The magical rotuli from the Cairo Genizah

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

16 Scopus citations


To sum up: While rotuli and rotuli fragments are relatively rare in the Cairo Genizah, and magical rotuli extremely rare, those magical rotuli which happened to survive turn out to be of great historical importance. This is especially true of Bodleian Heb. a3.31, which is one of the oldest available Genizah magical texts, is entirely based on much earlier Palestinian Jewish recipes which seem to have been neither "updated" nor censored in any significant manner, and provides important evidence on the aggressive magical practices of the Jews of late-antique Palestine and early medieval Cairo. The significance of this evidence may be highlighted by noting that among many hundreds of Genizah magical texts transcribed within the framework of my research project, not a single one provided as many early Jewish magical recipes in such a good state of preservation and with such a high concentration of very "daring" aggressive magical recipes. Moreover, my search for parallels for the recipes contained in this rotulus did not come up with much, neither inside the Genizah nor outside it, which seems to imply that most of these magical recipes were not re-copied by later Jewish practitioners (perhaps because they were deemed too offensive in their blatant transgressions of some biblical and rabbinic injunctions and in their frequent appeals to the forces of darkness), and would have been utterly lost were it not for the chance preservation of this rotulus. In the future, more fragments of the above-listed rotuli, and of other magical rotuli, might be identified, and further enhance our knowledge of an important stage in the textual transmission of the Jewish magical tradition from Late Antiquity to the early Middle Ages.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationContinuity and Innovation in the Magical Tradition
EditorsGideon Bohak, Yuval Harari, Shaul Shaked
Place of PublicationLeiden
PublisherBrill Academic Publishers
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9789004203518
ISBN (Print)9789004203518
StatePublished - 2011

Publication series

NameJerusalem Studies in Religion and Culture
ISSN (Print)1570-078X


FundersFunder number
Cambridge University Library
Israel Science Foundation725/03
Israel Science Foundation

    RAMBI Publications

    • rambi
    • Cairo Genizah
    • Jewish magic -- History -- Middle Ages, 500-1500
    • Jewish magic -- Manuscripts
    • Manuscripts -- Eretz Israel


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