Healing and Protection

Protective Magic – amulets, periapts, phylacteries, talismans


contexts for use – general protections vs. specific problems

agent of problems – unspecified or specified

Mechanics of protective magic

etic vs emic perspective

etic – amulets' social and psychological functions

power of words

invocation of deities and spirits

voces magicae

ephesia grammata

symbolic value of materials

Medical protection and healing

preventative vs. curative medicine

common and recurring disorders

curative procedures




surgery – cutting and burning

invocations and prayers

Gods of healing – Asclepius and others

Sanctuaries for healing – Epidaurus

healing by incubation

dedications to healing gods


Votive religion

thanks before vs. after

votive contexts – shipwreck, sickness, childbirth, crisis

votive offerings and their symbolism


Discussion issues –




Anaxilas, The Harp-Maker, from Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae XII. 548C

Oiling his skin with yellow unguents, flaunting soft cloaks, shuffling fine slippers, munching bulbs, bolting pieces of cheese, pecking at eggs, eating periwinkes, drinking Chian wine, and what is more, carrying about, on little bits of stitched leather, lovely Ephesian letters.

Menander, Kock Com. Att. Frag. III, 108.

He walks around those getting married, speaking the Ephesian warding magics.

Plutarch, Moralia 706E

For just as sorcerers advise those possessed by demons to recite and name over to themselves the Ephesian letters, so we, in the midst of such warblings and caperings, "Stirred by frenzies and whoops to the tumult of tossing heads," if we bethink ourselves of those hallowed and venerable writings and set up for comparison songs and poems and tales of true nobility, shall not be altogether dazed by these performances...

Suida s.v. Ephesia Grammata

Some charms hard to understand, which Kroisos also spoke on the pyre. And in the Olympics, when a Milesian and Ephesian were wrestling, the Milesian could not defeat his opponent in wrestling because that other one had the Ephesian letters on a knucklebone. When this was revealed and they were removed from him, the Ephesian fell thirty times in a row.

Eustathius on Odyssey XIX.247

From which comes the proverbial phrase "Ephesian letters," of those babbling some things unclear and hard to understand. For they say that these were some charms, which Kroisos said and saved himself from the pyre. And they say that in the Olympics, when a certain Milesian and Ephesian were wrestling, the Milesian could not defeat his opponent in wrestling because that other one had the Ephesian letters on a knucklebone. When these were perceived and removed, the Ephesian fell thirty times in a row. Pausanias also says in the rhetorical lexicon on this subject that the words were the Ephesian letters, encompassing in themselves the natural sense of warding off evil. He also says that Kroisos spoke these on the pyre, and that such letters seem to have been written unclearly and enigmatically on the feet and girdle and crown of Artemis.

Photius, Lexicon, s.v. Ephesia Grammata

Some charms hard to understand, which Kroisos also spoke on the pyre. And in the Olympics, when a Milesian and Ephesian were wrestling, the Milesian could not defeat his opponent in wrestling because that other one had the Ephesian letters on a knucklebone. When this was revealed and they were removed from him, the Ephesian fell thirty times in a row. Ephesian incomprehensibles: some Ephesian charms which are hard to understand, as was said before. Ephesian letters: also Ephesian warding magics, some names and phrases having an innate remedy for suffering.

Clement of Alexandria, Stromata V, 8, 43

Androkydes the Pythagorean, indeed, says that the so-called Ephesian letters, which were well-known among many, were of the order of symbols. And he said that Askion is darkness, for this has no shadow; and Kataskion is light, since it casts a shadow with its rays; and Lix is the earth, according to the ancient name; and Tetrax is the year, according to the seasons; and Damnameneus is the sun, the tamer; and Aisia is the true word. And truly the symbol signifies that the divine things have been set in order: darkness to light, the sun to the year, the earth to every kind of genesis of nature.

Hesychius s.v. Ephesia Grammata

Formerly there were 6, but afterwards some deceivers added others. They say that these are the names of the first ones: askion, kataskion, lix, tetrax, damnameneus, aision. It is clear that askion is darkness, kataskion is light, lix is earth, tetrax is the year, damnameneus is the sun, and aision is truth. Therefore these things are holy and sacred.

