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Article

Желчь дракона, змеиный яд и неожиданное использование трупов: описания магии в коптской агиографии

This article discusses depictions of magic and magical rituals in Coptic hagiography and their literary and historical context. In these texts narrating the stories of the martyrs of the so-called Great Persecution, pagan rulers usually accuse them of sorcery. In order to defeat Christian magic the Emperor or Roman officials summon their own court magicians who try to harm or kill the martyrs using poisonous potions and demonic powers. But Christian martyrs always passionately deny accusations of sorcery and any possibility of a connection between their miracles and magic. They destroy and defeat all plots of the magicians and in certain cases even convert them to Christianity, using as a weapon only the name of Jesus and the sign of the cross. Although there exists historical evidence that Christians were indeed accused of sorcery, the texts under discussion here demonstrate that they do not reflect a real historical situation at the time of the persecutions, but a literary topos which emerged at a later point, when the cyclic texts were being produced. Certain features of these standard narratives show that Coptic hagiographers used them not only with the purpose of entertaining their audience, but with some didactic goals as well. Such narratives are employed in order to inform on the distinction between ‘good and ‘bad’ miracles, to incite a negative attitude towards magic, and to provide the believers with positive examples of protection against the demonic attacks.