Subido por Mark Lewis

mlewis Szczerbiec final

Mark Lewis
To [Bolesław the Brave], so it is said, a sword was given by an angel, whereby
he defeated all his adversaries with the help of God. This sword is until now
preserved in the treasury of the church of Kraków; the kings of Poland are
accustomed to bear it when they go to war, and with it always triumph over their
The sword of King Bolesław is called Szczerbiec… with it he first struck the
Golden Gate that sealed the castle of Kiev in Russia. From this blow the sword
suffered a small notch; as “notch” in Polish is szczerbą, so it was named
– Chronica Poloniae Maioris1
While it may not be a gift from heaven, the sword known today as the Szczerbiec (Figs. 1, 2, 3),
now held in the Wawel Castle Museum in Kraków, is undeniably a masterpiece of medieval art
and a treasure of the Polish nation. Once suggested to be a replica of the 19th century, the sword
may safely be considered a genuine artifact of probably the mid 13th century, based on the most
recent and comprehensive analysis of Biborski, Stępiński, and Zabiński.2 Rather than the first king
of Poland – Bolesław the Brave, crowned in 1025 – the name “Bolezlai” inscribed on a now lost
side-plate of the sword’s grip may have referred instead to Bolesław the Pious, (intermittent) duke
of Greater Poland in 1239–79. From the 15th century chronicle of Jan Długosz it has been inferred
that the son-in-law of this latter Bolesław, Władysław the Elbow-high, was probably the first
Polish monarch to include the Szczerbiec in his coronation regalia, in 1320. Perhaps not
coincidentally, the Chronica Poloniae Maioris – the earliest source to identify the royal sword by
name – dates to within precisely the time frame in question.3
Long singled out as of particular interest is the enigmatic inscription on the hilt of the Szczerbiec,
which dramatically declares that the wielder of the sword will be protected from harm by the power
of the names of God. However, though rendered in Roman characters, the presumed names are
nigh un-recognizable, bearing hardly more than a passing resemblance to certain Hebrew words
or names like El Shaddai (‫“ – )אל שדי‬God Almighty.” A preoccupation with the power of names
is a quintessential feature of Jewish mysticism, but the fascination is hardly less in esoteric
traditions of other faiths. Already in antiquity, Christian, Jewish, and pagan magicians freely
borrowed the trappings of other traditions; the idioms of one culture at times appear so naturalized
in the milieu of another that characterizing an ostensibly “Jewish” or “Greek” name as such and
nothing more risks being overly reductive.4
Recent studies have acknowledged the vexing issue of textual corruption, whereby the supposed
Hebrew names may have been deformed to an indeterminate degree by their transliteration into
Latin and eventual transmission to the artisan who finally inscribed them. Despite the apparent
importance of accurately reproducing divine names – lest their mystical potency be diminished –
such degeneration is pervasive in magical writings. As for incantations borrowed from foreign
traditions, neither meaningful nor familiar to later copyists, the entropic effect is all the greater, a
point not lost upon astute medieval observers. In correspondence now attributed to Roger Bacon,
the Doctor Mirabilis complains of the pseudo-Solomonic manual known as the Ars notoria that
within its pages “many divine names are… so much corrupted by the fault of Latin scribes that
now they are neither Hebrew nor any other tongue.”5 An additional challenge facing the aspiring
translator, raised for the first time by Biborski et al, is the longstanding affinity of magicians for
so-called voces magicae: words and names of foreign or invented origin, employed not for any
semantic function, but for their occult power alone.6 Prominent in Christian magical formulas are
names from the three linguae sacrae – Latin, Greek, and Hebrew – invoked regardless of their
intelligibility to most potential users, but no less common are names that defy linguistic
The Szczerbiec should also be considered in light of the more widespread phenomenon of
inscribed medieval swords, most often displaying Latin letters or words on the blade rather than
the hilt, which reached a height of complexity during the 12th and 13th centuries. When
decipherable, such inscriptions are often plainly religious in content, in nomine Domini – “in the
name of the Lord” – being just one common (and coherent) example. Not unreasonably, the same
has often been suggested of the numerous inscriptions that resemble hardly more than random
strings of Latin characters, which could represent the initials or abbreviations of one or another
liturgical phrase or popular prayer.7 On the other hand, incomprehensible letter sequences,
including even invented caracteres, are typical of ancient and medieval magical texts.8 Absent
compelling arguments or specific parallels, the identification of any one inscription as a pious
benediction or superstitious incantation must remain speculative at best.
While recognizing few specific examples, Rudolf Wegeli nevertheless included a “mystickabbalistic” category in his pioneering study of sword inscriptions.9 This group was defined by
analogy with inscriptions in other media, including church bells and coins, that invoke familiar
nomina sacra or apotropaic words or phrases. As an archetypical example, published only
recently, we might consider a 14th century sword found in Slovenia and inscribed with the letters
AGLA, a well-known notarikon, or kabbalistic acronym, representing the Hebrew phrase Atah
Gibor Le-olam Adonai (‫)אתה גבור לעולם אדני‬, meaning “You are mighty forever, O Lord”.10 As
protection against all manner of dangers, Christian invocations of the divine name Agla proliferate
after the 13th century, in particular being frequently inscribed on personal jewelry.
Despite these precedents – or due to the relative paucity thereof – to the best of the author’s
knowledge, the present work represents the first attempt to interpret inscriptions on a medieval
sword by means of systematic comparison with a body of magical writings. The Szczerbiec
presents as an ideal case for such a study as the legible, Latin portion of its inscription provides
sufficient context to greatly narrow the scope of investigation. Such a line of inquiry was
nevertheless anticipated in a general sense by Worley and Wagner who, in their reflections on
methodology for the study of sword inscriptions, proposed broadening the base of comparative
material to include “written magic”.11 These authors rightly emphasize that in the medieval
context any distinction between a “magical” inscription and a “religious” one is largely artificial:
many incantations, in their reliance upon divine aid or saintly intervention, and prescriptions of
common prayers like the Pater Noster and Ave Maria, reveal their grounding in conventional
Christian thought. Though the use of textual amulets was broadly condemned in patristic writings,
clerical literacy assures the active role of churchmen in the dissemination of written magic through
the early medieval period. By the 13th century scholastic opinion had grown more nuanced, as
authorities including Roger Bacon and Thomas Aquinas accepted some amulets as legitimate
expressions of personal devotion.12
The Szczerbiec as a textual amulet
The Latin inscription spanning one face (henceforth taken as the obverse, see Fig. 2) of the
Szczerbiec’s cross is quite explicit as to its apotropaic function. Despite certain orthographic
irregularities, the text can be deciphered with relative ease as reading:
which may be translated as: “whosoever bears with himself these names of God, no danger will
do him any harm”. The divine names referred to are presumably to be found on the reverse of the
cross (Fig. 3), but here the inscription is altogether more ambiguous:
A certain homophonic similarity with Hebrew words or names is apparent in the latter portion of
the inscription; the translation of Jan Sadowski, proposed in the late 19th century, passed largely
uncontested until recent contributions by Muchowski, and Budzioch and Tomal.13 Despite
longstanding scholarly interest, the names have been studied largely on the basis of their internal
features alone. Suggestive details of the inscription and other decorative motifs have inspired
divergent speculations as to the Szczerbiec’s origin, with the royal sword associated by turns with
Jewish mystical teachings, popular magical traditions, and the iconography of the Templar or
Hospitaller orders.14 Resolution of these contradictions requires situating the Szczerbiec more
properly within the milieu of medieval Christian society, and more specifically, in context with
other apotropaic texts and talismans. To that end, a re-examination of the superficially selfexplanatory Latin portion of its inscription seems in order, before the supposed Hebrew names are
investigated further.