Clement of Alexandria, Stromata I, 15, 73

Some say more mythically that some of the so-called Idaian dactyls were the first wise men, to whom the discovery of both what are said to be the Ephesian letters and of rhythms in music. Through this cause the dactyls in music took their name.

Plutarch, Moralia 85B

True it is that those who have got by heart the names of the Idaean Dactyls use them as charms against terrors, repeating each name with calm assurance; but it is also true that the thought and recollection of good men almost instantly comes to mind and gives support to those who are making progress toward virtue, and in every onset of the emotions and in all difficulties keeps them upright and saves them from falling.

The Testament of Solomon, VII. 4-5

The demon said to me: I am called Lix Tetrax. I said to it: What is your work? And it said to me: I scatter men and I make whirlwinds and I set fires and I burn fields and kindle houses. I have this work more in the summer. If I find the opportunity, I get under the corners of roofs night and day. For I am the scion of the greatest.


Lead Tablet from Phalasarna, Crete, dating to the 4th century BCE

Messenger ... up... I bid you to flee from these houses of ours.... I call on Zeus Averter of evil and on Herakles Sacker of cities and on the Healer and on Victory and on Apollo. Ah, ah, thus Tetragos (the goat) drags the PUXUTUAITAGALIS. Epaphos, Epaphos, Epaphos, flee; She-wolf, flee also; And you, Dog, and PROKROPROSATE (the Thief?), ... associate. Let them run maddened, each to his own house. Oath ... ... dog. Aski Kataski {Kataski} AASIAN ENDASIAN "at milking time," goat.. "drive from the garden by force the goat." To whom the name is Tetragos, and to you the name Trex... windy promontory. Happy is he for whom has been scattered, along the highway IO! PHRESILLUTO(Shorn of his senses?) let him have the cry of the blessed along the highway. Trax Tetrax Tetragos. Damnameneu ... tame by force the wickedly unwilling, whoever hurts me and those who KOLLOBALOUSI (cast as a binding spell??) evil things -- hawk-wing, PELEIOPETON(dove feather?), entirely mixed AMISANTON of the Chimera, claw of lion, tongue of bearded lion-serpent -- shall not harm me with ointment or application or with drink or with spell, spoiler of all things.

Lead Tablet from Egypt, dating to 2nd or 3rd century CE = Supplementum Magicum 49

... Nature-roamer, night-roamer, I order you, "Dog, Serpent, Chaplet, Key, Caduceus, bronze sandal of the ruler of Tartarus, gold sandal of De[ ... ]prus; having seen the iron-sandalled female I fled and went in the tracks of the gold-sandalled Kore; save me, savior of the cosmos, daughter of Demeter," to activate this charm for me: drive, spell-bind Matrona, whom Tagene bore, whose substance you have, whom Theodorus, whom Techosis bore, has in mind -- "When under the shadowy mountains in the dark-gleaming land the child drives by force from the garden of Persephone at milking time the holy four-footed servant of Demeter, the goat with her ceaseless flow of rich milk THESOMENON... torches for Hecate Einodia; with a terrible voice the barbarously shouting goddess leads to the god; Night, Erebos, Darkness, Aion, Light, Artemis chaste ... four-footed ... Aphrodite delighting in her girdle, Persephoneia, Phoebe, ... arrow-pourer ... provident, arrow-tamer.." -- keep this spell unbreakable forever.

PGM LXX - Charm of Hekate Ereschigal against fear of punishment:

If he comes forth, say to him: "I am Ereschigal, the one holding her thumbs, and not even one evil can befall her."

If, however, he comes close to you, take hold of your right heel and recite the following: "Ereschigal, virgin, bitch, serpent, wreath, key, cadeucus, golden sandal of the ruler of Tartaros." And you will avert him.

"When beneath the shadowy mountains IOR great SEMNUER 3 times, PHOBANTIA (terrifying?) Semne (the august or awe-inspiring one). I have been initiated, and I went down into the chamber of the Dactyls, and the rest."

