Contents and Arrangement

Princeton Ethiopic Magic Scroll No. 169, 1830-1870

Collection Overview

Collection Description & Creator Information


Ethiopic magic scrolls are textual amulets containing brief protective and healing texts in Ge'ez and occasionally Amharic. Ethiopian Christians wore these scrolls on the body in the belief that they prevented disease, death in childbirth, demonic possession, malevolent spirits, the Evil Eye, and other sources of personal misfortune. They were generally prepared by unordained clerics (debtera), who wrote on narrow strips of parchment arranged in scroll format. The magical efficacy of these scrolls is based in large measure on a selection of amuletic texts, apotropaic prayers, charms, incantations, prayers, Scriptural quotations, miracle tales, formulas, invocations of divine names and helpful saints, and images. Most magic scrolls were activated for the use of a particular person, whose name is given. Contributing to their protective power are painted images of guardian angels with drawn swords, St. Susenyos slaying Werzelya for the protection of mothers and infants, magic squares and eight-pointed stars, the net of Solomon for capturing demons, and other figurative illustrations and designs. The magic scrolls were generally rolled up in small leather capsules, enabling them to be worn on the body. Some fairly modern magic scrolls are sewn into the capsules so that they cannot be read, but most could be opened and even hung on walls for prayer and protection. Most extant examples in the Princeton University Library date from the 18th to 20th centuries. For more information, see Jacques Mercier's Ethiopic Magic Scrolls (1979) and Art that Heals: The Image as Medicine in Ethiopia (1997).

Collection History


Purchase, 1981. AM 81-191.

Archival Appraisal Information:

No appraisal information is available.

Access & Use

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research use.

Conditions for Reproduction and Use:

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.

Credit this material:

Princeton Ethiopic Magic Scroll No. 169; Princeton Collection of Ethiopic Magic Scrolls, C1296, Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

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Storage Note:
Firestone Library (hsvm): Box 4

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