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Penn State University Press
Prayer, Magic, and the Stars in the Ancient and Late Antique World

Prayer, Magic, and the Stars in the Ancient and Late Antique World

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In the religious systems of ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Mediterranean, gods and demigods were neither abstract nor distant, but communicated with mankind through signs and active intervention. Men and women were thus eager to interpret, appeal to, and even control the gods and their agents. In Prayer, Magic, and the Stars in the Ancient and Late Antique World, a distinguished array of scholars explores the many ways in which people in the ancient world sought to gain access to—or, in some cases, to bind or escape from—the divine powers of heaven and earth.

Grounded in a variety of disciplines, including Assyriology, Classics, and early Islamic history, the fifteen essays in this volume cover a broad geographic area: Greece, Egypt, Syria-Palestine, Mesopotamia, and Persia. Topics include celestial divination in early Mesopotamia, the civic festivals of classical Athens, and Christian magical papyri from Coptic Egypt. Moving forward to Late Antiquity, we see how Judaism, Christianity, and Islam each incorporated many aspects of ancient Near Eastern and Graeco-Roman religion into their own prayers, rituals, and conceptions. Even if they no longer conceived of the sun, moon, and the stars as eternal or divine, Christians, Jews, and Muslims often continued to study the movements of the heavens as a map on which divine power could be read.

The reader already familiar with studies of ancient religion will find in Prayer, Magic, and the Stars both old friends and new faces. Contributors include Gideon Bohak, Nicola Denzey, Jacco Dieleman, Radcliffe Edmonds, Marvin Meyer, Michael G. Morony, Ian Moyer, Francesca Rochberg, Jonathan Z. Smith, Mark S. Smith, Peter Struck, Michael Swartz, and Kasia Szpakowska.

Published as part of Penn State's Magic in History series, Prayer, Magic, and the Stars appears at a time of renewed interest in divination and occult practices in the ancient world. It will interest a wide audience in the field of comparative religion as well as students of the ancient world and late antiquity.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780271022581
Publisher: Penn State University Press
Publication date: 10/08/2003
Series: Magic in History
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 6.13(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.81(d)

About the Author

Scott B. Noegel is Associate Professor in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization at the University of Washington. Joel Thomas Walker is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Washington. Brannon M. Wheeler is Associate Professor of Islamic Studies and Chair of Comparative Religion at the University of Washington.

Table of Contents



List of Abbreviations

List of Figures


Scott Noegel, Joel Walker, and Brannon Wheeler

Part I Locating Magic

1. Here, There, and Anywhere

Jonathan Z. Smith

Part II Prayer, Magic, and Ritual

2. Thessalos of Tralles and Cultural Exchange

Ian Moyer

3. The Prayer of Mary in the Magical Book of Mary and the Angels

Marvin Meyer

4. Hebrew, Hebrew Everywhere? Notes on the Interpretation of Voces Magicae

Gideon Bohak

5. Magic and Society in Late Sasanian Iraq

Michael G. Morony

Part III Dreams and Divination

6. The Open Portal: Dreams and Divine Power in Pharaonic Egypt

Kasia Szpakowska

7. Viscera and the Divine: Dreams as a Divinatory Bridge Between the Corporeal and the Incorporeal

Peter Struck

8. Stars and the Egyptian Priesthood in the Graeco-Roman Period

Jacco Dieleman

9. Divination and Its Discontents: Finding and Questioning Meaning in Ancient and Medieval Judaism

Michael D. Schwartz

Part IV The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars

10. Heaven and Earth: Divine-Human Relations in Mesopotamian Celestial Divination

Francesca Rochberg

11. Astral Religion and the Representation of Divinity: The Cases of Ugarit and Judah

Mark S. Smith

12. A New Star on the Horizon: Astral Christologies and Stellar Debates in Early Christian Discourse

Nicola Denzey

13. At the Seizure of the Moon: The Absence of the Moon in the Mithras Liturgy

Radcliffe Edmonds



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