Journal Article

Exe(o)rcising Power: Women as Sorceresses, Exorcists, and Demonesses in Babylonian Jewish Society of Late Antiquity

Rebecca Lesses

in Journal of the American Academy of Religion

Published on behalf of American Academy of Religion

Volume 69, issue 2, pages 343-376
Published in print June 2001 | ISSN: 0002-7189
Published online June 2001 | e-ISSN: 1477-4585 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jaarel/69.2.343
Exe(o)rcising Power: Women as Sorceresses, Exorcists, and Demonesses in Babylonian Jewish Society of Late Antiquity

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This article examines talmudic discussions and archaeological finds from Sassanian Babylonia to explore two distinct but related topics: how some actual women employed ritual practices to gain power (such as the recitation of incantations and the use of bowls with incantations written on them) and how some rabbis thought about women's relationship to ritual power. First exploring rabbinic statements and narratives about women as sorceresses, the article then turns to the incantation bowls, ordinary earthenware bowls inscribed with Aramaic incantations, which were buried on the thresholds or in the courtyards of dwellings. A comparative look at these two types of sources reveals that rabbinic accounts of witches are actually more nuanced than the bald talmudic statement (b. Sanh. 67a) that “most women are sorceresses” and reveals that both the incantation bowls and the talmudic sources give information about women who used incantations and amulets to protect themselves and their families from demons and illness.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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