Layla’s Categorized Bibliography

Demonization and Chaos: This category provides with information on demonization and the idea of chaos in ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt.

Bergmann, Claudia D. Childbirth As a Metaphor for Crisis: Evidence from the Ancient Near East, the Hebrew Bible, and 1QH XI, 1-18. Berlin/Boston, GERMANY: De Gruyter, Inc., 2008.

The idea that birth is something that is chaotic and disruptive also translates over to the uterus. 

Bhayro, Siam, and Catherine Rider. Demons and Illness from Antiquity to the Early-Modern Period. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2017.

This contains information on later concepts of demonization that might relate to the spell in the PGM. The spell in the PGM describes a cosmogonic womb while also using the words “Amen.” Later descriptions of demonization would be relevant.  

Faraone, Christopher A. “The Rise of the Demon Womb in Greco-Roman Antiquity.” In Finding Persephone: Women’s Rituals in the Ancient Mediterranean, edited by Maryline G. Parca and Angeliki Tzanetou, 154–64. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2007.


Pazuzu amulets in ancient Mesopotamia protected newborns and mothers from Lamashtu. I saw connections with these amulets possibly to the uterine amulets.

Klimkeit, Hans-J. “Spatial Orientation in Mythical Thinking as Exemplified in Ancient Egypt: Considerations toward a Geography of Religions.” History of Religions, n.d., 16.

The idea of demonization is connected to the idea of something being out of place so this article is relevant in thinking about special thinking within the mythological cosmos, especially when connecting the idea of chaos, demonization, and personifications of the uterus.

Lucarelli, Rita. “Illness as Divine Punishment: The Nature and Function of the Disease-Carrier Demons in the Ancient Egyptian Magical Texts,” Demons and Illness from Antiquity to the Early-Modern Period, 53–60. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2017.

This article gives a brief overview of Egyptian beliefs about disease. It explains the concept of demons in ancient Egypt as lower gods who lived in a liminal space and did the more powerful gods bidding. This article makes key points about the nature of demonism in ancient Egypt which align with the nature of the womb. This article also mentions the psychological benefits of womb amulets for the women who use them as mentioned by medicinal and magical practitioners in ancient Egypt. This will help situate my argument that there is an assertion of control over the illness and womb in this amuletic practice, albeit not for every person, but for some.

Smith, Jonathan Z. “Birth Upside down or Right Side Up?” History of Religions 9, no. 4 (May 1970): 281–303.

This article talks about the act of birth as one of the most disruptive things to order which would connect to demonization and chaos while also connecting to the womb itself because birth is ultimately a potentiality of the womb itself. The womb makes birth and the disruption of order possible.

Warren, Meredith J. C. Food and Transformation in Ancient Mediterranean Literature. Atlanta, UNITED STATES: Society of Biblical Literature, 2019.

This article talks about taste and consumption as being a transformative and transportive process that allows one to cross boundaries and travel to another place. This article specifically talks about Persephone eating pomegranate in the underworld. The uterus can consume and taste as a transportive process that can connect to the uterus’ agency to move and as Freidin states cross boundaries. This would connect with the idea of being out of place as well because the uterus is crossing boundaries and therefore, becoming more demonic.

Zeitlin, Froma I. “Signifying Difference: The Case of Hesiod’s Pandora.” In Playing the Other: Gender and Society in Classical Greek Literature, 53–86. Women in Culture and Society. Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 1996.

Zeitlin discusses many things in her chapter on Hesiod, but the main things relating to my project are her ideas surrounding the jar of Pandora as a uterus, the uterus or Pandora being both of Plenty and Poverty, and the consumption of women (being lazy in Hesiod). The womb on the amulets is often portrayed as cupping vessels and jars in a few instances. Consumption is one of the agencies of the womb that I will be discussing in my paper. Pandora and the womb having the ability to be both satiated or plenty and lacking is in alignment with ideas of desire in Plato’s Symposium and the womb as something that can have hunger and desire – possibly sexual desire as a general concept.

Magic: This category provides general background information on ancient magic as well as more specifically amulets.

