Collection: Macquarie University History Museum

Incantation bowl

Accession # MU4232
Culture Unknown
Period Unknown
Date unknown
Provenance Unknown
Material/s Ceramic
Dimensions 12.09 cm x 14.01cm x 14.44cm
Collection Macquarie University History Museum
Source Macquarie University, MAC
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MU4232 is an incantation bowl that is inscribed on the inner surface with pseudo-text and four figures. The text is in Aramaic script, however, the inscription does not communicate any meaning in Aramaic. It is possible that the writer has inscribed a series of letters which have no particular meaning other than as magical incantations (like “abracababra”). Alternatively, the text may have been written by an illiterate person who copied or possessed the knowledge of individual characters of Aramaic and consequently produced a text that is nonsensical. Incantation bowls were used in a religious context for a variety of purposes. The most common use was for general protection in the home, for example from injury, disease or misadventure such as a sting from a scorpion or snake. It was believed that by chanting the spell inscribed on the bowl while rotating the bowl and then quickly turning the bowl upside down, the evil forces or bad luck would be captured and so the owner’s family and possessions are granted protection. This is not dissimilar to how one might capture a spider or cockroach in the home - under an upturned bowl or jar, however in this case the unwelcome intrusion - and it’s capture - is purely symbolic.

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Macquarie University History Museum (2020). Incantation bowl, MU4232. // (accessed on: 14 June 2020).

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