October 2014

Is Cursing a Magical Act?

October 27, 2014 // 0 Comments

Peter’s curse breaks the legs of Simon Magus. In a recent post, we talked about the categorical difficulties inherent in the term “magic.” I took the view that many of the distinguishing features which scholars use to define magical practices often apply to normative religious phenomena in antiquity. Thus, when talking about the ancient world, it is not so easy to separate magic from religion. Indeed, many of these constructions are contextual. What is considered to be magic is not so Read the full post...

Defining the Magical Practitioner in Antiquity

October 13, 2014 // 0 Comments

Medea rejuvenates an old ram by boiling it. When we think of curses, we think of a magician, or even a witch, who’s up to no good in the dark of the night. Ancient literature teems with this figure: the witch of Endor, Medea, even followers of Jesus figure into this portrait of the evil magical practitioner (Gordon 253). I want to set aside the specific question of cursing for a moment (we’ll talk about that in another post), and look at how we define the magical practitioner in antiquity. Read the full post...

Curses as Divine Authenticator: The Wrath of Moses in the Book of Numbers

October 6, 2014 // 0 Comments

Moses calls down hail from the sky on Pharaoh. Much of the Hebrew Bible (aka the Old Testament) is devoted to Moses—who he was, his miraculous deeds, and stories which affirm his leadership in the Israelite community. The Book of Numbers, in particular, highlights this last dimension of Moses’ leadership skills. Time and again, Moses is depicted as having a special relationship with the Hebrew god, one that reaches an intimacy not afforded to other Israelites or other worshipers. I want to Read the full post...