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Friday, August 10, 2007

Review of TRZCIONKA, Magic and the Supernatural in Fourth-Century Syria

Silke Trzcionka, Magic and the Supernatural in Fourth-Century Syria. London and New York: Routledge, 2007. Pp. 227. ISBN 0-415-39242-X. £17.99.

Reviewed by Thomas J. Kraus, Hilpoltstein (t.j.kraus@web.de)
Word count: 1895 words

This volume is a revised version of the Ph.D. thesis Silke Trzcionka (hereafter T.), an Australian Research Council Senior Research Associate at the Centre for Early Christian Studies at Australian Catholic University, prepared under the auspices of Wendy Mayer and Paul Tuffin and submitted to the University of Adelaide in 2004. According to the title T. primarily focuses on late antique Syria and the practices and beliefs present there to summon supernatural powers for help in specific situations of life. In addition, the back cover unveils that T. will specify on Palestine, too, and, together with the first page of the book, it promises that she is going to deal with "a myriad of magical activities" (for instance, curses, spells, and amulets; accusations; methods of healing, protecting, and exorcism). With a strict geographical, chronological, and thematic framing and by applying methodological theses from sociology and anthropology, T. engages in painting a realistic picture of region, time, and people. By doing so a "belief system emerges that intricately intertwines the supernatural and tangible worlds, and in which magic pervades and defines social reality." The book is aimed at "students and specialists of late antiquity, ancient magic, ancient religion and early Christianity" (see the summary on the back cover).
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Source: Current Epigraphy and BMCR