A belief in the power of the written word to influence material reality is found in many cultures,
and Latin Christendom was no exception; as part of the “common tradition” of medieval magic,
parchment or paper amulets – typically hung from the neck or worn flat against the body – were
available to a diverse stratum of society, literate or otherwise. Inscribed with powerful names,
mysterious phrases, and pious supplications, such textual amulets proliferated throughout the
medieval period, and remained in use long thereafter. Practical magic of the European folk
tradition often served a medical purpose, but had its uses on the battlefield as well: according to
one 13th century text the written names of God, viewed daily, had the power to ward off violent
death, and grant victory in battle – the same formula could equally safeguard a woman in
Alternatively, the cross-shaped sword, signature weapon of the Christian knight, presents as a
potentially talismanic object in its own right, and it seems only natural for traditions surrounding
the writing of divine names for protection and victory in battle to extend to the genre of inscribed
swords as well.16 Indeed, in reading the Chronica Poloniae Maioris, we may recognize a narrative
topos in which the Szczerbiec is recast in the role of an amulet, brought by an angel, which brings
victory to a king – Bolesław the Brave. The archetypical expression of this theme centers on an
apocryphal letter to Charlemagne, delivered by an angelic messenger, or via Pope Leo III, with the
power to protect the emperor in battle with the Saracens. Protective charms inspired by the
Heavenly Letter – itself sometimes conceived as a textual amulet empowered by a litany of divine
names – remained in circulation even in the 19th century.17
More specifically, the Szczerbiec’s inscription may be immediately compared to a body of
apotropaic formulas consisting of divine names plus a Latin preamble that can be loosely
paraphrased as “whosoever carries on himself this amulet will not be harmed by (listed dangers).”
In a number of cases the power of ten Hebrew names of God is specifically recommended; the
beneficiary of the following charm, for example, will not perish by fire or flood, nor in battle or
judicial ordeal:
Hec nomina dei sunt apud hebreos quibus deus nominatur. Quicumque ea super
se portauerit. signe. nec in aqua. nec in iudicio. nec in armis. peribit. hel. heloy.
iohel. hele. adonay. sabaoth. tetragramaton. Ioth. hely. samo.18
The preceding formula appears in an amulet roughly contemporary with the Szczerbiec, now held
by Canterbury Cathedral (Fig. 4).19 Consisting of a single, densely written sheet of parchment, the
amulet employs scriptural quotations and arcane sigils in equal measure, but relies especially on
the invocation of lengthy sequences of divine names – recognizable or otherwise. The benefits on
offer are diverse, from staunching blood to compelling demons; the juxtaposition of so many
magical devices may have conferred comprehensive protection against the perils of the world.
Two multi-purpose amulets comparable to that from Canterbury, dating to the late 13th century or
shortly thereafter, were preserved by a French family from Aurillac as part of a talismanic birthing
kit. The younger of the two attributes to St. Jerome a sequence of “Greek names”, proof – like the
Szczerbiec – against “any danger”, recognizable as simply another iteration of those “known
among the Hebrews”.20 The attribution to the saint makes explicit what we might already suspect:
these particular formulas were likely inspired by a list of Hebrew names well known in the Latin
West, first glossed by Jerome, and disseminated widely thereafter via Isidore’s Etymologies and
other texts.21 Derived as they apparently are from available Latin sources, there is no indication
here of any recent or direct transmission of Jewish arcana.22 While the names appearing in these
formulas bear no detectable similarity with those on the Szczerbiec, a precedent is nevertheless
established for the notion of Hebrew names of God as a specifically efficacious ward against death
in battle and other dangers.
The Canterbury amulet includes two more formulas following essentially the same three-part
structure of an introductory statement, the abjuration of various dangers, and a sequence of divine
names, Hebrew or otherwise; the Aurillac amulet includes four or more, depending on how strictly
the format is adhered to.23 Peculiar names aside, the sword’s inscription may now be recognized
as unexceptional to the genre of medieval Christian amulets. Moreover, by comparison, we may
reasonably suspect that the prefatory phrase on the sword is functionally complete: after the
enumeration of specific protections, all that remains is often only the all-important sequence of
divine names itself. The apotropaic benefits of such a litany are provided by its mere presence in
the text, or by the act of reading or seeing it – no additional declaration in writing is required.24
With this in mind, it seems well worth considering whether the opening text CON·CITOMON on
the reverse of the Szczerbiec’s hilt is integral to the sequence of names itself, contrary to past
hypotheses which instead allowed for the inclusion here of a corrupt or abbreviated invocatory
statement in Hebrew, Aramaic, or Latin, such as “[they] arouse zealous faith” or “I dare to utter
the names.”25 A Hebrew or Aramaic phrase here seems particularly inconsistent with comparable
formulas, where any prefatory text is in Latin. On the other hand, proposed Latin readings, based
on identification of the verbs citare or concitare, also seem without precedent in this context.
The Solomonic tradition of Christian magic
The use of textual amulets was rooted in popular custom, but by the 13th century amulet-makers
could increasingly draw upon more specialized texts for inspiration, including newly accessible
translations of non-Christian esoterica.26 In this section, we briefly survey a number of such
sources, all associated with the loosely defined corpus of Solomonic ritual magic. Of
heterogeneous origin, but united in their claims of attribution to the biblical king or his disciples,
texts of the genre rely especially on the power of divine names and the invocation of angels and
demons to achieve magical effects.27 One name found on the Szczerbiec, appearing as EBREbEL
but generally read as Ebrehel, seems to have enjoyed the greatest currency in this context; proposed
variants of the name and their (selected) texts of origin are summarized in Table 1.
In the Canterbury amulet – whose array of magical seals and litanies of names recall the Solomonic
tradition – three variant spellings of the name Ebrehel may be identified in separate invocations.
The preamble of one litany identifies On as the original name of God, then enumerates other names
used after the creation of the world:
On. primum. Nomen domini. antequam fecisset celum et terram postquam
mundus factus est fuit deus appellatus. og et postea hebreyel. libyos. Ihesus.
sother. saluator. ara. Chelte. El. egypte. Gutei. sabaoth. digmamon. adonay…28
Among common Greek and Hebrew epithets, another litany offers Hebre[h]el as a “name of
Christ”.29 The latter spelling is found as well in the Aurillac amulet, included in a ward against
death without absolution, similar in composition to the class of formulas described in the previous
Referred to earlier in a quotation of Roger Bacon, the Ars notoria is so named for the graphical
notae and associated rituals, apocryphally revealed to King Solomon, said to grant mastery of the
liberal arts, philosophy, and theology. The earliest version of the Ars can be traced to the early 13th
century or a little before; though condemned by Aquinas and other theological authorities, the
many surviving copies speak to its widespread circulation.31 As a preliminary to the ritual actions
of the Art, practitioners are advised to recite an orison, claimed to derive from mystically distorted
Hebrew, Chaldean, and Greek, which opens with the words: Theos, Megale, Patir, Ymos,
Hebrel…32 The sequence is extended to some fifty names in the glossed edition, redacted in the
late 13th century, from which it was copied into the Liber iuratus Honorii and the Summa sacre
magice, the latter compiled by the Catalan magician Berengario Ganell.33
Among Ganell’s many sources was evidently a version of the treatise on divine names known as
the Liber Semiphoras (or Sememphoras, Semphoras, etc.) which at one time appeared in
compilation with the better-known Liber Razielis, purportedly translated from Hebrew under the
patronage of Alfonso X of Castile (1252–84). The Alfonsine compilation survives today in only a
single, late medieval copy in Halle, but material from the Liber Semiphoras can be found in other
abridgements of the Book of Raziel. In particular, we have compared the text of the late 15th
century copy in Munich, where it is presented as the seventh and final part of the Liber Razielis
under the title Liber virtutis, and two copies of the early modern version in English, generally
known instead as the Liber Salamonis.34 The Semiphoras tradition, as preserved within these later
texts, admits close and so far unique parallels with two other names found on the Szczerbiec, to be
addressed below.
