Wednesday, November 08, 2006

More magic

A new journal , devoted to the study of magic, is supposed to have started appearing, describing itself as "serious, rigorously peer-reviewed scholarly". Doesn't that sound like they're a little insecure? Even when neuroscience is supporting traditional claims about spirit possession?

Last week I found a Jewish amulet, from 19th century Eastern Europe, which used as one of its central magical texts, a verse in Psalms:
Then stood up Phinehas and executed judgment and so the plague was stayed.

Looking through the indices of published Jewish magical texts from the Geniza (Schafer's three volumes - apparently the fourth is on the way - and Schiffman and Swartz) but this verse doesn't seem to have been utilized there. Anyone know of any such use of this nice pasuk?

Monday, November 06, 2006

Returning stolen property

I was witness to an interesting interaction a couple of weeks ago. A stolen manuscript was returned to the hands of the library which owned it. I'll give the background quickly:

Some time last year, a scandal erupted around Michel Garel, the curator of Hebrew manuscripts at the Bibliotheque Nationale. It centered around an Ashkenazi copy of the Pentateuch,which David Sofer had bought at auction and then sold to someone else through Christie's. The manuscript turned out to be the remnants of a manuscript from the BN itself. The story was widely reported, and also elicited a fairly bewildering conspiracy theory.

After months of legal negotiation, the manuscript itself was brought to a central location, where the new curator from Paris examined it page by page. Together we checked to see that all the folios were in place and tried to read the various marginalia known to be in the manuscript. Well, the Pentateuch was almost complete, as were the Megillot, but the Haftarot had been cut out. Most of the marginal comments, many of which are in Latin, had been erased but were legible under ultra-violet light (and just barely without it). It was sad. When that was done, the lawyers were called in to witness the packaging of the manuscript in bubble-wrap and it was taken to a bank.