What I find fascinating is the reference to scrying into a cup in which oil floats on water, interpreting the various patterns it makes according to certain manuals. This technique is still used in contemporary Italy to diagnose and remove the evil eye -- minus the manuals. The rules of interpretation are part of oral tradition. They are secret, and transmitted to the initiate by a relative (usually), along with prayers to remove the condition.
This illustrates the deep historic roots of the vernacular magic tradition, and the close interplay between religion and so-called "high" and "low" magic -- terms that are deceptive at best, and do little to help us understand the plasticity of magical traditions.
Thanks for a cool post!
Professor and Chair
Department of Anthropology
California State University - Northridge
18111 Nordhoff St.
Northridge, CA 91330-8244
From: Society for The Academic Study of Magic [[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Caroline Tully [[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Friday, October 03, 2008 12:22 AM
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Subject: [ACADEMIC-STUDY-MAGIC] FW: [agade] NEWS: Earliest reference to Christ?
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Subject: [agade] NEWS: Earliest reference to Christ?
From <http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26972493/>: [Go there for inscribed bowl.]
Earliest reference describes Christ as 'magician'
Bowl dated between late 2nd century B.C. and the early 1st century A.D.
By Jennifer Viegas
updated 9:23 a.m. CT, Wed., Oct. 1, 2008
A team of scientists led by renowned French marine archaeologist
Franck Goddio recently announced that they have found a bowl, dating
to between the late 2nd century B.C. and the early 1st century A.D.,
that is engraved with what they believe could be the world's first
known reference to Christ.
If the word "Christ" refers to the Biblical Jesus Christ, as is
speculated, then the discovery may provide evidence that Christianity
and paganism at times intertwined in the ancient world.
The full engraving on the bowl reads, "DIA CHRSTOU O GOISTAIS," which
has been interpreted by the excavation team to mean either, "by Christ
the magician" or, "the magician by Christ."
"It could very well be a reference to Jesus Christ, in that he was
once the primary exponent of white magic," Goddio, co-founder of the
Oxford Center of Maritime Archaeology, said.
He and his colleagues found the object during an excavation of the
underwater ruins of Alexandria's ancient great harbor. The Egyptian
site also includes the now submerged island of Antirhodos, where
Cleopatra's palace may have been located.
Both Goddio and Egyptologist David Fabre, a member of the European
Institute of Submarine Archaeology, think a "magus" could have
practiced fortune telling rituals using the bowl. The Book of Matthew
refers to "wisemen," or Magi, believed to have been prevalent in the
According to Fabre, the bowl is also very similar to one depicted in
two early Egyptian earthenware statuettes that are thought to show a
"It has been known in Mesopotamia probably since the 3rd millennium
B.C.," Fabre said. "The soothsayer interprets the forms taken by the
oil poured into a cup of water in an interpretation guided by
He added that the individual, or "medium," then goes into a
hallucinatory trance when studying the oil in the cup.
"They therefore see the divinities, or supernatural beings appear that
they call to answer their questions with regard to the future," he
The magus might then have used the engraving on the bowl to legitimize
his supernatural powers by invoking the name of Christ, the scientists
Goddio said, "It is very probable that in Alexandria they were aware
of the existence of Jesus" and of his associated legendary miracles,
such as transforming water into wine, multiplying loaves of bread,
conducting miraculous health cures, and the story of the resurrection
While not discounting the Jesus Christ interpretation, other
researchers have offered different possible interpretations for the
engraving, which was made on the thin-walled ceramic bowl after it was
fired, since slip was removed during the process.
Bert Smith, a professor of classical archaeology and art at Oxford
University, suggests the engraving might be a dedication, or present,
made by a certain "Chrestos" belonging to a possible religious
association called Ogoistais.
Klaus Hallof, director of the Institute of Greek inscriptions at the
Berlin-Brandenburg Academy, added that if Smith's interpretation
proves valid, the word "Ogoistais" could then be connected to known
religious groups that worshipped early Greek and Egyptian gods and
goddesses, such as Hermes, Athena and Isis.
Hallof additionally pointed out that historians working at around, or
just after, the time of the bowl, such as Strabon and Pausanias, refer
to the god "Osogo" or "Ogoa," so a variation of this might be what's
on the bowl. It is even possible that the bowl refers to both Jesus
Christ and Osogo.
Fabre concluded, "It should be remembered that in Alexandria,
paganism, Judaism and Christianity never evolved in isolation. All of
these forms of religion (evolved) magical practices that seduced both
the humble members of the population and the most well-off classes."
"It was in Alexandria where new religious constructions were made to
propose solutions to the problem of man, of God's world," he added.
"Cults of Isis, mysteries of Mithra, and early Christianity bear
witness to this."
The bowl is currently on public display in the exhibit "Egypt's Sunken
Treasures" at the Matadero Cultural Center in Madrid, Spain, until
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