Based on the sources compared, we may conclude that there existed at least a minor tradition in
Christian magical circles of a divine name, seemingly of Hebraic origin, which was Latinized as
Hebrehel, Ebreel, or the like. The inclusion or not of the letter H seems of little account given the
inconsistency typical of medieval orthography, particularly evident in the texts discussed here in
their renderings of Semitic names such as (H)el (Hebrew: ‫ )אל‬and (H)eloi (Aramaic: ‫)אלהי‬. Apart
from flexible transliterations of initial vowel sounds, the letter h could as well be inserted between
consecutive vowels, as in Israhel (‫)ישראל‬. The identification of the name on the Szczerbiec at least
confirms that its final syllable should indeed be read as -hel rather than -bel; the latter is easily
explained as a scribal error, and the intended syllable resembles a theophoric suffix. However,
Budzioch and Tomal’s amendment of the name to [D]ebrehel – interpreted as “Word(s) of God”
(‫ – )דבר האל‬is not confirmed, given that no trace of the initial consonant is to be seen.35
Wawel Royal Castle, no. 137
mid 13th c.
Canterbury amulet
Canterbury Cathedral, Additional MS
mid 13 c.
Aurillac amulet
private collection(?)
c. 1300
Yale, Mellon MS 1, fol. 1r
c. 1225
c. 1250
mid 14th c.
ebreel (×2)
ebrel (×2)
c. 1500
ebreel (×2)
16th c.
Ars notoria (ver. A)
Ars notoria (ver. B)
Liber iuratus Honorii
Summa sacre magice
Rationes Libri
Liber virtutis
Liber Salomonis
British Library, Sloane MS 1712, fol.
Bibliothèque National de France, MS
lat. 9336
British Library, Sloane MS 3854, fol.
Kassel, MS 4° astron. 3, fols. 6v, 7r,
8v, 97v
Halle, MS 14.B.36, fols. 247r, 247v
Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 51,
fol. 122v
British Library, Sloane MS 3826, fol.
British Library, Sloane MS 3846, fol.
The sword and the Semiphoras
The Szczerbiec’s talismanic inscription now appears more firmly situated within the domain of
Christian magic. That said, several sources identified herein nevertheless attest to the appropriation
of certain Jewish idioms by Christian magicians. Concerned as we are with the apotropaic use of
Hebrew names of God, it is illustrative to briefly consider the acquaintance of Latin authors with
the Shem ha-Mephorash (‫)שם המפורש‬, or Schemhamphoras: the “explicit name” of God.
Considered by Maimonides to refer exclusively to the Tetragrammaton, other ineffable names
were at times referred to as the Schemhamphoras, the best-known of these being the Seventy-twofold Name derived from the verses of Exodus 14:19-21 in the Hebrew Bible. The pseudonymous
author of the Liber iuratus was familiar with the traditional Name, but refers as well to a
Schemhamphoras of seventy-two letters, more fully explained by Berengario Ganell as an acrostic
composed of the initials of so many individual names (Fig. 10d).38 Quite different listings of the
seventy-two nomina Dei, relying in particular on Latin allegories of Christ, can be found in the
amulets from Canterbury and Aurillac, invoked for example in the former as protection from “evil
Another notion of the divine name, known as well to Ganell, is the subject of the Liber Semiphoras.
Derived in part from the Sefer ha-Razim, the apocryphal “Book of Mysteries” given to Noah by
the angel Raziel and handed down to Solomon,40 the Liber Razielis with which the former
circulated represents the single most significant transmission of Jewish magical thought to the
Latin West during the medieval period. While the preface of the Alfonsine compilation refers to a
Hebrew source – as does the incipit of the Liber Semiphoras – no original has yet been traced.
Experts remain divided over whether the surviving text in truth preserves a rare translation, as well
as other fundamental questions such as the date of its redaction, and the authenticity of its
attribution to the circle of Alfonso.41
The eponymous “Semiphoras” are names, or groups of names, which are “hidden and occult,
and… of great virtue”, with the power to accomplish all that the user desires.42 More specifically,
the Liber Semiphoras reveals seven groups of names with which Adam spoke to God, angels,
demons, and so on, and seven more spoken by Moses when he worked miracles in the Old
Testament. It is in this context that we encounter the name Ebre[h]el, in the seventh Semiphoras
of both Adam and Moses as they appear in the Halle manuscript, under the title of the Rationes
Libri Semiphoras, and as paraphrased in the older Summa sacre magice. The Rationes explicitly
associates the seventh Semiphoras of Adam with the notion of the seventy-two names of God:
The seventh Semyphoras is great, and full of great virtue and power over all
things which you wish to work or ask for, to make or to destroy… and in all your
works you should invoke it, which comprises the 72 names of the Creator, by
them it comes to pass that the will of man and all that he desires will be achieved
and fulfilled, and they are these: El, Ya, On, Yac, Va, Adonay, Cados, Ebreel…43
The seventh Semiphoras of Moses consists of only eleven names, mostly duplicated in the previous
sequence (actually seventy in number), including Ebreel. In the latter context, the name is notably
corrupt in later abridgements.
Following the explanation of the Semiphoras, a number of additional names and their particular
powers are revealed, for example the “terrible and dreadful” Hathyonotabalzhar, with which
Joshua stopped the sun in the sky, assures that its bearer cannot be held by any prison, nor defeated
in battle.44 Though introduced as “necessary to every Christian man” in the Liber Salomonis,45 the
absence of Latin or Greek nomina sacra, the historiola of Joshua from the Old Testament, one
charm’s emphasis of ritual purity, and another’s prescription of deerskin parchment are at least
suggestive of a different religious tradition.46 Appearing under the rubric of “precious names” in
the Rationes, one particular formula is essential to our understanding of the Szczerbiec’s
inscription. Based on a litany of seven names, the complete passage may be read as follows:
These are other names, the highest and holy and they are of great virtue and
power, and if anyone names them, being pure in heart and body, on a good day
and in a good hour and in a clean place, and venerates them daily, he knows that
whosoever justly requests something from God will without difficulty achieve
and obtain it from God, and these are the names: Comythomon, Sedalay,
Trohomos, Zepyn, Agtha, Bichel, Yohel.47
The immediate observation is that the second name invoked here exactly corresponds to the name
SEDALAI found on the sword; in conjunction, the initial text fragment CON·CITOMON on the
latter may be equated with the first name in the charm: Comythomon, or Chomoythomon as it is
rendered in the Summa sacre magice.48 Additional variants are detectable in corresponding
passages in later adaptations; for example, the Elizabethan Book of Oberon invokes an equivalent
sequence in various contexts, with the first name rendered as Comithomon or Comiceron – the
originally intended spelling is altogether unclear.49 In adopting this reading, we must necessarily
ignore the possible punctuation point indicated after the first syllable on the Szczerbiec, but this is
not particularly objectionable: while a single point is employed between words relatively
consistently in the Latin inscription on the sword’s pommel, there is nevertheless a point misplaced
within the word iudicum. Moreover, we have previously seen the name Ebrehel likewise divided
erroneously in the Canterbury amulet, though it appears twice elsewhere therein as a single word
(see Table 1). This identification of Concitomon as a single name vindicates the earlier prediction
that the inscription on the reverse of the Szczerbiec constitutes a single, unitary sequence of divine
names, contrary to past hypotheses which have assumed the inclusion of an abbreviated or corrupt
introductory statement of some kind.
