The article calls attention to the remarkable corpus of manuscripts of Jewish magic penned in pre-modern Italy, showing how they can be used to glimpse the lived religion of Italian Jews and the vibrant encounter between Judaism and Italian Renaissance culture in the overlapping space of magic. The article discusses the textual history of a specific magical technique for becoming invisible which is documented in Jewish sources at least since the fourteenth century. This magical tradition stands out for its (apparently) syncretic nature: it consists in preparing a “pizza” and offering it to a demonic figure—referred to as “the black man”—while standing at a crucifixion site and reciting a magical formula, which may have originally alluded to the Greek myth of Perseus and the Gorgon. Based on a selection of medieval and early modern magical texts in Hebrew and of their parallels in Italian and Byzantine Greek—which are published here for the first time—the article reconstructs the ritual dynamics and magical logic behind this specific magical behavior, unfolding the complex history of cross-cultural borrowings, appropriation, translation and re-translation which characterizes its textual transmission. It shows that, although certain traits of this magical behavior can be traced back to late antique Greco-Egyptian magic, the technique developed in the form known from the existing sources much later and was eventually reshaped in medieval and Renaissance Italy.

“Jewish magic in the syncretic Renaissance: Baking a pizza for the bogeyman”

Alessia Bellusci
2021-01-01

Abstract

The article calls attention to the remarkable corpus of manuscripts of Jewish magic penned in pre-modern Italy, showing how they can be used to glimpse the lived religion of Italian Jews and the vibrant encounter between Judaism and Italian Renaissance culture in the overlapping space of magic. The article discusses the textual history of a specific magical technique for becoming invisible which is documented in Jewish sources at least since the fourteenth century. This magical tradition stands out for its (apparently) syncretic nature: it consists in preparing a “pizza” and offering it to a demonic figure—referred to as “the black man”—while standing at a crucifixion site and reciting a magical formula, which may have originally alluded to the Greek myth of Perseus and the Gorgon. Based on a selection of medieval and early modern magical texts in Hebrew and of their parallels in Italian and Byzantine Greek—which are published here for the first time—the article reconstructs the ritual dynamics and magical logic behind this specific magical behavior, unfolding the complex history of cross-cultural borrowings, appropriation, translation and re-translation which characterizes its textual transmission. It shows that, although certain traits of this magical behavior can be traced back to late antique Greco-Egyptian magic, the technique developed in the form known from the existing sources much later and was eventually reshaped in medieval and Renaissance Italy.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/10278/3743927
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