All magic is demonic

Demonic rituals in the Würzburg residence

A small, rather inconspicuous piece made of light red-fired clay points to a very special ritual: the evocation of magic spells, the malicious practices of black magic. Similarities with Voodoo are clearly recognizable, says Wolfram Schier.

But not at first glance: If the professor from the Chair of Prehistoric and Protohistoric Archeology at the University of Würzburg did not point out the special exhibit in the showcase, the exhibition visitor would not see the destructive forces that worked here almost 7000 years ago. For the layman, the head is just a deformed lump of clay.

However, it is a figurine found in Sânandrei (Timi¸s district) in the southwest of Romania. The head, dated between 4900 and 4650 BC, becomes the VinV.CA culture, a long-forgotten high culture from the Neolithic (Neolithic), which was native to the eastern Balkans and Romania. Only with the excavations in VinV.Around Belgrade it came to light again at the beginning of the 20th century, where the around 7500 year old settlement mound gave the culture its name.

As old as humanity

Magic is probably as old as humanity, speculates Florin Dra¸sovean. Wolfram Schier's Romanian professor colleague took a closer look at the manipulated head in the catalog for the Würzburg exhibition. With magical practices, the magician tried "to influence the dark world-ruling powers in his favor and to achieve the desired goals," said Dra¸sovean.

A distinction is made between white (benign) and black (malicious) magic. The clay head in Würzburg is the result of demonic rituals. The oldest written records about black magic come from the collection of laws of the Babylonian king Hammurabi (1728 to 1686 BC). They were considered a serious offense.

In the laws of the Hittites (15th century BC) the use of clay dolls for magical purposes is documented for the first time. Basically it says that it is magic and comes before the court of the king if someone forms clay into a substitute image. On the other hand, the clay figures of Vin are over 3000 years older than the culture found in Romania. So far, 30 examples have been unearthed in which manipulations that are attributed to black magic have been found.

Nowadays one thinks of magic dolls with which one would like to inflict evil on other people of Voodoo - a religion that originally comes from West Africa (Benin), is now also at home in parts of America (New Orleans) and is the official state religion of Haiti. Voodoo does not only know demonic rituals. Rather, this corresponds to the distorted image that resulted from dolls riddled with needles or living dead (zombies) in various films (including the James Bond film "Live and Let Die"). Admittedly, followers of the voodoo religion also believe in dark forces. But the voodoo ceremonies are more intended to protect against evil.

The clay head from Romania is considered one of the most interesting in research. He was beaten several times with fingernails and a sharp object all around. The destructive ritual began in the eyes and mouth. In magic, the eyes are the gateway to the soul and at the same time the embodiment of evil. Then the magician stabbed the mouth and neck as well as the head: a total of nine times, a significant number within Romanian magic. He then threw his head against a hard object (so that the still soft clay was deformed and the head was pressed flat) and pressed his fingers into his temple and mouth. In the end, the head landed in the fire "to give the power of the curse a permanent character," says Dra¸sovean.

The clay head is the only example of magical acts in the Würzburg exhibition. The reconstructed mask, which was used for ritual purposes, is no less magical. Due to its uniqueness and its age, it is considered a sensation and comes - like most of the other exhibits - from the settlement hill near Uivar, a village near the city of Temesvar.

Exhibition opening times:
Tuesday to Saturday 2pm to 5pm
Clock; Sundays (June 12th and 26th
and July 10) from 930 until 1230
Until July 10th.

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