Skip to content

Why does the Catholic University of America have a collection of over 600 Ethiopian magic scrolls?

By Adelaide Mena (CNA/EWTN News)
1/11/2017 (2 months ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The scrolls are all handmade leather manuscripts.

With a recent gift of more than 600 handmade leather manuscripts, the Catholic University of America is now home to one of the most important collections of Ethiopian religious manuscripts in the United States.

Hundreds of Ethiopian religious scrolls now reside in Washington D.C.

Hundreds of Ethiopian religious scrolls now reside in Washington D.C.

Highlights

By Adelaide Mena (CNA/EWTN News)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
1/11/2017 (2 months ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Ethiopia, religious, text, Washington D.C.


Washington D.C. (CNA/EWTN News) - The collection includes Christian, Islamic, and "magic" texts. It is the largest collection of Ethiopian Islamic manuscripts outside of Ethiopia.

Dr. Aaron M. Butts, a Professor of Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literature at Catholic University, said in a statement that the manuscript collection "provides unparalleled primary sources for the study of Eastern Christianity" and reaffirms the school's standing as one of the leading places to study Near Eastern Christian language, literature, and history.


The manuscripts are handmade of goat, sheep, or calf hides, and most of them date to the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries.

In total, the collection includes 125 Christian manuscripts, such as psalters, liturgical books, and hagiographies. Within the 215 Islamic manuscripts of the collection are Qurans and commentaries on the Quran.

The collection also contains more than 350 so-called "magic" scrolls - Christian prayer talismans. Each talisman, Butts told CNA, is handwritten by a "debtera" - a lay person or cleric in the Ethiopian Church, and contains the name of the person for whom it is written.

The scrolls are worn around the neck, and are created to help the wearer with a certain kind of ailment, such as headaches. Many of these talismans are dedicated to women's ailments - such as childbirth or painful menstruation - and Butts said it is clear that some of these "magic" scrolls have been passed down through the generations from mother to daughter.

An Ethiopian scroll in the Gerald and Barbara Weiner collection at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

An Ethiopian scroll in the Gerald and Barbara Weiner collection at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. (Addie Mena/CNA).


Butts also noted that at various times in Ethiopian history, use of these prayers has been discouraged within the Ethiopian Church. Because of this status, as well as the domestic, personal nature of their use, he continued, not much research has been done on these devotional tools.

Many of the manuscripts in the collection, including the "magic" scrolls, contain intricate illuminations and other decorations on the scrolls.

According to Butts, the collection's age is fairly typical for Ethiopian manuscripts. He explained that while many Western and Middle Eastern manuscripts can date back centuries and even more than a millennium, Ethiopian scripts tend to be much more recent, in part because Ethiopians still use the manuscripts in daily life for prayer and reading, and also because the alternating rainy and dry climate destroys the hides.

The manuscripts will be stored at CUA's Institute of Christian Oriental Research (ICOR), a research auxiliary of the Semitics department. The donation expands the already-impressive collection of more than 50,000 books and journals as well as antiquities, photographs, and archival materials documenting early Christianity in the Middle East ICOR houses.


The new collection, valued at more than $1 million,  was donated to Catholic University by Chicago collectors Gerald and Barbara Weiner. Butts told CUA that the couple wanted the Ethiopian people to use the scrolls for prayer, along with making the manuscripts available for study by students and researchers.

The Washington, D.C. area is home to one of the largest Ethiopian populations outside of Ethiopia, and there are several Ethiopian Orthodox and Ethiopian Catholic churches, along with cultural centers, in the area. CUA officials are currently working with the community to coordinate the scrolls' use.

---


'Help give every student and teacher Free resources for a world-class moral Catholic education'


Copyright 2017 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for MARCH 2017
Support for Persecuted Christians.
That persecuted Christians may be supported by the prayers and material help of the whole Church.


Comments


More U.S.

Walking in the footsteps of migrants

Image of

Recently, I was given a unique opportunity to taste some of the bitter hardships endured by fellow human beings fleeing drug-gang violence, ... continue reading


Hero paramedic rescues baby after discovering car submerged in freezing lake Watch

Image of Todd Zobrist insists he was simply at the right place at the right time (Facebook).

On Thursday, March 16, a fire broke out in a Southern Illinois home at 5:15 a.m. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Six siblings escaped ... continue reading


Severely abused dog reveals heart of gold when she rescues freezing toddler from certain death Watch

Image of Peanut didn't let her past affect her feelings toward humans (Delta Animal Shelter/Facebook).

An adorable dog named Petunia, who also answers to Peanut, went from rescue to rescuer. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Peanut was ... continue reading


Jennifer Hartline: Making the Case for Confirmation as a Sacrament, not a Service Project Watch

Image of Pope Francis conferring the Sacrament of Confirmation on a young man.

Confirmation should not be used as some sort of spiritual barometer or test. Show us you know what it means to be a Christian, or ... continue reading


St. Patrick is our Model for this New Missionary Age Watch

Image of Patrick, the missionary to Ireland and a model to all missionaries

I think I stand with the Apostle to Ireland by rejecting the use of the term, "post-Christian" as it relates to the West of this hour. He ... continue reading


Never Miss any Updates!

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers.

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.