The use of magical objects in rituals related to care practices

Care of the family and the family home was one of the main concerns of the Phoenician and Punic people. They believed that illnesses, poor harvests and other misfortunes that affected household members and goods were caused by demons and evil spirits. Therefore, domestic life was replete with ritual practices and magical objects designed to protect houses and their occupants.

Written and archaeological information suggests that women performed many of these rituals. Women were the holders of the knowledge needed to perform such rites and they passed this on to other women, mainly within their own families. Of particular note among the care and protection practices are the litanies and prayers that were recited, for example, during childbirth, the preparation of medicinal remedies, and brews or special food for the sick; as well as offerings to divinities to ensure successful harvests, guarantee sexual health and pregnancies, etc.

These practices usually involved everyday items. However, they sometimes required special objects to which magical powers were attributed due to the material from which they were made, the history of the object, or the images they bore or represented. Among the magical objects used in the care of family members, of particular interest were the small items of jewellery, such as bracelets, pendants and earrings, which were used to protect people from illness and evil spirits. In the iconography and in funerary areas, these objects used as amulets are clearly associated with women and children.

Picture: Amulets for protection in infancy. Illustrated by ªRU-MOR

Amuletos de protección en la infancia. Ilustrado por ªRU-MOR

Amuletos de protección en la infancia. Ilustrado por ªRU-MOR



The Pastwomen Network co-organizes the International Seminar "Interdisciplinary Approaches to Gender Archaeology" at the University of Tübingen.

July 4-10, 2022

More information