Below I saw: "Virgin, bitch, and all the rest."

Say it at the crossroad, and turn around and flee, because it is at those places that she appears. Saying it late at night, about what you wish, it will reveal it in your sleep; and if you are led away to death, say it while scattering seeds of sesame, and it will save you.



PGM IV. 2505-2520

Do not therefore perform the rite rashly, and do not perform it unless some dire necessity arises for you. It also possesses a protective charm against your falling, for the goddess is accustomed to make airborne those who perform this rite unprotected by a charm and to hurl them from aloft down to the ground. So consequently I have thought it necessary to take the precaution of a protective charm so that you may perform the rite without hesitation. Keep it secret.

Take a hieratic papyrus roll and wear it around your right arm with which you make the offering. And these are the things written on it: "MOULATHI CHERNOUTH AMARÔ MOULIANDRON, guard me from every daimon, whether an evil male or female." Keep it secret, son.


PGM IV.2785-2890

Protective Charm for The Rite: Take a Lodestone and on it have carved a Three-faced Hekate. And let the Middle Face be that of a Maiden wearing Horns, and the Left Face that of a Dog, and the One on the Right that of a Goat. After the Carving is done, clean with Natron and Water, and dip in the Blood of One who has died a Violent Death. Then make Food Offering to it and say the same Spell at the time of the Ritual.


PGM IV.154-160, 222-260

There is also the Protective Charm itself which you wear while Performing, even while Standing: onto a Silver Leaf inscribe this Name of 100 Letters with a Bronze Stylus, and wear it strung on a Thong from the Hide of an Ass. [The ass is the animal associated with Seth/Typhon.]


Antiphanes (fr. 177 Kock )

"There's nothing wrong with me and I hope there won't be; but if after all I get a twist about the stomach or the navel, I have a ring, bought of Phertatus for a drachma"


Aristophanes Plutus (883-5)

Dikaios: I don't care a hang for you; I am wearing this ring, bought of Eudamus for a drachma.

Carion: But it is not inscribed "for an informer's bite."


#2 (i/ii CE gold lamella from Segontium in Wales)Adônai Elôaie Sabaôth, Eie Esar Eie, Soura Arbatiaô, being, being, being, living excellently, Elliôn Hannôra Hagibbôr Baillalaamôth Barouch Aththa Oubarouz Houdêcha ever Ôlam-leôlam Akkramarachamari Amorim Phabzana Thouth (magic signs). Protect me, Alphianus.


#7 (ii CE gold lamella from Renania in Germany)OYDAEAGANFOZL...UNI Ia Ia Iai Sabaôth [Adônai A]blanathanlba Akra[machari] Semeseilam Sêsêngem[barphara]ngês, io io io, preserve Te[rtullum, whom Leib[ia the mothe]r bore, from any risk of loss; [preserve] Chilon; preserve Luciolus; preserve Mercussa.

#11 (ii CE bronze lamellae from near Avignon and near Mondragon France)

Thôsouderkyô vinyard oumixonthei, divert from this property all hail and all snow, and whatever might injure the land. The god, Oamoutha, orders it, and you Abrasax, assist! Iaê Iaô. (Julius Pervincus)


PGM VII.490-504

Taking Sulfur and Seed of Nile Rushes, burn as Incense to the Moon and say, "I call on You, Lady Isis, whom Agathos Daimon permitted to rule in the entire Black Land [i.e., Egypt]. Your name is LOU LOULOU BATHARTHAR THARE'SIBATH ATHERNEKLE'SICH ATHERNEBOUNI E'ICHOMO' CHOMO'THI Isis Sothis, SOUE'RI, Boubastis, EURELIBAT CHAMARI NEBOUTOS OUE'RI AIE' E'OA O'AI. Protect me, Great and Marvelous Names of the God (add the usual [i.e., the protection you seek]); for I am the One Established in Pelusium, SERPHOUTH MOUISRO' STROMMO' MOLO'TH MOLONTHE'R PHON Thoth. Protect me, Great and Marvelous Names of the Great God! (add the usual)

