Primary Source

Ethiopian Healing Scrolls

A brown, rectangular paper used as a healing scroll.  there is a drawing of a saint riding a horse and using a spear to destroy a demon. Underneath there is a written prayer in red and black ink in the Ge'ez script. There is a hole with a rope through the top of the scroll.
A tan colored healing scroll in the typical style, with an illustration at the top and a written prayer in the Ge'ez script at the bottom. The illustration depicts an 8 pointed star with a man's face in the middle, which may represent an angel. There are other geometric designs bordering the star.

Annotation

Ethiopian healing scrolls are believed to eliminate sickness by ridding spirits and demons from an ill person. Originating sometime between the 1st and 8th century CE in the Axum empire, the scrolls are still used to this day, and still written in the Ge’ez script of the Axum empire. These scrolls are used as part of a larger healing process, and are meant to be used in conjunction with plant and animal medicine; they are meant to alleviate more of the spiritual issues. The scrolls were significant for illiterate populations, as the designs and illustrations are considered their own form of talismans that act as an aid for the written prayers. 

The scrolls were still in heavy use in the 19th century, though their use has declined significantly since the late 20th century. Ethiopian healing scrolls have been an important and consistent part of practice for over a thousand years, excepting a period in the 15th century when emperor  Zar’a Ya’eqop condemned their use and also persecuted those who used any sort of magical objects or did divination. 

Credits

"Ethiopian Scroll comprising prayers" Wellcome Collection, Undated, https://wellcomecollection.org/works/cs94db4g

How to Cite This Source

"Ethiopian Healing Scrolls ," in World History Commons, https://worldhistorycommons.org/ethiopian-healing-scrolls [accessed February 23, 2024]