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East Africa Art

Jan 26 '14

Healing scroll, Amharic, Ethiopia, 19th century

Gallery note:

In Ethiopia customized protective scrolls that interweave sacred imagery with textual prayers have been prescribed by traditional healers for over two thousand years. These were carried on the person of the individual to whom they were specifically dedicated to shield them from harm. 


Often the customized content of a scroll is astrologically determined. In Ethiopia as in ancient Greece, each human being has a corresponding zodiac sign associated with a particular destiny and talismanic character. The iconography of the scrolls thus alternate between talismanic “seals” and representations of saints, angels and archangels shown in the act of fighting demons. The seals are modeled on the seal of God that was revealed to King Solomon and feature geometric patterns intertwined with stylized representations of multiple visages and eyes that indicate prayers for divine intervention.

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