To find in the Liber Semiphoras an immediate source for the Szczerbiec’s inscription seems an
improbable conclusion; the window of opportunity for transmission of the Alfonsine edition in
Latin, generally ascribed to the 1250s, to the distant circle of Bolesław the Pious (d. 1279) is
narrow indeed. By the same token, attribution of the sword to Bolesław I of Masovia (d. 1248),
another perennial candidate for ownership, would be all but precluded. The Liber Semiphoras in
Hebrew – or another text passing under that name – did see at least limited circulation outside of
Spain by the mid 13th century: Roger Bacon lamented having seen only a portion of a treatise on
divine names which he knew as the Liber Semamphoras, and that no Jew of his acquaintance
possessed a copy.50 The title is cited by the French Benedictine and repentant necromancer John
of Morigny, active in the early 1300s, but the book is not confirmed to have reached Poland for
more than another century.51 Ultimately, the early history of the Liber Semiphoras remains so
obscure as to enable little more than idle speculation regarding the coincident names found on the
Szczerbiec. However, the appearance of the name Ebrehel in the Canterbury amulet, and a possible
variant in the Ars notoria, hints at the wider dissemination of divine names in common with the
Semiphoras tradition already in the first half of the 13th century. The names Concitomon and
Sedalai may likewise have been better known than they so far appear.
The apparent connection between the sword of a Polish duke and a magical tradition with roots in
Iberian Judaism is perhaps less surprising than it may first appear, in that Biborski et al have
already detected in the typologically unusual characteristics of the Szczerbiec’s hilt the possible
influence of the Mediterranean-Iberian cultural sphere.52 These authors have speculated on the
marital links between Bolesław the Pious and Southern European royalty as a possible avenue of
influence on the duke or his circle. However incidental, Bolesław’s royal connections highlight
the role of the ethnically and religiously diverse kingdoms of Iberia and Sicily in the dissemination
of Muslim and Jewish cultural heritage into Latin Christendom. The importance of the former in
particular is immediately recalled once again when we consider the remaining name on the Polish
sword, so far absent from our discussion: EEVE. Budzioch and Tomal considered this name as
difficult to interpret, but rejected the possibility that it may represent the ineffable name of God on
the basis that this would have been expressed as “IAHVEH or similar”.53 It should be pointed out
that Petrus Alfonsi, the Spanish Jew turned Christian polemicist, transliterated the Hebrew ‫ יהוה‬as
IEVE in his influential Dialogi contra Iudaeos, written in 1108–10. Alfonsi directly inspired later
authors, most notably the Calabrian abbot Joachim of Fiore, who adopted the same transliteration
in his famous Trinitarian diagrams towards the end of the century.54 Any proposed interpretation
of the name EEVE must therefore respect that, as written, it differs by only a single letter from
contemporary renderings of the Tetragrammaton, and this in company with a number of other
scribal errors.
Magical voices and kabbalistic names
Having located parallels of the remaining three names on the Szczerbiec, it remains to discuss to
possibility of their identification or translation. The most notable effort on this front is the proposal
by Budzioch and Tomal that the sword’s inscription be read as a deformation of Concit[o] Amon,
Ahava, Sedalai, [D]abrahel,a Latin-Hebrew phrase taken as meaning “I summon the Faithful
[Shepherd], Love, the Lamb of [my] God, the Word(s) of God.”55 Though pleasingly in accord
with the depictions of the Agnus Dei and the Four Evangelists on the sword, this reading fails to
correctly resolve the first name in the sequence. Despite the thematic consistency of the final two
names, we now know both appear in other texts devoid of any analogous context, and in particular
in the Liber Semiphoras, a treatise seemingly of Jewish origin where allusions to the Lamb and
the Evangelists are hardly likely to appear. Such conventional Christian motifs routinely appear
in more esoteric contexts; the signs of the Evangelists depicted on the hilt of Szczerbiec likewise
adorn the Aurillac amulet and the nota of grammar in an illuminated copy of the Ars notoria.56
Moreover, as noted by Chodyński, the image alone of the Agnus Dei was sometimes held to possess
talismanic properties in its own right.57
Notwithstanding the new sources now available, we have gained little in the way of context that
might specifically inform a translation of the three unfamiliar names. Indeed, the possibility of
scribal corruption – already presumed in our reading of EEVE as the Tetragrammaton – remains a
complicating factor which all but precludes a secure identification. That said, Sedalai might
conceivably be no more than a distorted Shaddai ( ‫)שדי‬, and Ebrehel resembles Abriel (‫)אבריאל‬, an
angel of the Second Heaven in the Sefer ha-Razim.58 While speculative, this explanation is at least
more parsimonious than the oft-repeated identification by Sadowski of the compound names
Shaddai-Eloi and Ab-Rab-El (‫אב רב אל‬, “Father Master God”), which strains to account for every
dubious syllable.59 The remaining name, Concitomon, is the most perplexing; its suffix is common
but possibly meaningless in Jewish angelology, and is found as well in Dapdapiron, Zapzapiron,
and a string of equally nonsensical divine names from the Third Book of Enoch.60
As noted by Biborski et al, meaningless voces magicae such as these last are ubiquitous in both
Jewish and Christian magical writings, their semantic content – if any such existed – long since
lost in translation, or to the entropy of scribal error.61 These authors’ due caution against the risk
of over-interpretation is anticipated in the classic work of Joshua Trachtenberg, who, regarding
magical names, cautions that ultimately “we must take them ‘as is’… these terms possessed
significance because they were ‘names’ and not because they ‘meant something.’"62 Final
confirmation that, whatever their origin, the names as given can reasonably be consigned to the
category of pseudo-Hebraic magical gibberish comes from the 17th century Hebrew edition of the
Sefer Raziel, a remarkable re-translation after the older Latin text. Here again we may find the
names in question, their corrupt forms carefully preserved, transliterated phonetically as ‫איבריאל‬
(“Eibreiel”), ‫“( ס ידאלאי‬Sedalay”), and ‫“( קאמיציתון‬Kamitzeton”).63
Ironically, in the finding of the voces magicae of the Szczerbiec in a text intimately linked to
Jewish magic we have unexpectedly come full circle, and are now compelled to reckon directly
with Sadowski’s original characterization of the names as a “kabbalistic inscription”.64 This
association of the sword with Jewish mysticism has been met with justifiable skepticism in recent
scholarship,65 and indeed the Liber Semiphoras and related texts of the Raziel corpus discussed
here can hardly be related to the well known theosophical school of Kabbalah, concerned primarily
with study of the ten Sefirot, the emanations of the divine Infinite. However, this speculative
tradition does not encompass the totality of kabbalistic thought, and in fact it is the so-called
“practical Kabbalah”, mentioned in passing only by Biborski et al, that is of the most plausible
relevance to the study of the Szczerbiec, deserving of at least a few words of clarification.
Since antiquity, Jewish magical and mystical traditions evinced a fascination with powerful names,
and by the early eleventh century there appear references to the ba’alei ha-shemot (‫– )בעלי השמות‬
the “masters of the names” – who created amulets and charms, and performed miracles through
their knowledge of the Tetragrammaton or other divine names. Despite condemnations from some
rabbis and kabbalists as idolatrous, or simply useless, Jewish magic along antique lines continued
to thrive into the medieval period.66 The term qabbalah (‫ – )קבלה‬literally “reception”– could
readily be applied to any esoteric lore transmitted among a select few, without necessarily implying
an allegiance to any specific doctrine. The term “practical Kabbalah” emerges by the fourteenth
century, but this particular distinction between performative activity and contemplative study
became commonplace only much later. According to the once predominant view of Gershom
Scholem, the category is essentially euphemistic, encompassing the range of licit magical
activities, largely pre-dating, and independent from the speculative tradition. However, in more
recent scholarship, a further distinction is drawn between practical Kabbalah in this colloquial
sense and more rigorous use of the term, reserved for magical practices which refer to the Sefirot
or other uniquely kabbalistic themes. Cases of the latter are comparatively rare, while more
common are texts defined by their authors or users as “practical Kabbalah”, or simply “Kabbalah”,
that would be disqualified as such in the strictest sense.67
If the magical formulas found in the Rationes Libri Semiphoras may, for the sake of argument, be
described as originally works of practical Kabbalah, it can only be in the weaker sense of the term.