Bonner, Campbell. Studies in Magical Amulets / Chiefly Graeco-Egyptian. University of Michigan Studies. Humanistic Series, v. 49. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1950.

This is the first comprehensive study of magical gems published. All scholarship on amulets pull from Bonner. He has some foundational ideas and observations regarding womb amulets.

Boschung, Dietrich, and Jan N. Bremmer. The Materiality of Magic. Vol. 20. Morphomata. Paderborn: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 2015.

Budge, E. A. Wallis. Amulets and Superstitions: The Original Texts with Translations and Descriptions of a Long Series of Egyptian, Sumerian, Assyrian, Hebrew, Christian, Gnostic, and Muslim Amulets and Talismans and Magical Figures, with Chapters on the Evil Eye, the Origin of the Amulet, the Pentagon, the Swăstika, the Cross (Pagan and Christian), the Properties of Stones, Rings, Divination, Numbers, the Kabbâlâh, Ancient Astrology, Etc. New York: Dover Publications, 1978.

Dasen, Véronique. “Amulets, the Body and Personal Agency.” In Material Approaches to Roman Magic, edited by Adam Parker and Stuart Mckie, 2:127–35. Occult Objects and Supernatural Substances. Oxbow Books, 2018.

Dasen argues that womb amulets were evidence of “the mastery that Roman-era women aimed at having over their own body.

———. “Healing Images. Gems and Medicine.” Oxford Journal of Archaeology, no. 33.2 (2014): 177–91.

———. “Probaskania: Amulets and Magic in Antiquity.” In The Materiality of Magic, edited by Dietrich Boschung and Jan N. Bremmer. Germany: Wilhelm Fink, 2015.

Edmonds, Radcliffe G. Drawing Down the Moon: Magic in the Greco-Roman World. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2019.

This provides an overall framework for magic in the ancient world and is an excellent reference material for my research on womb amulets that deals with aspects of healing. Edmonds includes a chapter dealing with healing and demons in which he discusses the demonization of illness and the exorcist qualities of the amuletic practice. I will be able to use these ideas for my research and use this book as a guide for amuletic practice and other types of magic in the ancient world.

Faraone, Christopher A. The Transformation of Greek Amulets in Roman Imperial Times. 1st ed. Empire and After. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018.

Faraone includes information about womb amulets in this book. His main argument looks at the tradition of amulets over time and argues that amulets evolved into a more durable material that survives the archaeological record, but that there is evidence of the tradition of amuletic practices before the emergence of carved magical gems.

Kotansky, Roy. Greek Exorcistic Amulets. Brill, 1995.

Martínez, Isabel Canzobre. “Magical Amulets User’s Guide: Preparation, Utilization and Knowledge Transmission in the PGM.” In Magikè Téchne, edited by Emilio Suárez, Miriam Blanco, Eleni Chronopoulou, and Isabel Canzobre, 1st ed., 177–92. Formación y Consideración Social Del Mago En El Mundo Antiguo. Dykinson, S.L., 2017.

This article postulates as the different uses of amulets in general, provides a definition for amulets, and how one might have handled the amulet or performed certain rituals with the amulet. The author analyzes the PGM to come up with these modes of use.

Mirelman, Sam. “Chapter 17: Mesopotamian Magic in Text and Performance,” 343–78. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2018.

Sfameni, Carla. Magic In Late Antiquity: The Evidence Of Magical Gems. Brill, 2010.

This article gives a lot of background information on magic and the magic of amulets in general. It has information on Ouroboros being a division between chaos and an ordered world (a figure that is on the womb amulets). Sfameni mentions womb amulets were used to encourage and discourage procreation. This is useful for discerning the different elements of cultures and influences of magic on the amulets. She argues for syncretism or a combination of different cultures and influences on the amulets. “Syncretism is not a confused mixture of dissimilar elements; rather it means the use of materials from different cultural contexts that are interpreted in a new and original way” (463).

Shandruk, Walter Michael. “A Computational Approach to the Study of Magical Gems.” PhD dissertation, University of Chicago, 2016. (Humanities Division/ Classics).

