Apotropaia and Phylakteria

Conference Paper

Literary evidence: On ritual practices
Thursday 2021-06-24
09:00 | 10:30
Place: Swedish Institute at Athens & Zoom

Averting Fears: Vague Terms vs. Medical Realities

Maria Patera, 2021-06-24

Abstract

The aim of this paper is to examine protective means against human emotions, in particular the emotion of fear. Some late antique iatro-magical treatises like the Kyranides and, at least, one Greek magical papyrus contain instructions for manufacturing phylacteries which protect their owner from “fears”, alongside with nocturnal encounters, visions, nightmares, spells, ghosts and demons. What is striking is the indefinite character of these terms, mentioned in treatises that, generally, provide recipes that counter specific ailments. It is also striking that some amulets, the general purpose of which is to protect, thus to control/avert fear of evil, aim to avert the fear to be afraid. On the contrary, in ancient medical texts “fears” are considered as mere symptoms of medical conditions and diseases, or characterize social status, i.e. young age.

About the Author(s)

Open University of Cyprus 

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