Across the Levant, and into the modern-day countries of Iraq and Iran, archaeologists have discovered hundreds of ceramic objects that they refer to as "demon bowls." Also known as "incantation bowls," these handheld, shallow, earthenware pots are decorated with an elaborate, delicate Aramaic script circling around their rims, oftentimes with an illustration of a demon at their center. During the height of the Sassanian Empire, incantation bowls were used by Christians, Zoroastrians, and primarily Jews as a means of protective magic against infernal powers.
Demon bowls were operated by being buried upside down in the ground, often near a cemetery, so that any malicious demon would be trapped within their net of Aramaic letters. Viewing pictures of the strange, amateurish-looking yet eerie objects, reminds me of the scene early in William Friedkin's 1973 adaptation of William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist when Father Merrin, the film's titular character, encounters a fearsome, reptilian statue of the Babylonian deity Pazuzu while on an archaeological dig in Iraq. Bowl illustrations appear oddly childlike in their execution, yet that contributes to an overall uncanny sense, a feeling of unease, as if these bowls express some secret we'd be better to remain ignorant of.
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