Testing ABRACADABRA: Sammonicus’ Magical Amulet

romanmagic

The late 2nd– early 3rd Century Roman author Quintus Serenus Sammonicus is particularly notable amongst researchers of ancient magic and medicine for being the first to propose the use of the word ABRACADABRA, and in treatment of tertian fever. The traditional ubiquity of this word in association with modern magic tricks has highlighted this use, though it would not have seemed unusual as a Roman phylactery.

The instructive text reads:

“Rather more deadly is what in Greek words is commonly called hemitritaion. This no one could express in our language, I believe, and neither did parents wish for that. Write on a sheet (of papyrus) the word ABRACADABRA, repeat it rather more often underneath, but omit the last letter, so that more and more individual letters will be missing from the lines, the elements that you remove, which you continually snatch away, while you commit to writing…

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