Thursday, May 19, 2011

Ethiopian Magic Scrolls are on display at Elizabeth Street Fine Arts until June 30, 2011. Here's a review in the New York Times. Apparently there is also an accompanying display of processional crosses.

Magic or healing scrolls usually take the form of long, narrow, often segmented vertical strips of parchment covered with handwritten texts — protective prayers, spell-casting formulas — interspersed with drawn and painted images. Such scrolls were, and still are, created by traditional healers and diviners. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church has always viewed the art with deep suspicion, in part because it mixes canonically sacred and heterodox elements: figures of warrior-saints and archangels rub shoulders with uncouth demons; talismanic designs derived in part from Islamic, Judaic and pre-Christian folk sources mingle with New Testament quotations.

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