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E00347: Coptic oracle question of the 7th/8th century of unknown origin, posed to *Severos (possibly Severos, bishop of Antioch, ob. 538, S00262).

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posted on 19.03.2015, 00:00 by pnowakowski

+ ⲡⲛⲟⲩⲧ̣ⲉ ⲛⲫⲁⲅⲓⲟⲥ̣
ⲥⲉⲟ̣ⲩⲏ̅ⲣⲟⲥ ⲉ̅ϣⲱⲡⲉ ⲡⲁ̣ⲥⲓ
ⲟⲩ ⲧⲁϫⲓ ⲁ̅ⲛ̣ⲁⲥⲧⲟⲩ ⲡⲉ
ⲉ̅ⲕⲉⲏ̅ⲛ̅ⲧ̅ⲥ̣ ⲉ̅ⲃⲟⲗ ⲛⲁϊ +
ⲡϫⲁⲉⲓⲥ +

'God of saint Severos, if it is time for me to marry Anastou, you shall bring it out to me. Lord!'

Text and translation: Gesa Schenke


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Severos, bishop of Antioch (465–538) : S00262

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Documentary texts - Papyri Literary - Magical texts and amulets



Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Egypt and Cyrenaica

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Hermopolis ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛ Ashmunein Hermopolis

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - unspecified

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Visiting/veneration of living saint

Cult Activities - Miracles

Fertility- and family-related miracles (infertility, marriages)

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Other lay individuals/ people


Text written on a small piece of papyrus, dated on the basis of its script to the 7th/8th century, housed at the Institute for African Studies and Egyptology in Cologne under inventory number 10211. There is no record of where in Egypt the papyrus was found.


This example of an oracle question is one of many posed through saints, but the only one so far attested for a Saint Severos. It is unclear who this Severos is, but since Severos, the former bishop of Antioch, became such an important figure in Egypt, so much so that he features in the diptychs of the Coptic church, dating back to at least the 7th century, it is not unlikely that he may be the one in question and that a shrine dedicated to him existed at which oracle questions could be posed. Answers to such oracle questions were obtained by phrasing two opposite statements as answers to the same question. Both would then be handed into the shrine, but only one of them would be brought back out to the petitioner. The version received back was then considered to be the answer to the question and the correct way to proceed. Thus it is to be assumed that this Cologne papyrus text was accompanied by a sister piece when handed into the saint’s shrine, most likely reading: 'God of saint Severos, if it is NOT time for me to marry Anastou, you shall bring it out to me. Lord!' Receiving the latter version, no marriage would have taken place. Among such oracle questions posed to other saints, those concerning marriage matters were particularly frequent. For oracle questions addressed through *Kollouthos see E01000.


Edition: Schenke, G., "Das Orakel des Heiligen Severus," Archiv für Papyrusforschung 57:1 (2011), 65–72.

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