Just In Time For Halloween: UC Scholar Finds Demon-Chasing Charms

Have you ever suffered from headache or back pain? Many of us would look for relief in our medicine cabinets. If you were called to court, you’d probably get a lawyer. And while many people in the present day may still whisper a prayer for support, the words of a Christian charm, copied by a priest, were the protection of choice for a population a couple of centuries ago.

John Brolley, University of Cincinnati program director for Religious Studies, has been at work for more than a year translating four little books of Syriac charms that are among the rare collections at Harvard University. Brolley believes the leather-bound books, dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries, may have once belonged to a priest who would have lived in Urmia, a region in Kurdistan that is one of a handful of Aramaic-speaking regions worldwide. Syriac, though now used almost exclusively in church liturgy, is one dialect of Aramaic.

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