Assuming the Szczerbiec’s inscription indeed derives from such a source, via the Liber
Semiphoras or other intermediary, it should be reiterated that once transcribed in Latin there
remains little or nothing to distinguish a vox as specifically “kabbalistic”, or even Hebrew – a point
proved by the later re-translation of the corrupt, Latinized names. To borrow a Thomistic aphorism,
knowledge is received according to the manner of the receiver; prior to the development of
Christian Kabbalah by Renaissance humanists, few indeed are those who might see in the
Szczerbiec’s inscription more than simply a few voces among many. Whatever its ultimate
heritage, to describe the Polish sword as a “kabbalistic” artifact ultimately seems an abuse of
terminology, more misleading than informative.
Alpha and Omega – and Tau?
By the 13th century circular figures were standard to the visual repertoire of textual amulets,68 and
the pommel of a sword offers an ideal canvas for the display of such a device. Inscribed on the
chamfered rim of the Szczerbiec’s pommel (Fig. 5) is a Latin phrase which, with minor corrections,
reads: haec figura valet ad amorem regum et principum iras iudicum – “this sign prevails over the
love of kings and princes [and] the wrath of judges”. Polish scholars have long accepted this as
an allusion to the weapon’s probable function as a ceremonial gladius iustitiae, an insignia of
judicial authority.69 The figura referred to occupies the central face of the pommel, and is
comprised of four symbols: a large character which resembles a letter C or G surmounted by the
head of a T, flanked by the letters A for alpha and a lower-case omega, each crowned by a small
cross, and beneath an equilateral cross within a dodecafoil rosette. On the reverse – the side of the
voces magicae – the pommel bears only a vegetal ornament, suggested as representing a vine, a
well-known allegory of Jesus Christ.
Alpha and omega may be easily recognized as referring to God as the beginning and end of all
things, as proclaimed in Revelation.70 The symbolic pair are common in medieval iconography,
particularly in conjunction with depictions of Christ in Majesty or the Chrismon, or as pendant
from the cross of the Crucifixion. Moreover, in more esoteric contexts Alpha et Omega are
routinely counted as divine names in their own right.71 Viewed in this way, the placement of these
symbols on the pommel of the Szczerbiec would thus be thematically consistent with the
inscription on the cross. Indeed, this interpretation is already implied by a literary precedent
highlighted by Biborski et al, namely the 12th century Historia Caroli Magni et Rotholandi, or
Chronicle of Pseudo-Turpin, which describes the pommel of Roland’s sword Durendal as adorned
with A and Ω, the “most wonderful letters of the great name of God”.72
Biborski et al have suggested a commonality with the iconography of the military order of the
Knights Hospitaller, based in part on a paten from the Hospitaller church of Werben, in Saxony,
which depicts the Man of Sorrows flanked by alpha and omega, with each crowned by a small
cross as seen on the Szczerbiec.73 However, this manner of depicting the two letters is not particular
to Hospitaller art and seems to be a stylistic variant that (at the very least) was in use in and around
Germany during the 12th and 13th centuries. The crossed alpha and omega appear in a variety of
media, often in depictions of Christ in Majesty surrounded by the Tetramorph of the Evangelists
(Fig. 6).74 A crossed alpha appears alone in a German or Bohemian textual amulet, probably of the
14th century, which, like those from Canterbury and Aurillac, combines assorted textual and
graphical elements to defend its owner against “all dangers to his body and soul.”75
The central character has aroused greater debate, as its ambiguous appearance has led to
disagreement even over what letter or letters are represented. Interpreted variously in the past as
a ligature of T and G, of T and C, or a decorative form of T alone, Biborski et al reach only the
uncertain but not unreasonable conclusion that “no matter which interpretation is correct, it may
be taken for granted that a symbol between Α and Ω cannot refer to anything else than God.”76
New epigraphic evidence allows for clarification of this point: in all probability the character in
question may be identified as a single letter T, rendered in an uncommon uncial style. In late
Romanesque inscriptions the letter T can adopt a variety of forms, often used in tandem with the
standard capital. Not un-commonly, the stem of the T is curved; sometimes only the lower portion
of the stem is curved while the upper remains vertical. In rarer cases, the latter form is exaggerated
further, with the upper arc of the lower stem extending past the midline, producing a character that
resembles a letter C surmounted by the head-stroke of a T, as seen on the Szczerbiec and a number
of monuments and artifacts of the late 12th or early 13th century (Figs. 7, 8).77
The character in question was previously identified as a majuscule T alone by both Chodyński
and Żygulski, albeit without provision of supporting epigraphic evidence, and with contradictory
interpretations as to its meaning.78 As noted by Biborski et al, the proposal by Żygulski of the letter
as the initial of the word templum – thus associating the Szczerbiec with the Knights Templar –
appears unfounded.79 On the other hand, Chodyński saw the symbols upon the pommel as
apotropaic devices, consistent with the amuletic inscription on the cross. More specifically, the T
may represent a Greek tau, but in defense of this view Chodyński indulges certain “scholarly
myth[s]” regarding the practices of ancient mystery cults.80
For the pre-Christian roots of the symbolism of the Greek letter we should rather look to its
derivation from the Semitic taw – ‫ ת‬in modern Hebrew, but written as + or × in antiquity. The
signum thau, set upon the brows of the faithful in Ezekiel 9:4, would later be fully equated to the
corresponding Latin letter, prefiguring the instrument of the Crucifixion in the form of the Tshaped tau cross.81 Promoted by Innocent III and St. Francis of Assisi, the tau would see renewed
popularity as a symbol of Christian faith in the 13th century, and its apotropaic power came to be
widely appreciated.82 More than simply the “mark” of the Lord, in Revelation the signum thau is
the name of God himself, sealed on the foreheads of the elect.83 With this in mind, Chodyński’s
characterization of the Szczerbiec as an “eschatological talisman” is compelling. Nevertheless, the
combination of all three letters on the sword differs from its ostensible precedents, the seal of
God’s name rendered as a single tau, and the pair of “renowned letters” (litteris clarissimis) that
mark the hilt of Durendal in the Pseudo-Turpin Chronicle. As implied by the conclusion of
Biborski et al, quoted previously, the pommel’s symbolism hews more closely to conventional
iconography in which alpha and omega accompany the physical depiction of God.
A second objection stems from the atypical appearance of the supposed tau cross. The significance
of the Greek tau is based above all on its visual resemblance to the cross of the Crucifixion; the
interpretation as such of the letter on the Szczerbiec, in its exaggerated uncial form which least
resembles a cross, is thus not entirely convincing. Indeed, the author is not aware of any depiction
of the biblical signum thau as anything other than a straight-limbed capital T (Fig. 9a).84 Likewise,
as the favoured sign of the early Franciscans and the emblem of the Antonine order, founded in
1095, the tau cross seems to be exclusively represented as the familiar capital (Fig. 9b,c). Finally,
given that the pommel emblem specifically includes a cross as an independent visual element, the
notion that the letter T may have some ulterior meaning other than simply another cross motif is
not easily rejected.