This thesis includes statistical analysis of womb amulets and some of the voces magicae on the amulets as well.

Vitellozzi, Paolo. “Relations Between Magical Texts and Magical Gems: Recent Perspectives.” In Bild Und Schrift Auf “magischen” Artefakten, edited by Sarah Kiyanrad, Christoffer Theis, and Laura Willer, 1st ed., 181–254. De Gruyter, 2018.

Vitellozzi compares the recipes for magical amulets in magical texts and the magical amulets themselves. She argues that there is evidence for interactions between the text and the physical amulets or that the texts acted as guides or instructions. While this is not the definitive case, we should not completely rule out interaction at all. There is much variation within the interpretations of the amulets so as to suggest personalization so that the text was not followed explicitly. This will explain the variation within the womb amulets that I am looking at.

Medicine: This category includes background information on medicine in the ancient world generally and more specifically as it might inform interpretations of these womb amulets.

Audouit, Clémentine. “Women’s Intimacy: Blood, Milk, and Women’s Conditions in the Gynecological Papyri of Ancient Egypt.” In Women in Ancient Egypt, edited by Mariam F. Ayad, 381–94. Revisiting Power, Agency, and Autonomy. The American University in Cairo Press, 2022.

I have a lot of information about the Greek texts on women and disease, so this is a text on the textual sources related to women’s health in Egypt.

Baker, Patricia A. The Archaeology of Medicine in the Greco-Roman World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Dasen, Véronique, and Sandrine Ducaté-Paarmann. “Hysteria and Metaphors of the Uterus in Classical Antiquity.” In Images and Gender: Contributions to the Hermeneutics of Reading Ancient Art, edited by Silvia Schroer, 220:239–61, ill. pl. 18. Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis. Fribourg (Suisse): Academic Pr. Fribourg, 2006.

Dean-Jones, Lesley. Women’s Bodies in Classical Greek Science. Oxford University Press, 1994.

Fallas, Rebecca. “Infertility, Blame and Responsibility in the Hippocratic Corpus.” Ph.D., Open University (United Kingdom). Accessed October 15, 2022.

I argue that the personification of the uterus places blame on the uterus for the ailment, which may be infertility if the amulets are treating infertility. This article is useful for determining agency and blame.

Flemming, Rebecca. “The Invention of Infertility in the Classical Greek World:” Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 2013, 565–90.

———. “Women, Writing and Medicine in the Classical World.” The Classical Quarterly 57, no. 1 (2007): 257–79.

Gonzalez, Samantha Rose. “Examining Health Inequity in Ancient Egypt.” Master of Arts, Missouri State University, 2021.

King, Daniel. “Galen.” In Experiencing Pain in Imperial Greek Culture, edited by Daniel King, 0. Oxford University Press, 2017.

Marino discusses pain and disassociation from pain as a possible interpretation of what is happening with these amulets. I go further and say that there is agentive reclamation and personification of a specific organ for interaction. The disassociation of pain on a certain level still has to occur for this personification or the organ to happen.

King, Helen. Hippocrates’ Woman: Reading the Female Body in Ancient Greece. London ; Routledge, 1998.

Mattern, Susan P. “Panic and Culture: Hysterike Pnix in the Ancient Greek World.” Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 70, no. 4 (October 1, 2015): 491–515.

This article takes a look at womb suffocation as an anxiety attack.

Nifosi, Ada. Becoming a Woman and Mother in Greco-Roman Egypt: Women’s Bodies, Society and Domestic Space. Routledge, 2019.

This was specifically recommended by Professor Freidin at the University of Michigan. It will give me a chance to look at how the amulet might have had different meanings according to culture and environment.

Riddle, John M. Contraception and Abortion from the Ancient World to the Renaissance. Harvard University Press, 1992.

Looking into contraceptives more might prove useful for considering uses of the amulets outside of birth or conception, Tsastou has an article that recommends the amulets as erotic desire amulets, which I disagree with; Marino argues that they are for the general health of the uterus and menstrual pain; it is difficult to pin down and this is a discussion that I need to consider more in my research and summary of scholarship.

