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“Saints and Magic”: a paper by Dr. Anna Rogozhina

Dr. Anna Rogozhina (Assistant Professor, HSE University) presented her paper “Saints and Magic: hagiographical topoi in Armenian magical texts” at the seminar “Traditions of Magic in the Near East and Caucasus” (moderator: Alexey Lyavdansky, Senior Lecturer, IOCS HSE).

Hymnal, St. Sergius, Walters Manuscript W.547, fol. 48r.

Hymnal, St. Sergius, Walters Manuscript W.547, fol. 48r.
Walters Art Museum Illuminated Manuscripts @ Creative Commons

Spells and apotropaic texts in different traditions frequently include the so called historiolae, short mythical narratives, used as models for the desired outcome of a magical action.

In some cases, however, magical texts (or ‘authorized’ religious texts performing the function of spells or charms) include specific textual units from the hagiographies of certain saints. In this special context these formulaic textual units change their original purpose and acquire ‘magical’ properties.

This paper discussed examples of such textual units in the Armenian Christian magical tradition. It also included a brief introduction to the Armenian magic and the main types (formats) of magical books where these texts might be encountered.


Anna Rogozhina is an expert in Eastern Christian studies. She has graduated from St.Tikhon Orthodox University in Moscow (BA/diploma), having earned further degrees in Oxford (MSt in Armenian Studies; DPhil in Oriental Studies). Her research interests include hagiography, liturgy, manuscript culture and magic of Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian and other Christian communities. Among her numerous publications is the book “And from his side came blood and milk”: The Martyrdom of St Philotheus of Antioch in Coptic Egypt and Beyond issued by Gorgias Press in 2019. As far as the magic is concerned, one is recommended to consult her articles: Dragon's Gall, Snake Poison, and Unexpected Usage of Cadavers: Descriptions of Magic in Coptic Hagiography // St Tikhon’s University Review 49 (2016)), in Russian; Monk or Magician? The problem of witchcraft and magic in the Coptic monastic environment based on archeology and literary sources // Topical issues of studying the Christian heritage of the East: Collection of articles based on the materials of the international conference (Sergiev Posad, November 22, 2018), Sergiev Posad, 2020, in Russian.

Anna has been honoured three times with the “Best Teacher” Award at the HSE University (Moscow), where she has been teaching since 2015. Her teaching experience includes courses in Armenian, Ancient Greek and Latin languages, history and culture of the Middle East with special focus on Christian cultures.