Possible insight is to be found once again within the wider Christian magical tradition. Among
assorted charms recorded in the Anglo-Saxon medical miscellany known as the Lacnunga,
compiled in the late 10th or early 11th century, the charm entitled Wið Dweorh – “against a dwarf”
– calls for the writing of the symbols “+ t + ω A” upon the arms of the afflicted.85 In context, the
“dwarf” may be understood as a malicious spirit who causes illness, thus we find here the letters
of the sword’s pommel cast as a quite literal defence against evil attack. Though this analogy
comes at a distant remove from the milieu of the Szczerbiec, by the turn of the millennium AngloSaxon charms already exhibit a degree of continuity with later magical practices, through recourse
to Latin liturgy, names of Greek or Hebrew origin, and so on.86 Regarding the interpretation of the
T as a tau cross, we may note that the Lacnunga predates the popularity of the latter symbol; as
well, the lower-case, uncial letter is distinct from the accompanying crosses, a usage that may be
contrasted with other charms that similarly prescribe the writing of alpha and omega interspersed
with multiple crosses.87
For another parallel we may return to the corpus of pseudo-Solomonic magic, specifically to an
abbreviated and sanitized version of the Ars notoria which appeared in the 14th century, the Ars
brevis. In the earliest surviving copies of this text there appears a circular “Figure of Memory”,
which features a large capital T, flanked by the crossed alpha and omega (Fig. 10).88 The Theos,
Megale orison – identified previously as including a probable variant of the name Ebrehel – is to
be recited repeatedly in the accompanying ritual of consecration. The Figure of Memory is not an
apotropaic device, and its first known appearance post-dates the Szczerbiec by roughly a century
– it is not found among the traditional notae of the Art. Regardless, its presence in the Ars brevis
suggests once more the adoption of the various elements of the sword’s inscriptions from a
common repertoire of Christian magic, which recycled divine names, magical sigils, and other
arcana in endless permutations.
The central character of the Figure of Memory resembles the usual form of a tau cross, and is
described as such by Skemer.89 The straight limbs and flaring terminals of the T are typical of the
iconography of St. Anthony, and the letter is similarly rendered in esoteric diagrams like the Sigil
of God (Fig. 9c, d). However, unlike certain crusader coins and Hospitaller seals which depict the
double-barred True Cross with pendant alpha and omega,90 the two letters accompany, but are not
truly dependant upon the central letter. By analogy, once again we may reasonably suspect that
the T on the sword’s pommel is not – or not primarily – intended to represent a tau cross. This
view is consistent with the previous example of the Wið Dweorh charm, where the in-line text
precludes any visual allusion to the Cross with pendant letters.
Turning to possible alternatives, two natural interpretations present themselves, already proposed
in the preceding context: T may stand for the Trinity as suggested by Storms,91 or it may be the
initial of Theos, from the Greek θεός, as suggested by Véronèse.92 As direct references to the
Christian God, either suffices to vindicate the conclusion of Biborski et al cited previously. The
latter epithet remained in liturgical use in the Latin West in hymns such as the bilingual Trisagion
and the Alma chorus Domini, while examples in medieval esoterica are too numerous to count.93
Reading T as Theos thus appears most consistent with the typical vocabulary of Christian magical
texts, and neatly divides Greek epithets on the pommel from the Hebraic voces magicae on the
cross. These disparate elements of the Szczerbiec’s ornamentation may now be seen as
fundamentally united in purpose: the collective invocation of divine protection through recitation
of the secret names of God. It is thus not surprising to find already the suggestion that these
elements originally occupied the same side of the hilt.94 This composition would see the four
Evangelists equally displayed on both sides of the sword, which surely seems the most likely
artistic intent, rather than the current arrangement with Sts. Mark and Luke doubly represented on
one side, and Sts. Matthew and John on the other.
A review of Latin magical writings has provided a wealth of new insight into the inscriptions and
iconography of the Szczerbiec, and provided evidence for and against a number of past hypotheses.
The key findings of the present study may be summarized as follows:
The Szczerbiec should be considered in the context of the “common tradition” of medieval
Christian magic, the repertoire of which freely combines orthodox motifs with folk
practices and specialized arcana. The possibility that the sword’s ornamentation may be
derived from the iconography of any military order is discounted.
The apotropaic inscription on the cross is conventional in style, comparable to a body of
Latin formulas which invoke sequences of divine names, ostensibly Hebrew or otherwise,
for protection from various dangers.
On the reverse of the cross appear four divine names, including a misspelled
Tetragrammaton, Latinized as IEVE. The remaining names cannot be deciphered with any
confidence, and are seen to function as pseudo-Hebraic voces magicae in later contexts.
Among sources identified to date, the three voces magicae appear most closely related to
the literary tradition of the Liber Semiphoras, purportedly translated from Hebrew for
Alfonso X of Castile. The history of this text remains controversial, but the association is
at least consistent with an Iberian influence on the design of the Szczerbiec, already
suggested on independent grounds.
The previous finding raises the possibility that the Szczerbiec’s inscription is ultimately
derived in part from Jewish esoterica. The historical characterization of the sword as a
“kabbalistic” artifact is nevertheless rejected, as the evidence is indicative of no more than
the shallow syncretism of medieval magic, most evident in the ubiquity of foreign names.
The pommel insignia depicts a letter T, rendered in an uncommon uncial style, and likely
representing the initial of Theos, widely used as a divine name in Latin texts. Apotropaic
use of this letter in combination with alpha and omega is documented in Anglo-Saxon
writings circa 1000, while close analogies of the insignia appear as magical figurae in late
medieval grimoires.
I am most grateful to the scholars of medieval magic who generously shared their expertise with a
novice like myself. Special thanks go to Gal Sofer, for his many suggestions and clarifications
pertaining to Jewish magic and Hebrew sources; to Flavia Buzzetta, for helpful discussions and
important references to the Summa sacre magice; to Katelyn Mesler, for her advice on problematic
sources and other issues; and to Sanne de Laat, for her assistance with transcriptions of the Liber
Salomonis. I would also like to thank Gideon Bohak for his invaluable referrals, and Tomaž
Nabergoj for graciously providing a copy of his article. I am also grateful for the kind assistance
of staff at Wawel Castle, Canterbury Cathedral, the libraries in Halle, Kassel, and Erfurt, the Royal
Institute for Cultural Heritage, the Göttingen Academy, and the Schottenstift; in particular, I am
indebted to Maximilian Alexander Trofaier, who located the correct folio of the Figure of Memory.
Manuscript Sources
Canterbury, Cathedral Archives & Library, Additional MS 23.
Halle, Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Sachsen-Anhalt, MS 14.B.36.
Kassel, Universitätsbibliothek–Landesbibliothek und Murhardsche Bibliothek der Stadt Kassel,
MS 4° astron. 3.
London, British Library, Harley MS 585.
London, British Library, Sloane MS 1712.
London, British Library, Sloane MS 3826.
London, British Library, Sloane MS 3846.
London, British Library, Sloane MS 3854.
Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 51.
New Haven, Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Mellon MS 1.
New York, Jewish Theological Seminary, MS 8117.
Washington, Folger Shakespeare Library, MS V.b.26.
