University of Chicago Library, Goodspeed Manuscript Collection Ms. 995, Magic Scroll (Ethiopic Magical Prayer Scroll). Ethiopia, 18th or 19th century.


Magic Scroll in Gə‘əz (Ethiopic). Petitioning texts and painted charms in tandem function to invoke protection from demonic possession, spells, and disease. Formerly Goodspeed Ms. Eth. 67.

  1. obverse 1. Prayer for those bound by demons. Trinitarian invocation. Invocations for the owner of the scroll. (col. a, ll. 1-60). Miniature: Angel. 2. Incantation for driving out devils. Invocation for the owner of the scroll (col. b, ll. 1-56). 3. Prayer maftehē šerāy for undoing spells (col. a, ll. 61-122). Miniature: Spider. 4. Prayer fethata šerāy undoing spells. Prayer against eye diseases. Invocations for the owner of the scroll (col. b, ll. 57-120). 5. Prayer for driving out demons. A hymn (salām type) to the angel Phanuel, expeller of demons (col. a, ll. 123-178). Miniature: Spider. 6. Prayers against chest pain, evil eye (buda), and colic. Invocations for the owner of the scroll (col. b, ll. 121-170). Miniature: Cross and churches.
    Note: Reverse, blank.


4 miniatures. Plain and decorative borders in green, gold, red, blue, and white, filled with abstract patterns of diamonds, bars, circles, spirals, rings, fret, and triangles.


  1. obverse1. Angel, Portrait: Angel holds raised sword in right hand, in left hand, a scabbard. 2. Spider, Portrait: Spider with human face and 8 appendages; stippled background. 3. Spider, Portrait: Spider with human face and 8 appendages, centered on green cross; blue background. 4. Cross, Between churches: Large cross mounted on plinth; small churches stand at either side.

Physical Description


Parchment. 1426 x 137 mm.


Written space, 3 sections sewn together measure 360, 410, and 320 mm in length. Width varies from 120 to 130 mm.


2 columns, 178 lines.


Written in black ink (some fading).

Text Divisions

Titles in red.


Paint of some miniatures abraded.

Binding Description

Mounted in Plexiglas.



The scroll is judged to have been written and illuminated in Ethiopia in either the 18th or 19th century.


Belonged to Walda Takla Hāymānot and Walatta Mikā'ēl whose names are inscribed in the invocations for the scroll's original owner. Later provenance unknown.


Date acquired by the University of Chicago unknown.