Armenian Amulets from the Collection of Armenian Orthodox Diocese in Baghdad

  • Lusine Sargsyan Researcher at the Matenadaran Research Institute of Ancient Manuscripts, and a Visiting Lecturer at Yerevan State University
  • Davit Ghazaryan Senior Researcher, Curator of the Manuscript Depository of the Matenadaran Research Institute of Ancient Manuscripts, and a Lecturer at the Department of Armenian Art History and Theory at Yerevan State University
Keywords: amulet, miniature, engraving, demon, al, saint, beard pulling, goat, early printing, protection, folklore


This study is dedicated to the Armenian manuscript and printed Amulet1 of the Armenian Diocese of Baghdad (DAOB). In this collection of early printings, there are two printed Amulets in scroll (Pr. n. 14, second half of the 19th century and Pr. n. 15, A.D. 1716). The third Amulet is a manuscript written in 1736 in the city of Erzrum (Karin) for a certain Ohan (Ms. n. 13). The scanned copies of these amulets are currently available through the website of Hill Museum and Manuscript Library (HMML).2 Since this paper is the first study of these amulets, it presents them in terms of codicology and bibliographical study and discusses their decoration. The study of some iconographic details will help to reveal the practice of using amulets and their meaning, considering them as a representation of Armenian “folklore-art”, since scribes and miniaturists were partly free to choose texts and decorate them, even they were mostly works of the priesthood.3
It should be noted that as artifacts of the same genre, having a purpose of protection of their owners using incantations and prayers, very often the content and decoration of these three Amulets have similarities. From this point of view, Ms. n. 13 (A.D. 1736) and Pr. n. 15 (A.D. 1716) are more relevant to each other both in content and, accordingly, in decoration. A selection of prayers and illustrations to them show almost the same structure, and for the printed Amulet, we can certainly argue that such structure was typical (but not limited) for the printed Amulets in the Armenian tradition from the 18th to 19th centuries. Despite some similarities with two previous Amulets, the Pr. n. 14 (19th century) represent another structure of content and its decoration. It is enriched with prayers and illustrations which does not exist in mentioned above two examples of the 18th century. E.g. engravings depicting the life of Christ (Annunciation, Birth of Jesus Christ, Baptism, Resurrection, etc.), or portraits of the evangelists, accompanied by the passages from their Gospels. Our research shows that the publishers of this Amulet had an eighteenth-century prototype and took an innovative approach using Western art engravings.