Rowlandson, Jane, and Roger S. Bagnall. Women and Society in Greek and Roman Egypt: A Sourcebook. Cambridge University Press, 1998.

I am using this as a broad reference book for any questions about Greco-Roman Egypt and women I might have.

Steinert, Ulrike. Concepts of the Female Body in Mesopotamian Gynecological Texts. Brill, 2018.

The Mesopotamian form of medicine is similar in agentive structure and conception to the agency, control, and personification of the womb. There is also a Pazuzu amulet which is popular in the Neo-Assyrian/Neo-Babylonian periods in Mesopotamia that wards off the demoness Lamashtu who brings death to newborn children and trouble during birth. Amulets were used in Mesopotamia for reproductive health, so I thought it was a relevant comparison.

Methodology and Theories:

Buckser, Andrew. “Institutions, Agency, and Illness in the Making of Tourette Syndrome.” Human Organization 68, no. 3 (2009): 293–306.

This article places the agency of illness and the patient within institutions. It looks at how institutions affect the agency of the patient and illness. This methodological theory is useful to me because I may consider the different institutions involved in using these womb amulets.

Geurts, Kathryn Linn. “Bodily Ways of Knowing: Anthropological and Historical Approaches to Affect and the Senses.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History, March 28, 2018.

There is a branch of archaeology related to the senses and when dealing with object agency more specifically the way in which the object directs the sense is important. I thought that this would be a useful methodology to pull from as a result.

Gosden, Chris. “What Do Objects Want?” Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 12, no. 3 (2005): 193–211.

This is a helpful article for my work on object agency and examining the amulets as a conduit through which a human may control their disease and organ through appeals to the divine. This article discusses looking at objects as influencing the practices and culture of humans rather than the other way around. It uses huts in Roman Britain as an example of how the landscape and materials and houses influenced the cultural practices and social family structure. This is a more object-centered approach, looking at the agency of the objects as having intentions and desires. My project focuses on the agency of the womb on these amulets and the function of the amulet in that process of healing. The agency of the amulet connects to the agency of the womb in so far as the object dictates the ways that humans may interact with it and assert control in this discourse between the personified womb and the divine.

Hamilakis, Yannis. “Sensorial Assemblages: Affect, Memory and Temporality in Assemblage Thinking.” Cambridge Archaeological Journal 27, no. 1 (2017): 169–82.

This is going to be difficult to do with the womb amulets as we do not have archaeological context for the amulets themselves. We can think about them as assemblages themselves though.

Hay, M. Cameron. “Suffering in a Productive World: Chronic Illness, Visibility, and the Space Beyond Agency.” American Ethnologist 37, no. 2 (2010): 259–74.

This article details the struggles of chronic illness and enacting agency so as to be a productive member of society. It deals with agency in two ways: discussing the agency that the patient asserts over the illness and a lack of agency in life that the illness takes from them which devalues them in society. This article doesn’t explore the ways in which patient narratives may change given individual mindsets. The primary way that this connects to womb amulets is that the amulets allow the patient to have agency over the illness and to be constantly doing something in response to the disease by wearing it. It is hard to know whether this would result in fulfilled and sustained agency over the disease in the ancient world given the individualistic nature of amulets and beliefs. Still, there is an assertion of control within the relationship between the amulet and the organ.

Malkowski, Jennifer A., J. Blake Scott, and Lisa Keränen. “Rhetorical Approaches to Health and Medicine.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication, December 22, 2016.

This gives me ideas on how to approach studying medical humanities and the consequences of rhetoric in medicine. This can help me conceptualize the act of personification and the inscriptions on the amulets. This also connects my analysis to modern-day conceptions of illness and disability.

Witmore, Christopher. “Archaeology and the New Materialisms.” Journal of Contemporary Archaeology 1, no. 2 (2014): 203.

Witmore goes over materialism and advocates for it as an approach to objects in the ancient world. Some of this is helpful to think of objects interacting with other objects, yet with womb amulets, it is harder to do since all of the womb amulets except for one do not have archaeological context in order to take this approach. Object agency is more helpful for my project.

