Amulet with Magic Square and the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus
Amulet with magic square and the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus 20th century, Cairo, Egypt Lead Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, 80681
This tear-shaped lead amulet is clearly a pendant meant to be worn. It includes inscriptions on its front and back, which are intended to physically and spiritually protect the wearer. At the top of the amulet's front side appears the phrase "Ya Hafiz," which invokes God as the "Protector" (Hafiz). Below, a circle of intersecting words (forming a six-pointed star) provides the names of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, ancient legendary figures who are said to have slept for hundreds of years. The Sleepers are mentioned in the Qur’an (18:9–26), and in later centuries it was believed that inscribing and reciting their names could protect an individual from harm. On the amulet's back side, a five-by-five grid comprises a magic square, or murabba‘. Within this checkerboard design are inscribed pairs of letters that are slight permutations of the so-called mysterious letters initiating some chapters in the Qur’an (here, chapters 19 and 42). Encircling the magic square are the names of the four protective archangels: Gabriel, Michael, Israfil, and ‘Azra’il.
Bibliography: Savage-Smith 1997, pt. 1, 133; Porter et al. 2011, 169–170; Stevenson 1920, esp. 97–98; Kriss and Kriss-Heinrich 1962, pls. 77–79 and 83; Porter 2004; 2007; Cammann 1969; and Porter and Frembgen 2010.Return to the Show