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Forum LockedLost languages in magical texts?

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Flipper View Drop Down
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    Posted: 12-Mar-2009 at 15:28
Some time ago i bought the collection of Greek magical texts. It included spells, katadesmoi, practical magic and exorcism. I was fascinated about how people used practical magic back in the days. Inside those magical texts there were words that made no sense. Those words were often commented by authors as words with no meaning. Words that are supposed to sound exotic to make the whole process a mystery. Just like when we say "Abrakatabra, i turn you NN to a frog" or something like that.

In any case, I bypassed those details and never wondered what those words could mean. Then one day i got a paper by Gather Owens, a specialist on Minoans and the Cycladic cultures. In that paper there was evidence for the minoan language. It's not that epic as it sounds. It was just a list of words that have been found on crete, written with Greek characters, but in a pre-greek language. Some of those were found in Linear A (e.g IDA). Here are some examples:

αταρκομν
δεαρσ
ασεγδνανιτ
δνασ
ενβα
ειρερφινοδαν
εδησδεα
ιρερμηιαμαρφ
ισαλαβρετκομν

Then while spending some time on reading epigraphic monuments i hit on this: http://epigraphy.packhum.org/inscriptions/oi?ikey=195695&bookid=172&region=7&subregion=19

It is from Kos, an island that was inhabited originally by Carians and later by Dorians. I was reading the weird words of the inscription and i got the following in my mind...

I remember that in mesopotamia, in religious rites, people were still using old languages and scripts, even if those were inexistent at that time. The same in Egypt...The priests had their own old writting system. So, what if the magical rites in the aegian, kept the old psalms of the pre-Greek languages as well?

What if θυσιουθχουτ Ιω δααλαιβ and εαρνακαχαπηεσκιφθι is not just a made up exotic phrase but a religious psalm in a dead language?

Because, while most make no sense, you suddenly see known words like αστραν and Ζὴν ζῶν amongst those weird words. Since the inscription above is in an island of the aegean, known for its mixed population since ancient times, what makes us so naive and certain that the words are just a make up?

Here is an eteocretan inscription btw...Many have been found lately.

http://epigraphy.packhum.org/inscriptions/oi?ikey=200358&bookid=292&region=7&subregion=26



So what do you think? Could those unknown words be remains of a ritual in a 3000-5000 years old dead language?





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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote khshayathiya Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12-Mar-2009 at 16:53
The hypothesis is certainly seductive, but there are some problems relating to the oral transmission of texts. I'll elaborate a bit later,now I'm a bit pressed for time :(



EDIT:

Basically, look at what happens with Latin carmina, a good example of literary / sacred / magical pieces transmitted orally. Within a few hundred years, they become virtually uninelligible to Romans themselves. When something like this happens, the linguistic item is often subjected to analogic reconstruction.

So, the point is - even within the same language a text that due to its special status (sacred / magical) tends to retain an archaic form will become unintelligible and therefore jumbled up. Add to that the difficulties of transmission from one language to another and the end result is something that really does not - or no longer - make sense.


Edited by khshayathiya - 13-Mar-2009 at 01:20
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Flipper Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13-Mar-2009 at 07:42
Ah, i get your point.
That's a good possible explanation. Something else that had crossed my mind the first time i encountered such a text was that it might have been some form of Egyptian, because a lot of the magic in Greece was shared with Egypt where it might have derived from.

Personally, I didn't want to sound romantic or so, nor did i imply it should be eteocretan (it could be whatever). I just wanted a reflection if such a theory could be considered.

Then i was thinking of those christian groups in the US where someone shouts "Praise the lord" and people run around etc. Sometimes they take someone in front of the priest who touches their head and says some series of weird words. I dunno how they're called but that could be a modern example of it.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Chilbudios Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13-Mar-2009 at 07:52
Yes, such texts may hold relics from old, dead languages, but also a lot of other types of word-games and linguistic interferences. For instance:
 
 
Here obviously ΑΕΗΙΟΥΩ are the vowels of the Greek alphabet (below and above the middle figure). And ΙΑΩ is a form of the tetragrammaton. Where the initial editors gave ΑΒΡΕΑΑ it can be actually ΑΒΡΑΣΑΞ (notice the upper part of the Ξ), and this would be one Abraxas stone.


Edited by Chilbudios - 13-Mar-2009 at 07:54
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Chilbudios Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23-Apr-2009 at 13:15
Flipper, I know you're interested in Phrygian, there are some interesting monuments with funerary inscriptions both in Greek and Phyrgian. Usually the text is divided in two clauses, the main one in Greek and the subordinate one (usually a curse - I'm not sure if this fits your criterion of "magical text") in Phyrgian. One example:
 
 
and a reading:
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Flipper Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23-Apr-2009 at 14:16
Yes, you're right! Smile Phrygian is a new field of study for me.

I was not aware of that specific inscription i have to say. I have seen others though were the bla bla is written in Greek and the "French" (curse words)  LOL are written in Phrygian.

I just did a search and some Phrygian texts not available in older Phrygian indexes appear. It seems that more are being added:

This one is a very good example of strange words that are names: http://epigraphy.packhum.org/inscriptions/oi?ikey=272230&bookid=615&region=8&subregion=39

See the name Ενσταρνα̣δουμθ for example or Οιουθβαν. Those look pretty exotic because of their endings...

Btw, The specific inscription is very interesting because it is a truly mixed inscription of Greek and Phrygian. It's a Hybrid, not one part Greek one part Phrygian like we're used to.



Edited by Flipper - 23-Apr-2009 at 14:24


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Chilbudios Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23-Apr-2009 at 14:52

Yes, those endings seem bizarre. However, here's a different reading of the same inscription:

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