Demons, Divorces, and Tours of Heaven & Hell
- Date: 29 March, 15:15–17:00
- Location: Engelska parken Humanistiska teatern, hus 22
- Lecturer: Ph D candidate Daniel Waller, Department of Old Testament and Early Judaism at the University of Groningen
- Organiser: The Forum for Jewish Studies and Faculty of Theology
- Contact person: Doktorand Natalie Lantz
Daniel James Waller is a PhD candidate under the supervision of Mladen Popović and Kocku von Stuckrad in the Department of Old Testament and Early Judaism at the University of Groningen. He has published articles on both biblical narrative and the use of narratives in magical texts, as well as a monograph detailing a cognitive approach to biblical Hebrew verse. He is a member of the Qumran Institute at the University of Groningen, and the Carol & Eric Meyers Doctoral Dissertation Fellow for 2017-18 at the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem. His PhD project comprises the first, large-scale synthetic treatment of the Jewish Babylonian Aramaic Incantation Bowls and represents a ‘rhetorical poetics’ of these texts.
The Aramaic Incantation Bowls are a form of late antique apotropaic magic where the insides of simple earthenware bowls are inscribed with spiraling incantations in different dialects of Aramaic. Turned upside down and buried beneath the floors of people’s homes, these bowls functioned as mousetrap for demons. In composing these protective texts, the Jewish, Christian and Mandaean magical practitioners who wrote them drew on popular demonological lore, legal and liturgical sources, early forms of mystical literature, and (myths and legends derived from) biblical texts. In my lecture, I will examine the creative use of these materials in the bowls, with a focus on the narrative spells used. These spells recount tales of vast cosmic battles, strange journeys to the otherworld, and stories of demonic divorces. Not only do they reflect the late antique religious imagination, but focusing on them will allow us to examine how the communities behind the bowls conceived of and constructed their religious heritage.