BAR 33:01, Jan/Feb 2007
Magic Incantation Bowls
Charms to Curse, to Cure and to Celebrate
According to Dan Levene, an expert in Jewish magic incantation bowls, more than 2,000 of these fascinating vessels have survived.1 The vast majority bear inscriptions written in a dialect known as Jewish Aramaic and were produced in Jewish communities in Babylonia between the third and seventh centuries C.E. Precisely how they functioned, however, is still a mystery.
These bowls are usually approximately the size of a large cereal bowl and are inscribed in cramped writing that spirals around the interior of the bowl from the center to the outside. Occasionally, they are accompanied by drawings—perhaps of the demons against whom they were meant to protect.