Jay Johnston, University of Sydney

Drawing Demons: Iconography and Ontology in the Heidelberg Coptic Papyri

This paper will present new readings of the iconography of demons and other ‘intermediate’ beings found in the Heidelberg Coptic Papyri (P. Heid. Inv. Kopt. 678-686 ed. Bilabel and Grohmann 1934, Kropp 1966, Meyer 1996). These new interpretations of the iconography and function of demon images emerge from the collaborative project: “The function of images in magical papyri and artefacts of ritual power from Late Antiquity” commenced in 2011 and undertaken by Jay Johnston, Iain Gardner, Julia Kindt, Erica Hunter and Helen Whitehouse (funded by the Australian Research Council). This project has developed a new holistic methodology for the study of the art, production, social and functional roles of magical papyri and ritual artefacts from the Late Antique Mediterranean. This methodology emphasises both the interpretation of specific iconography and the central role of the image and design elements in the ‘activity’ of the amulet/spell or ritual.

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