Primary Texts:

Breasted, James Henry, trans. The Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus. The University of Chicago Press, 1930.

Bryan, Cyril P., trans. Ancient Egyptian Medicine: The Papyrus Ebers. Chicago, Illinois: Ares Publishers Inc., n.d.

Danker, Frederick W., and Hans Dieter Betz. “The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation, Including the Demotic Spells.” Journal of Biblical Literature 107, no. 2 (June 1988): 348.

Henderson, Jeffrey. “Hippocrates of Cos: Diseases of Women 1.” Loeb Classical Library. Accessed June 21, 2022.

———. “Hippocrates of Cos: Diseases of Women 2.” Loeb Classical Library. Accessed June 21, 2022.

———. “Hippocrates of Cos: Girls.” Loeb Classical Library. Accessed June 21, 2022.

———. “Hippocrates of Cos: Nature of Women.” Loeb Classical Library. Accessed October 15, 2022.

Quirke, Stephen, trans. “Kahun Medical Papyrus.” Digital Egypt for Universities, 2002.

Soranus, of Ephesus. Soranus’ Gynecology. Translated by Owsei Temkin. Softshell Books edition. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991.

Hesiod’s Works and Days

Hesiod’s Theogony

Womb Amulets Under the Microscope: These are articles that specifically mention womb amulets.

Aubert, Jean-Jacques. “Threatened Wombs: Aspects of Ancient Uterine Magic,” 1989, 30.

Dasen, Véronique. “Le Secret d’Omphale.” Revue Archéologique N. S. (2) (2008): 265–81.

———. “Métamorphoses de l’utérus d’Hippocrate à Ambroise Paré.” Gesnerus : Swiss Journal of the History of Medicine and Sciences = Schweizerische Zeitschrift Für Geschichte Der Medizin Und Der Naturwissenschaften 59, no. 3–4 (2002): 167–86.

Faraone, Christopher A. “Magical and Medical Approaches to the Wandering Womb in the Ancient Greek World.” Classical Antiquity 30, no. 1 (2011): 1–32.

Faraone argues that midwives were not involved in the theorizing of the wandering womb. He also catalogs the different developments of the personifications of the womb and interpretations of its ability to move throughout time.

———. “New Light on Ancient Greek Exorcisms of the Wandering Womb.” Zeitschrift Für Papyrologie Und Epigraphik 144 (2003): 189–97.

Freidin, Anna Bonnell. “Animal Wombs: The Octopus and the Uterus in Graeco-Roman Culture.” Classical Philology 116, no. 1 (January 2021): 76–101.

Freidin discusses many things in her article, but mainly discusses the ideas of the uterus as an octopus. She attempts to unpack this iconography of the womb in the guise of an octopus on these uterine amulets and makes connections between the nature of the womb in medical texts and interpretations of the octopus in texts. She explains that the boundary-crossing nature, wetness, behavior, and anatomy of the octopus align with ancient conceptions of the womb. This will be useful for my research because it deals with one of the main depictions of the womb on these amulets and connects to the idea of a personified womb because the womb becomes an animal or octopus that has agency and intention.

———. “Uncertain Beginnings: Childbirth and Risk in the Roman World.” PhD dissertation, Princeton University, 2018. DataSpace (Princeton University Doctoral Dissertations, 2011-2021 / Classics).

This is Professor Freidin’s dissertation which includes chapters on womb amulets.

Marino, Katherine R. “Setting the Womb in Its Place: Toward A Contextual Archaeology of Graeco-Egyptian Uterine Amulets.” PhD dissertation, Brown University, 2010.

