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 (6 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 (6 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 JULY 2017
Lapsed Christians.
That our brothers and sisters who have strayed from the faith, through our prayer and witness to the Gospel, may rediscover the merciful closeness of the Lord and the beauty of the Christian life.


Comments


More U.S.

The one NASTY reason why we can't take our children to parks anymore Watch

Image of An addict huddles on the floor of a public restroom. Opioids cause the user to stop caring about things most people care about.

Many of us have participated in cleanup days where we join a group of friends and pick up litter at a local park. It's just something good ... continue reading


NY archdiocese on the winning side of major Religious Freedom decision Watch

Image of NY Archdiocese gets win in major court case.

A federal court ruled Friday that the Archdiocese of New York had the right not to hire a diocesan school principal in a First Amendment ... continue reading


Stop asking if Democrats or Republicans won. Ask, 'did the American people win?' Watch

Image of Washington has become a circus because the right and left have become comfortable and agree on one thing: they should all stay in power.

The political absurdity in America has got to stop. The republic is dying, our faiths are persecuted, our nation is being crushed from ... continue reading


Bishop speaks in favor of bill to fight human trafficking Watch

Image of Bishop Joe Vasquez has praised the bill which aids in the fight against human trafficking.

An upgrade to a key anti-trafficking bill passed the U.S. House on Wednesday, and has been praised by one U.S. bishop as "an important ... continue reading


Feds take down over 400 killer doctors caught selling drugs to addicts Watch

Image of Painkillers are powerfully addicted. At one time as many as a third of all Americans were using painkillers.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced the feds are prosecuting more than 400 doctors, pharmacists and nurses for medical fraud. It ... 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.