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Saturday, February 27, 2016

Berkeley AHMA Colloquium March 7: Constructing the Demonic in Christian Egypt

The Threat of the Headless Being:
Constructing the Demonic in Christian Egypt

David Frankfurter, Boston University

Noon AHMA Colloquium

Monday, March 7, 12-1.30 pm
370 Dwinelle, UC Berkeley

This paper concerns the way local demonologies change under the influence of Christianity and the role of ritual experts, in this case monks, in this change.  The case-study involves two sixth-century exorcistic charms from late antique Egypt, both of which appeal to the Christian Trinity and archangels to relieve affliction from "headless beings," in one case a headless dog.  Whereas "headless being [Akephalos]" had once been a cypher for the god Osiris in his solar form, the use of "headless" in these charms reflects little of this earlier tradition and probably no popular beliefs either, yet still some monk's memory of a category of supernatural being. Rather than "pagan survivals" and esoteric mysteries this paper offers a new appreciation of the agency of ritual specialists like monks and holy men and a more grounded understanding of demons and ritual protection in antiquity.

Sponsored by The Townsend Center for the Humanities and the Ancient History & Mediterranean Archaeology Program, UC Berkeley

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