This dissertation is the only dissertation on womb amulets that I have discovered. She argues that the womb amulets are not for fertility but mainly for general women’s health or for ailments relating to the uterus. She provides a summary of previous scholarship on womb amulets and systematically goes through the different components of the amulets from the inscriptions to iconography to material. She states that only one of the inscriptions mentions birth and mentions birth as having taken place before the ailment they are trying to cure. She goes through the major divinities included on the amulets and connects them to other things besides birth and reproduction. I think that since the womb is essentially a reproductive organ, including divinities related to reproduction does not automatically mean that the amulet is related to procreation but that the divinities might be included because they have dominion over the reproductive organ and can make it behave. This relates to my project because it provides an overview of everything on the womb amulets and some related sources as well. Marino also goes over the womb as a sentient being or personified being.

Tsatsou, Eleni. “Uterine Amulets: Amulets That Protect the Uterus or That Reinforce Erotic Desire?” In Magical Gems in Their Contexts, edited by Kata Endreffy, Arpád Miklós Nagy, and Jeffrey Spier, 271–82. L’Erma di Bretschneider, 2019.

CONTENT WARNING: sexual assault mentioned in the following blurb

Tsatsou makes many claims throughout the article that paint the amulets in the light of erotic desire. Tsatsou claims that the presence of Seth on the amulets is meant as a threat to the womb and the woman to have sexual intercourse with an individual because of his associations with sexual assault. Tsatsou also claims that the inscriptions calling the womb to “contract” are calling the womb to contract in desire for another. I do not agree with this at all. It is useful to disavow such assertions in scholarship and will be included in my summary of different scholarship in the field at the beginning of my paper.

Misc./Undeveloped Directions: These articles include archaeological exploration of making amulets, adjacent practices regarding the body and organs, and exploration of fumigation in a context other than medicine.

Draycott, Jane, and Emma-Jayne Graham. Bodies of Evidence: Ancient Anatomical Votives Past, Present and Future. Medicine and the Body in Antiquity. London ; Routledge, 2017.

Gwinnett, A. John, and L. Gorelick. “Beads, Scarabs, and Amulets: Methods of Manufacture in Ancient Egypt.” Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt 30 (1993): 125–32.

Levinson, H., and A. Levinson. “Control of Stored Food Pests in the Ancient Orient and Classical Antiquity.” Journal of Applied Entomology 122, no. 1–5 (1998): 137–44.

This article discusses fumigation methods in ancient Egypt for pest control. Smoke dries things out and this seems to be part of the treatment process. I thought that it might be pertinent to compare some of the fumigation practices and magical curses for pest control in ancient Egypt with some of the medicinal fumigations for the uterus and medicine in general.

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1 Comment

  1. The first reading of yours I looked at was “Healing Images: Gems and Medicine”. I found this reading interesting for a number of reasons. One of the main reasons I liked it was the way it talked about the combination of Egyption and Mediterranean ideas, allowing for what is like a mixed reception. I found that this was super interesting given the complex history between these two regions, and the way they can be interpreted differently depending on which reception you focus more on. I think that the overall discussion of the various body parts and the gems associated with them was super interesting, and I think especially interesting for your thesis idea is the the discussion on wombs that came up. Again I found the relation of snakes to wombs and other parts of the body interesting, and I wonder whether that will be something you include in your final thesis. I really think this article was helpul in furthering the discussion of your thesis that was started in class, and I think it will be useful for discussing some of the potential positive aspects of womb amulets.
    The second reading of yours I looked at was the chapter “Amulets and Agency” in Uncertain Beginnings: Childbirth and Risk in the Roman World. I found the first argument in this chapter particularly interesting, with the idea that amulets and their various different forms were thought of differently by different people at different times. I like the idea that the way people interacted with amulets changed over time, and was really dependent on context to be fully understood. I also liked the differing forms of amulets, especially the one that was wolf excrement: I had this really set idea of what an amulet was, and this chapter really made me rethink that. I really think that this chapter will be really good for your thesis: some of the extended conversation about the general use of amulets was really intriguing and I’m sure you could make it work really nicely with specifically womb amulets. I particularly liked the discussion of how amulets relate to actual female anatomy, and what they say about it. I’m not sure I totally understand the point, but I definitely like the discussion of amulets representing the physical process of birthing. I really enjoyed this chapter as a whole, and I feel like I learned a lot more about amulets in general, rather than womb amulets.

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