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List of Figures
Figs. 1, 2, 3, 5: Wawel Royal Castle, Kraków
Fig. 4: Canterbury Cathedral Library
Fig. 6: Koninklijk Instituut voor het Kunstpatrimonium–Institut Royal du Patrimoine Artistique,
Fig. 7: prepared by the author
Fig. 8: Bildarchiv Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen, Inschriftenkommission
Fig. 9a: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Fig. 9b: photo by John Christopher, SSF
Fig. 9c: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Gemäldegalerie
Fig. 9d: Universitätsbibliothek–Landesbibliothek und Murhardsche Bibliothek der Stadt Kassel
Fig. 10: Schottenstift, Vienna
Attributed in legend to Bolesław the Brave, crowned as the first king of Poland in 1025, the
coronation sword known as the Szczerbiec can more properly be dated on typological, stylistic,
and epigraphic grounds to the mid 13th century. Among other motifs, the elaborately decorated hilt
carries an apotropaic invocation of the names of God, seemingly written in corrupt Hebrew;
various translations of the names have been proposed, to no clear consensus. Described as
“kabbalistic” in the 19th century, the inscription has most recently been related to popular traditions
of voces magicae – essentially meaningless incantations, common in magical texts since antiquity.
For the first time, the Szczerbiec’s inscriptions are here directly compared to a body of Latin
magical writings, including textual amulets and charms, and treatises of ritual magic. Four divine
names on the Polish sword are thus identified, three of which are found to be voces magicae
associated in particular with the literary tradition of the Liber Semiphoras, ostensibly translated
from a Jewish magical text in Spain. The insignia displayed upon the pommel of the Szczerbiec is
likewise found to admit close parallels within the Christian magical tradition, which, combined
with new epigraphic evidence, allows for a reappraisal of its iconography.
Key words: Szczerbiec, Poland, sword, inscription, amulet, magic, divine names, voces magicae,
Liber Semiphoras
Figure 1. The Szczerbiec (Kraków, Wawel Royal Castle, no. 137.)
Figure 2. Detail of the hilt of the Szczerbiec (obverse).
Figure 3. Detail of the hilt of the Szczerbiec (reverse).
Figure 4. The Canterbury amulet, mid 13th century. (Canterbury Cathedral Library, Additional
MS 23, reproduced courtesy of the Chapter of Canterbury.)
Table 1. Comparison of divine names from various sources with the name Ebrehel as inscribed
on the hilt of the Szczerbiec. Transcriptions by the author except where noted.
Figure 5. The pommel of the Szczerbiec (obverse).
Figure 6. Detail of the Rupertsberg antependium depicting Christ in Majesty with crossed alpha
and omega and the Tetramorph, circa 1210-20 (© KIK-IRPA, Brussels).
Figure 7. Late Romanesque uncial forms of the letter T: a, b – epitaphs from Saint-André-leBlas, France c – charter from Crest, France d – pommel of the Szczerbiec, e – sword from the
River Fyris, Sweden.
Figure 8. Detail of a baptismal font in the cathedral of Osnabrück, showing the crossed alpha and
omega and the exaggerated uncial letter T, circa 1225 (Bildarchiv Akademie der Wissenschaften
zu Göttingen, Inschriftenkommission, Sabine Wehking).
Figure 9. Depictions of the signum thau or tau cross: a – enameled plaque depicting Passover,
German, circa 1200 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), b – wall-painting in Fonte
Colombo, attributed to St. Francis (John Christopher, SSF, adapted under license CC BY-SA
2.0), c – insignia of the Knights of St. Anthony in Man with Carnation, after Jan van Eyck (©
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Gemäldegalerie / Christoph Schmidt), d – the Sigil of God in
Berengario Ganell’s Summa sacre magice (Universitätsbibliothek Kassel, MS 4° astron. 3, fol.
Figure 10. The Figure of Memory in the Ars brevis, copied circa 1377. (Vienna, Schottenstift,
Cod. Scotensis-Vindobonensis 140 (61), fol. 144v.)
KÜRBIS, pp. 17-18. English translation by the author.
BIBORSKI ET AL, pp. 93-148.
BIBORSKI ET AL, pp. 96-97; a caveat is that Długosz does not explicitly include a sword in his description of
Władysław’s regalia.
SKEMER 2006, pp. 25-26, 107-115.
Translation by VÉRONÈSE 2012, pp. 60-61. Another comment on the intelligibility of magical phrases comes from
the 11th century talmudist Rashi, translated by TRACHTENBERG, 81.
BIBORSKI ET AL, p. 118, and references therein.
OAKESHOTT, pp. 200-223; for a more recent survey and a notable success in deciphering a recurring abbreviation,
see WAGNER ET AL, pp. 11-52.
SKEMER 2006, pp. 116-117, 205-206.
WEGELI, pp. 291-294.
NABERGOJ, pp. 44-52.
WORLEY and WAGNER, pp. 119-121.
SKEMER 2006, pp. 21-73, in particular 58-64.
SADOWSKI, pp. 44-50; MUCHOWSKI, pp. 231-236; BUDZIOCH and TOMAL, pp. 39-47. As noted by the
latter, the superfluous letter pair CN can plausibly be explained as anticipating the first syllable on the reverse.
See BIBORSKI ET AL, pp. 115-121, and references therein.
On the “common tradition” and the specific formula cited, see KIECKHEFER 1989, pp. 56-94, 77; on the production
and use of textual amulets in particular, see SKEMER 2006, pp. 125-169.
SKEMER 2006, p. 108.
SKEMER 2006, pp. 98-99.
SKEMER 2006, p. 295.
Canterbury Cathedral Library, Additional MS 23. For discussion and transcription see SKEMER 2006, p. 199-212,
AYMAR, p. 333. For discussion of the Aurillac birthing kit in English, see SKEMER 2006, pp. 242-244. Additional
examples of the charm of Hebrew names from later manuscripts are transcribed by BOZÓKY; SKEMER 2006, p.
The ten Hebrew names are: El, Eloim, Eloe, Sabaoth, Elion, Eser Ieie, Adonai, Ia, the Tetragrammaton, and Saddai;
see JEROME, col. 1272.
See remarks by MESLER, p. 88.
Both amulets refer as well to the narrative of Charlemagne’s Heavenly Letter, a parallel of the apocryphal history
of the Szczerbiec, see SKEMER 2006, pp. 285-304; AYMAR, pp. 325-347.
SKEMER 2006, pp. 150-152.
BIBORSKI ET AL, pp. 115-117, and references therein.
SKEMER 2006, p. 117.
VÉRONÈSE 2019, pp. 187-200; on the particular importance of divine names in the Solomonic tradition, see
VÉRONÈSE 2010, pp. 30-50.
SKEMER 2006, p. 291. The name On is derived from the Greek text of Exodus 3:14, “God said to Moses, ‘I AM
(ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν).
SKEMER 2006, p. 287.
AYMAR, 335. The first four names of the sequence, beginning with Hebre[h]el, correspond with those quoted from
the Canterbury amulet if Libyos in the latter is taken as an error for the Greek Ischyros (ισχυρός, “mighty”).
VÉRONÈSE 2012, pp. 38-39.
Among the oldest surviving copies, the initial word is given variably as Theos, Phos, Yos, or Ayos, see VÉRONÈSE
2004, p. 201.
More specifically, the manuscript tradition of the Liber iuratus as represented by copies in the British Library is
dependent upon the glossed edition of the Ars notoria, while a separate, older tradition is detectable within Ganell’s
later Summa, see VEENSTRA 2012, pp. 151-191.
For discussion of the Alfonsine Liber Razielis and a list of extant manuscripts, see PAGE 2012, pp. 79-112.
BUDZIOCH and TOMAL, pp. 45-46.
Following the classification of Véronèse, who distinguishes three versions of the Ars notoria: A) the oldest surviving
core text of the Art, A2) a first revision thereof, and B) the greatly expanded, glossed edition.
Hebrel is used in other medieval and early modern copies of version B of the Ars notoria transcribed by VÉRONÈSE
2004, pp. 239, 244, 269, 280, 289.
For discussion of the Schemhamphoras in Ganell’s Summa, the Liber iuratus, and later Christian kabbalistic texts,
see VEENSTRA, pp. 168-173.
