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Magic and Religion in the Ancient Near East

Year Group 1994/95

Theme group on magic and religion, united around various facets of Mesopotamian magic.

Each of the six members of the theme group came to NIAS with his own research project. Abusch planned to focus on the body of Babylonian anti-witchcraft texts known as Maqlû; Van Binsbergen wanted to continue his research of African divination; Geller hoped to make significant progress with his edition of Udug-hul, a Sumerian incantation series; Shaked hoped to pursue his research of Aramaic and Mandaic incantations; Van der Toorn wanted to write a book on family religion in the ancient Near East; only Wiggerman in fact, came with the intention to concentrate on the elaboration of a more or less systematic theory of Mesopotamian magic. To many of them, the presence of a theme group was an extra of which they were not certain what to expect.

As the majority of the members were engaged in research of magic in the more narrow sense of the term, we agreed to make ‘Mesopotamina magic’ the focus of our common research and the topic of the conference we would be hosting in June 1995. Our weekly sessions were henceforth set up as preparatory meetings for that conference.

We invited scholars whom we considered to be the acknowledged specialists in the various facets of Mesopotamian magic. Their contributions would be published in the proceedings of the conference, which was meant to become a reference book on the subject for a long time to come. The success of the conference and the theme group was such that we decided to plan a series of conferences during which we will meet again, now as a group of ex-NIAS Fellows.