(HorizonPost.com) – Researchers in Israel have discovered evidence of ritual practices dating from the late Roman to early Byzantine period in Te’omim Cave in Jerusalem, Business Insider reported.
In a study published earlier this month in Cambridge University Press, researchers from Bar-Ilan University and the Israel Antiquities Authority detailed the results of their research into the 120 intact oil lamps there were collected during surveys of the cave from 2010 to 2016.
According to authors Eitan Klein and Boaz Zissu, the lamps that were inserted into crevices in the walls of the main chamber also included weapons and skulls. They theorize that placing lamps deep into crevices indicates that lighting the cave “was not their sole purpose.”
Based on a review of ancient scrolls from the era, the authors conclude that the artifacts could have been “part of necromancy ceremonies” during the late Roman period.
The scrolls detailed spells and customs related to Te’omim Cave.
According to the authors, one spell instructs the practitioner on how to “restrain and seal the mouths of the skulls” to prevent them from speaking.
Another spell was used to “raise the spirit of the dead” with a disinterred skull into which the flax leaf with the spell on it is inserted. The researchers found evidence that this spell was performed in the cave.
The authors explain that Te’omim Cave was believed to be a portal to the underworld and the physical embodiment of the deity Chthonic, to whom witches would dedicate their magic. The oil lamps found in the cave were used to lure the spirits of the dead into the living realm.
The weapons found in the cave are believed to have served as talismans to protect the living from the spirits, the authors explain, since it was believed that spirits fear bronze and iron.
By the mid-4th Century, Emperor Constantius II outlawed necromancy, fearful that the practice would be used against him, according to the authors. Constantius also outlawed every other form of “divination” or communication with demons and spirits.
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