SKEMER 2006, pp. 287-288; AYMAR, pp. 326-327.
MORGAN, pp. 17-20.
For a recent exchange of views see MESLER, pp. 87-88; GIRALT, pp. 102-103; GEHR, pp. 244-247; and other
contributions to The Routledge History of Medieval Magic..
Halle, MS 14.B.36, fol. 245r.
Halle, MS 14.B.36, fols. 246v-247r; the Latin text is transcribed in VÉRONÈSE 2010, p. 50.
Halle, MS 14.B.36, fol. 248r. The name appears as the nineteenth of the seventy-two names of Ganell’s
Schemhamphoras, spelled Athyonodabazar, see Kassel, MS 4° astron. 3, fol. 43r; the name is mis-transcribed in
VEENSTRA, p. 172. The biblical allusion is to Joshua 10: 12-13.
British Library, Sloane MS 3826, fol 57r; Sloane MS 3846, fol. 158r. The relevant passages misleadingly appear
after the declared end of the “Booke of Raziel”.
ANGEL, pp. 788-791, 794-795; TRACHTENBERG, p. 144. The features noted are not necessarily exclusive to
Jewish magical recipes; caution is in order regarding attribution of content from the Liber Semiphoras as no trace of
a Hebrew source has yet been found.
Halle, MS 14.B.36, fol. 248r: Esta sunt alia nomina altissima et sancta et sunt magne virtutis et potestatis, et si
aliquis nominavit ea, existendo mundus in corde et corpore, in bono die et in bona hora et in loco mundo, et venerabili
eum de cuotidie, sciat quod quicumque pecierit juste a Deo, sine aliquod difficultum perficiet et obtinebit illa a Deo,
et sunt ista nomina: Comythomon, Sedalay, Trohomos, Zepyn, Agtha, Bichel, Yohel.
Kassel, MS 4° astron. 3, fol. 7r.
Folger Shakespeare Library, MS V.b.26, pp. 17, 61, 70, 107.
VÉRONÈSE 2012, pp. 60-61; the correspondence is dated to around 1257–63.
MORIGNY, p. 382; LÁNG, pp. 33-34.
BIBORSKI ET AL, pp. 126-139.
BUDZIOCH and TOMAL, p. 45.
TOLAN, 38, pp. 113-114. The Tetragrammaton, misspelt ioth, he, vau, heth, and transliterated IEVE, appears also
in the writings of Pope Innocent III and John of Morigny, who noted that it is called in Hebrew the “Semhemphoras”,
see INNOCENT III, cols. 519, 782, 786; MORIGNY, p. 184.
BUDZIOCH and TOMAL, pp. 45-46.
AYMAR, pl. IV; CAMILLE, fig. 1. A similarly illustrated amulet of the 16th century is described by SKEMER
2006, pp. 214-217.
CHODYŃSKI, p. 192. See also KIECKHEFER, p. 78; on the Agnus Dei sacramental in general, see THURSTON;
in 1366, Pope Urban V attributed to it powers analogous to talismanic formulas discussed previously, see BÜHLER,
pp. 220-224.
The author thanks Gal Sofer and Katelyn Mesler for these suggestions; regarding the angel Abriel, see MORGAN,
p. 52; the distinction between angelic and divine names is blurred already in pre-medieval Jewish mysticism,
SCHOLEM 1974, p. 19.
SADOWSKI, p. 46.
SCHOLEM 1946, pp. 69-70; CHARLESWORTH, p. 243, 310.
Jewish Theological Seminary, MS 8117, fols. 88v, 90v. The author thanks Gal Sofer for providing this reference,
and his assistance in transcribing the names. “Kamitzeton” may be compared to Comiceton in British Library, MS
Sloane 3826, fol. 57v.
SADOWSKI, p. 48.
ŻYGULSKI, pp. 344, 349; BUDZIOCH and TOMAL, p. 43; BIBORSKI ET AL, p. 118.
SCHOLEM 1974, pp. 182-189, 310-311.
HARARI, pp. 38-82, in particular 56-57, 72-73; see also MESLER, p. 94.
PAGE 2019, pp. 438-442. A number of such figures appear in the Canterbury amulet (see Figure 4).
BIBORSKI ET AL, p. 117, and references therein.
Revelation 1:8, 21:6, 22:13.
Specific examples can be found in the amulets from Canterbury and Aurillac; for comparison of the frequency of
Alpha et Omega and other divine names in pseudo-Solomonic texts, see VÉRONÈSE 2010, p. 37.
Translation by POOLE, p. 63. The possibly Spanish origin of the Pseudo-Turpin Chronicle is offered in support of
arguments for an Iberian-Mediterranean influence on the Szczerbiec by BIBORSKI ET AL, p. 113.
BIBORSKI ET AL, pp. 120-121.
This iconography appears on embroidered antependia from the convents of Rupertsberg and Heiningen. Additional
examples include the altar frontal from Odder, in Denmark, and book covers from Hildesheim and Magdeburg, the
alpha on the latter is strikingly similar to that on the Werben paten, see LASKO, figs. 224, 220; KROHM and KUNDE
2011, no. IX.19; also a funeral monument from Hildesheim cathedral and a number of church bells, in Die Deutschen
Inschriften vols. 45, no. 16; 58, nos. 46, 68; 61, no. 6; 62, nos. 9, 10; 64, no. 3; 88, no. 2.
SKEMER 2015, pp. 135-137.
BIBORSKI ET AL, pp. 114-115.
Corpus des inscriptions de la France médiévale vol. 16, 108-109, fig. 65; 15, 93-94, fig. 69; see also vols. 9, 122,
141; 11, fig. 96; 13, figs. 18, 26; 14, figs. 43, 44, 48; 16, fig. 82; 22, fig. 76; Die Deutschen Inschriften vol. 26, no. 9;
WAGNER ET AL, pp. 28-29.
CHODYŃSKI, p. 192; ŻYGULSKI, pp. 347-351.
On the “myth” of branding or tattooing of the tau in Mithraism, see BESKOW, pp. 487-501. The supposed customs
of various cults are conflated in Alexander Hislop’s anti-Catholic polemic The Two Babylons, first published in 1853;
tau symbolism is thereafter associated with the Eleusinian Mysteries in the writings of various esotericists.
On the development of the tau as a Christian symbol, see VERDIER, pp. 19-20.
INNOCENT III, cols. 673-680; SKEMER 2006, pp. 176-177.
Revelation 14:1, 22:4.
Representative examples depicting the scenes of Ezekiel 9:4 and Exodus 12:13 are reproduced by BIBORSKI ET
AL, figs. 27-29; for numerous others, particularly in 12th century Mosan and German enamelwork, see VERDIER,
pp. 22-36.
British Library, Harley MS 585, fol. 165r; transcribed by STORMS, no. 44.
See remarks by SKEMER 2006, pp. 77-79; KIECKHEFER, pp. 64-66.
STORMS, nos. 26, 32.
VÉRONÈSE 2004, pp. 303-319; the figure also appears in a later copy owned by an English Cistercian, Richard
Dove of Buckfast, but is repurposed.
SKEMER 2006, p. 120.
BIBORSKI ET AL, pp. 121-122.
STORMS, p. 282.
VÉRONÈSE 2004, p. 304.
For example, Theos is the third most common divine name among texts compared by VÉRONÈSE 2010, p. 37;
Berengario Ganell counted it as the first of the seventy-two names of the Schemhamphoras, see Kassel, MS 4° astron.
3, fol. 43r; VEENSTRA 2012, pp. 171-172.
First proposed by Andrzej Nadolski, as cited by BIBORSKI ET AL, p. 113.