On the Shelf Review – Schwartz’s Qumran, Turfan, Arabic Magic, and Noah’s Name

Sometimes you can find odd articles lurking in the corners of anthologies of scholarly pieces.  I found the most recent of these in Charmes et sortilèges, published in 2002.

This particular article deals with an incantation found in a book of magic called the Kitab al-Rahma fi l-tibb wa-l-hikma, another Arabic work that is not known in the West but apparently has been published in numerous editions in the past century, most with the publication details deliberately obscured.  The incantation in question is to drive off Tabi’a, a female demon who attacks children and with whom Schwartz points out parallels to Lilith.

Curiously, the incantation refers in one section to seven spirits, very much similar to the seven spirits who are cited as the causes of disease in Mesopotamian sources thousands of years before.  Even more interesting is Schwartz’s derivation of two of the names – they originate in the Sumerian and Akkadian Epic of Gilgamesh.  In fact, they seem to be the names of  two of its most prominent figures – Gilgamesh and Humwawa!

Schwartz’s theory is that these names passed down through the Aramaic, possibly through the “Book of Giants” found in the Dead Sea Scrolls (text here, summary here), in which both names appear as giants who are destroyed in the Biblical flood.  Now, it appears that these same names later became associated with evil spirits in incantations still used today in the Arabic-speaking world.

All of this, of course, proves the Simon Necronomicon is real.  I’m kidding, but it does indicate that some actual material from Mesopotamian sources, however fragmentary, has percolated into the magic of the modern day absent the influence of mysterious monks.

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Published in: on February 18, 2009 at 6:02 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. The theory that the spirits of Giants are in fact demons has been written about by L.A. Marzuli in his Nephilim trilogy.


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