Magic and Divination in the Cairo Genizah: Jewish, Muslim and Other Texts (Seminar)

cultural brokerage
Mon, 22/02/2021 17:30 to 19:00
Prof. Gideon Bohak, Tel Aviv University


Please join us for our upcoming seminar on: "Magic and Divination in the Cairo Genizah: Jewish, Muslim and Other Texts" by Prof. Gideon Bohak (Tel Aviv University).

Monday, February 22, 2021, from 17:30 to 19:00 (Israel time) via zoom.

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Over the past twenty years I have been systematically combing the Cairo Genizah in search of magical, astrological, divinatory and alchemical texts. The many texts I have found may often be divided according to their cultural contexts: Some were clearly written by Jews, in Aramaic or in Hebrew, and often also translated into Arabic. Others display numerous signs of having been written by Muslims, and were used by Arabic-speaking Jews who often did not even feel the need to “Judaize” them in any way. And yet others originated among non-Muslims, including Sabians, Indians, and others, and were first adopted by Arabic-speaking Muslims, and then adopted by Jews as well. However, almost all these texts were transmitted anonymously, or pseudepigraphically, and are very fragmentarily preserved. They thus present an interesting historical problem: On the one hand, they clearly demonstrate wide-scale processes of cross-cultural borrowing; on the other hand, the cultural brokers behind these processes remain mostly invisible. In my presentation, I will discuss several specific examples that illustrate these processes of cross-cultural transmission, and the problems involved in their study.

Gideon Bohak holds the Jacob M. Alkow Chair for the History of the Jews in the Ancient World at Tel Aviv University, where he teaches at the Department of Jewish Philosophy and Talmud. His research focuses on the history of Jewish magic and on the magical, mystical, astrological and divinatory texts from the Cairo Genizah. His most recent books include Ancient Jewish Magic: A History, Cambridge, 2008, and A Fifteenth-Century Manuscript of Jewish Magic, Los Angeles, 2014 (in Hebrew). In 2015, he co-curated, with Anne Hélène Hoog, an exhibition on Jewish magic at the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme in Paris, the catalogue of which was published as Magie, anges et démons dans la tradition juive, Paris, 2015. His many articles are devoted to the publication and analysis of new texts, and to programmatic discussions of Jewish magic and Jewish history.