Amulets, Samaritan

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Samaritan amulets are rare because there were no more than 200 members of this sect by the beginning of the 20th century, when (in 1905) M. *Gaster acquired a number of amulets which are now housed in the British Museum. They have been most comprehensively described by Gaster in his Studies and Texts. E.A.W. Budge enumerates six forms of these Samaritan amulets: (1) a square sheet of parchment representing practically an entire goat's skin; (2) a scroll varying in length and width; (3) a booklet, probably carried in a case; (4) a scrap of paper; (5) a metal disc like a coin or medal; and (6) inscribed stones.

In other respects, the Samaritan amulets resemble ordinary Hebrew amulets with a few changes made in conformity with the Samaritans' own angelology, esoteric beliefs, and particularly their own text of the Bible.

The construction of Samaritan amulets follows the standard Jewish practice. God is invoked by means of the Tetragrammaton and the 72-letter Name. The name of their archangel, Penuel, is often inscribed on them as are the names of specifically Samaritan angels: (1) Kevala, derived from Num. 4:20, which they translate as "lest they see Kevala alongside the Holy Place and perish"; (2) Nasi, derived from Ex. 17:15, read in their own pronunciation as "and Moses built an altar and called the name of it Jehovah-Nasi"; (3) Anusah, derived from Ex. 14:25; (4) Yat, an angel whose name derives from the first word of Ex. 14:21, which verse is itself involved in the formation of the 72-letter Name.

Although demons are known among the Samaritans, none has yet been found depicted on one of these amulets. They are (1) Zir'ah (צרעה), deriving from Ex. 23:21 and Deut. 7:20, which is said to be an anagram of yezer ha-ra (יצר הרע); (2) Belial; and (3) Azazel.


M. Gaster, The Samaritans (1925), 81; idem, Studies and Texts (1925–28), 1, 387; 3, 109; E.A.W. Budge, Amulets and Talismans (1961), 262; T. Schrire, in: iej, 20 (1970), 111; idem, in: ibid., 22 (1972), 154; I. Ben-Zvi, Sefer ha-Shomronim (1935), 160, no. 6.

[Theodore Schrire]