"ASO' EIO' NISAO'TH. Lady Isis, Nemesis, Adrasteia, Many-named, Many-formed, glorify me, as I have glorified the Name of Your Son Horus! (add the usual)"


PGM XXXVI.256-64

Taking a Three-Cornered Sherd from a Fork in the Road -- pick it up with your Left Hand -- inscribe it with Myrrhed Ink and hide it. [Write:] "ASSTRAELOS CHRAELOS, dissolve every Enchantment against me, NN, for I conjure You by the Great and Terrible Names which the Winds fear and the Rocks split when they hear it."

Cato, On Agriculture 160

If something is out of joint, it can be set by the following spell: "Take a green reed, four or five feet long, split it in the middle, and let two men hold it to their hips. Begin to recite the following incantation: MOTAS VAETA DARIES DARDARES ASTATARIES DISSUNAPITER, until the parts come together. Put iron on top of it. When the two parts have come together and touch each other, grip it with your hand, make a cut left and right on the reed, tie it to the dislocation or the fracture, and it will heal. Nevertheless, do the incantation every day: HUAT HAUT HAUT ISTASIS TARSIS ARDANNABOU DANNAUSTRA.


Pindar, Pythian 3. 47-54

And those who came to him afflicted with congenital sores, or with their limbs wounded by gray bronze or by a far-hurled stone, or with their bodies wasting away from summer's fire or winter's cold, he released and delivered all of them from their different pains, tending some of them with gentle incantations, others with soothing potions, or by wrapping remedies all around their limbs, and others he set right with surgery.






















O Tireless One, KOK KOUK KOUL, save Tais whom Taraus bore from every Shivering Fit, whether Tertian or Quartan or Quotidian Fever, or an Every-other-day Fever, or one by Night, or even a Mild Fever, because I am the ancestral, tireless God, KOK KOUK KOUL! Immediately, immediately! Quickly, quickly!



"I, Abrasax, shall deliver. Abrasax am I! ABRASAX ABRASICHO'OU, help little Sophia-Priskilla. Get hold of and do away with what comes to little Sophia-Priskilla, whether it is a Shivering Fit -- get hold of it! Whether a Phantom -- get hold of it! Whether a Daimon -- get hold of it! I, Abrasax, shall deliver. Abrasax am I! ABRASAX ABRASICHO'OU. Get hold of, get hold of and do away with... what comes to little Sophia-Priskilla on This Very Day, whether it is a Shivering Fit -- do away with it! Whether a Daimon -- do away with it!"

PGM VII.203-5

In Black Ink, write on Hyena Parchment: "THAPSATE STHRAITO'" - or as I found in another: "TEUTHRAIO' THRAITEU THRAITO' THABARBAO'RI LIKRALIRE'TA - deliver NN from the Cough that holds him fast."

PGM VII.199-201

Take Oil in your Hands and utter the Spell: "Zeus sowed a Grape Seed: it parts the Soil; He does not sow it; it does not sprout."



#13 (i/ii CE silver lamella from Carnuntum in Austria in 3rd century CE stone sarcophagus in gravesite)

For the 'Half-Head' [Migraine]: Antaura came out the sea. She shouted like a hind. She cried out like a cow.

Artemis of Ephesos met her (saying): "Antaura, where are you going?"

(Antaura): "Into the half-part of the head."

(Artemis): No, do not [go] into the [half-part of the head. … ]


(medieval text)

Migraine Prayer against the headache:

Migraine came out from the sea rioting and roaring, and our Lord Jesus Christ came to meet it and said to it: "Where are you going, O headache and migraine and pain in the skull and in the eyes and inflammation and tears and leukoma and dizziness?"

And the Headache answered our Lord Jesus Christ: "We are going to sit down in the head of the servant of God, NN."

