are a relevant part of the ritual transmitted in these books, as as a kind of performative language codified in a different code that must be interpreted and analyzed. Studying magical drawings and designs along with the text and other formal aspects of magical handbooks will contribute in understanding how magical knowledge was transmitted in Antiquity.

The project “Images of power and the power of images”, directed by Raquel Martín Hernández and funded by the BBVA Foundation  (2015 edition of the BBVA Foundation Grants for Researchers and Cultural Creators), aims to study magical drawings and designs in the corpus of magical formularies. The database is an effort of systematization to grant access to all the essential information to interpret magical drawings in its contexts and in relation to other magical designs. It is a practical tool that will allow people interested in magical rituals to obtain the material, textual, and iconographical information of all the drawings appearing in magical formularies, to facilitate the comprehension of the magical prescription as a whole.

This project has been financed by the Fundation BBVA and it is a partner of “Transmission of Magical Knowledge. The Papyrus Magical Handbooks in Context” funded by Neubauer Collegium at the University of Chicago.