Macquarie University
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The iconography of the images in the magical papyri

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posted on 2022-03-28, 02:21 authored by Peta Louise McDonald
The aim of this thesis is to demonstrate that the figural depictions in the magical papyri formed part of a conceptualised system of magical imagery. Rather than being haphazard sketches, it will be argued that the figural depictions were meaningful images, whose execution and use in rites and spells reflect considered ritualistic actions. Using PGM XXXVI as a case study, it will be established that the depictions were governed by a strict set of iconographic regulations. Specific terminology, uniform compositional placement, a desire to execute the depictions accurately, as well as recurring pictorial motifs, suggest that the images existed within a pre-established iconographic system. In addition, the depictions appear to have retained specific functions within the magical papyri. These functions were accordingly fluid and changed relative to the context of the depictions' use (whether in applied magic or magical handbooks). As such, the depictions were utilised as part of the materiality of magic praxis. Finally, it will be demonstrated that the figural depictions were considered significant in the belief and practice of Graeco-Egyptian magic. This is indicated by the images' complex relationship with magical practitioners, wherein they enacted as intermediaries between the mundane and supernatural worlds. Moreover, the ritual act of drawing the depictions in magical praxis suggests that they were fundamental elements in the enactment of particular rites and spells.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- Chapter One. Methodologies and sources -- Chapter Two. The boundaries of magical iconography -- Chapter Three. The functions of the figural depictions in the belief and practice of Graeco-Egyptian magic -- Conclusion.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 117-123

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


MRes, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Ancient History

Department, Centre or School

Department of Ancient History

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Choat Malcolm


Copyright Peta Louise McDonald 2015. Copyright disclaimer:




1 online resource (xiv, 123 pages) illustrations (some colour)

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