Sunday, November 08, 2009

A Coptic (Egyptian) Magical Text

Yes, yes, I admit, it has been a long time since my last post. But my time offline has been productive. I have, in fact, begun learning Coptic, the 'modern' form of ancient Egyptian, and the official language of the Copts, the Egyptians who converted to Christianity early in the first millennium AD.

Just some notes on the following passage and on the language: Coptic is highly agglutinative, meaning that words often consist of a root plus one or more (usually more!) affixes, primarily prefixes. An interesting thing about Coptic is that verb conjugations are not suffixed but are prefixed to the verb. Also, the definite and indefinite articles are always prefixed to the noun, e.g., prome (p[e] 'masc def article' + rome 'man') 'the man'; the feminine definite article is t[e], thus tsxime (t[e] 'fem def article' + sxime 'woman') 'the woman' (the e of the articles often drops out before the noun). (The x here is pronounced like an h, although perhaps a bit more guttural.) Coptic incorporated many Greek words during the time of Greek rule over Egypt, so those of you familiar with Greek may notice some of these, e.g., soma 'body', sarks 'flesh', and tavos 'tomb.'

The translation is that of the author; the transliteration into the Roman alphabet from the Coptic is mine.

I can't help but wonder what the poor Pharaouo did to deserve such a curse upon him!

pmour etpe pmour epkah pmour epaeir pmour epestrewma pmour etchefmoute pmour eprei pmour epo'oh pmour enhalate pmour e peksoure epiot pmour entauror TC pe XC nheitf hijn pshe mpestis nheitf pmour epsashf n shaje nta-hiliseo'os jo'os ejn tape net toua'av ete nai ne newran Psuchou, Chasnai, Chasna, Ithouni, Anashns, Shourani, Shouranai. Mare pmour etnma'au1 shope hijo psoma nho'out nfaraouo men tefsarks ntetnsho'oye mos nthe noushe auou ntetna'as nthe noutoeis hijn tkoupria nnepefset dos nnefto'oun nneftisperma nnefkenonia men Touaien tsheinKamar men la'au nsxime oute ho'out oute tefnei shanta osh anok alla marefsho'oue npsoma nho'out nfaraouo psheinKirantales nnef kononia men Touaien tsheinKamar nthe nourefmo'out efkei hnou tavos ennefaraouo psheinKiranpoles neishkeinonia men Touaein tsheinKamar.

Aio aio, taxei taxei.

O spell of the sky, O spell of the earth, O spell of the air, O spell of the firmament, O spell of the Pleiades, O spell of the sun, O spell of the moon, O spell of the birds, O spell of the father’s ring, O spell with which Jesus the Christ was bound upon the cross, O spell of the seven words which Eliseus uttered over the heads of the saints, whose names are these: Psuchou, Chasnai, Chasna, Ithouni, Anashns, Shourani, Shouranai. May that spell be upon the male organ of Pharaouo, and his phallus, may ye dry it like wood, and may ye make it like a rag upon the dunghill. May his phallus not become stiff, may it not erect, may it not produce seed, may he not have intercourse with Touaein, the daughter of Kamar, or with any woman, wild or tame, until I myself call out; but may it dry the male organ of Pharaouo, the son of Kiranpales, may he not have intercourse with Touaein, the daughter of Kamar. Like a dead man lying in a tomb. May not Pharaouo, the son of Kiranpolis be able to have intercourse with Touaein, the daughter of Kamar.

Yea, yea. Quickly, quickly!

1 ma'au means 'mother,' but this doesn't appear anywhere in the author's translation (?). The ' equals a glottal stop.

Appearing in the
American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, Vol. 56, No. 3, 1939, 305-7. From documents in the Moritz Collection, Oriental Institute No. 13767. Author and date of original document unknown.
Author of text translation: Elizabeth Stefanski.

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