And our Lord Jesus Christ said to it: "Look here, do not go into my servant, but be off altogether and go into the mountains and settle in a bull's head. There you may eat flesh, there drink blood, there ruin the eyes, there darken the head, seethe and wriggle. But if you do not obey me, I shall destroy you there on the mountain where no dog barks and cock does not crow."

You who have set a limit to the sea stop headache and migraine and the pain in the skull and between the eyes and on the lids and from the marrow from the servant of the Lord, NN.


#38 (ii/iii CE gold lamella from Amphipolis in Thrace)

Barouch Adônai Iaô Sabaôth Elôaie Ouriêl Michaêl Raphaêl Anaêl Phanaêl Saraphil Istraêl Ailam, Semesilam, Thobarrabau Abrasax Ablaathanalba Panchouchi Thassouth, Iarbatha Gramme Phibaô Chnêmêoch Akrammachamari Sesengenbarpharangês, protect from every male and female demon, Phaeinos who Paramona bore, Melchias, Melchias, O holy god of the Holy (Ones), only guard of the Aions, E.IBGACHRSATAN.


#46 (ii/iii CE silver lamella from Syria)

(Magic signs) Release Juliana from all sorcery and from all passive suffering and all active influence and demonic apparition of the night and day; now, now; quickly, quickly; immediately, immediately, immediately.

Incubation at the Asclepius Temple in Epidaurus

Hagestratus with headaches. He suffered from insomnia on account of headaches. When he came to the Abaton he fell asleep and saw a dream. It seemed to him that the god cured him of his headaches and, making him stand up naked, taught him the lunge used in the pancratium. When day came he departed well, and not long afterwards he won in the pancratium at the Nemean games.

Gorgias of Heracleia with pus. In a battle he had been wounded by an arrow in the lung and for a year and a half had suppurated so badly that he filled sixty-seven basins with pus. While sleeping in the temple he saw a vision. It seemed to him the god extracted the arrow point from his lung. When day came he walked well, holding the point of the arrow in his hands.

Andromache of Epeirus, for the sake of offspring. She slept in the temple and saw a dream. It seemed to her that a handsome boy uncovered her, after that the god touched her with his hand, whereupon a son was born to Andromache from Arybbas.

Asclepius healed Theopompus the Athenian, who was being worn out and drained from tuberculosis, and he urged him on to produce comedies again, since he had made him safe and sound. this is proven by the relief of Theopompus in Parian marble. (The inscription identifies him by his father's name, for he was the son of Tisamenos.) The appearance of the affliction is very visible. The bed itself is also of marble. On it, by the artist's operation, lies the image of him in his sickness. And the god stands nearby and reaches out his healing hand to him There is also a young boy; he is also smiling.

Votive Dedications:

To Artemis the Healer: Huntress and archer, maiden daughter of Zeus and Leto, Artemis to whom are given the recesses of the mountains, this very day send away beyond the North Wind this hateful sickness from our most noble lord; for so above thine altars will Phillipus offer vapor of frankincense, doing goodly sacrifice of a hill-pasturing boar.

To Poseidon, god of the sea: Holy spirit of the great Shaker of Earth, be thou gracious to others also who ply across the Aegean brine; since for me too, chased by the Thracian hurricane, thou didst open out the calm havens to my joy.

To Poseidon of Aegae: Thou who holdest sovereignty of swift-sailing ships, steed-loving god, and the great overhanging cliff of Euboaea, give to thy worshippers a favorable voyage to the City of Ares, when they loose moorings from Syria.

To the God of Canopus: To the god of Canopus, Callistion, wife of Critias, dedicates me, a lamp enriched with twenty wicks, in payment of her vow for her child Apellis; and regarding my spelendors thou wilt say, 'How thou art fallen, O Evening Star!'

To the West Wind: Eudemus dedicates this shrine in the fields to Zephyrus, most bountiful of the winds, who came to aid him at his prayer, that he might right quickly winnow the grain from the ripe ears.

To Artemis: This to thee, Artemis the bright, this statue Cleonymus set up; do thou overshadow this wood rich in game, where thou goest afoot, our lady, over the mountain tossing with foliage, as thou hastest with thy terrible and eager hounds