Bowl with Protective Spell for Mahlafta Daughter of Bathabsabba (Magic Bowl)

BLMJ 6299

Baked clay with black ink, Mesopotamia

Late Sassanian-early Islamic periods

6th-7th centuries CE, Height 6 cm, Diameter 15.8 cm

The bowl contains two distinct incantations, separated by a quotation from Zechariah 3-2, one of the biblical verses most frequently quoted in these types of bowls. The first formula is typically Jewish except for the fact that it contains an appeal to Jesus the healer to protect the client (line 5). It is probably not a coincidence that the matronym of the client, Bathabsabba, literally “Sunday girl,” suggests that she came from a Christian family. The second incantation is particularly designed for women and refers to the demoness Ifroditi (identified by Prof. Shaked as the Greek goddess Aphrodite). The expression “by a straight sling (and) by a bent sword, by a bent sling (and) by a straight sword” (line 7) recalls “a drawn sword and a whetted sling,” which occurs in an incantation in the Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 67a.

Westenholz, Joan Goodnick, ed. Three Faces of Monotheism. Exhibition Catalogue. Jerusalem- Bible Lands Museum, 2007