Divorcing Lilith: From the Babylonian incantation bowls to the Cairo Genizah

Dan Levene, Gideon Bohak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

One of the striking features of ancient Jewish magic is the disappearance of numerous magical spells and formulae that are known to us from the Babylonian Aramaic incantation bowls; spells that come to be absent from the register of later Jewish magic. In the present paper we present one exception to this general rule, by editing a Genizah fragment (Hebrew Union College 1029) that contains a spell which is well attested in the incantation bowls. The fragment in question was copied in the twelfth century as part of a larger magical recipe book. One of its recipes, entitled 'A deed of divorce for Lilith', contains an anti-demonic get (divorce formula) which is attested in several different versions in the Babylonian incantation bowls, produced half a millennium earlier. In our paper, we offer a synopsis of all these versions, and a detailed assessment of the significance of this discovery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-217
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Jewish Studies
Volume63
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2012

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