Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

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Bogdan BURTEA, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

Following the research method of Bernd-Christian Otto, the author of the ground-breaking work Magic (German: Magie, Rezeptions- und Diskursgeschichtliche Analysen von der Antike bis zur Neuzeit, Berlin, de Gruyter, 2011), this paper analyses four discourses on magic in Ethiopia. The first one, the legitimizing discourse, is embodied by the Biblical reference to magic which was taken in Ethiopia with the translation of the Greek Bible into Gə‘əz starting in the middle of the 4th century. The normative discourse which implies the mentioned biblical discourse is based on the canonical and constitutional writings like Testamentum Domini, Senodos or the later Fətḥa-nägäśt. The codified norms of these writings aim to determine the social and religious live of the Christians in the Kingdom. According to these norms some occupations were excluded from the practice of the official religion. The hagiographical discourse on magic is documented in the lives of the saints of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (gädl) which reflect among others the conflict with the non-Christian cults during the evangelisation of Ethiopia. The most important and in some instant a synthesis of the previous ones is the authoritative discourse of the Emperor Zär’a Ya‘əqob (1399-1468). During his long reign (1434-1468) the Emperor reformed the theology and the religious practice of the church and combated the foreign rituals and their specialists. All these discourses influenced taxonomies and valuations on magic which are valid until now in Ethiopia.