A Jewish magical handbook in the Babylonian Talmud

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Among the medical and magical discussions in the sixth chapter of BT Shabbat, there is a distinct unit of four curative spells intended for combatting demons or disease. This spell unit has a unified structure that resembles the literary style of late antique Jewish magical handbooks and is replete with parallels to the contemporary Jewish Aramaic incantation bowls. This article analyzes the talmudic spell unit and argues that it is well situated within the Jewish Babylonian magical tradition of Late Antiquity. It then examines the style and content of two additional spells from a Geniza fragment of BT Shabbat. It proposes that the talmudic spell unit stemmed from an external local magical handbook and discusses possible implications regarding the relationship between Babylonian rabbis and magic practitioners and the transmission of Jewish magical traditions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)242-260
Number of pages19
JournalJewish Studies Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2022

RAMBI publications

  • rambi
  • Cairo Genizah
  • Incantation bowls
  • Incantations, Aramaic -- Iraq
  • Jewish magic -- History -- Sources
  • Talmud Bavli -- Shabbat -- Criticism, interpretation, etc


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