A Byzantine Gold and Glass Gnostic Magical Token, ca. 4th century CE
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Abraxas gems, gnostic gems or magical gems were small intaglios worn as pendants, rings, or kept in small bags made of fabric or leather to protect against disaster, danger, and disease. Of oval form with the remains of gold leaf below, the intaglio surface etched with a deity clad in a Roman chest plate (cuirass). He holds an Egyptian flail in his right hand and a small round shield in his left, within a rope pattern border.
Background: Abraxas is a deity in the Gnostic faith. In Gnostic cosmology, the 7 letters spelling its name represent each of the 7 classic planets—Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. It was engraved on certain antique gemstones, called Abraxas stones, as the initial spelling on stones was ‘Abrasax’ (Αβρασαξ) and were used as amulets or charms. Opinions abound on Abraxas, who in recent centuries has been claimed to be both an Egyptian god and a demon. The Swiss Psychologist Carl Jung wrote a short Gnostic treatise in 1916 called The Seven Sermons to the Dead, which called Abraxas a God higher than the Christian God and Devil, that combines all opposites into one Being.
Dimensions: Length: 2 cm (0.78 inches)
Condition: Heavy surface wear and chips to the intaglio edge otherwise intact with good iridescence.
Provenance: Paul Ilton private collection, acquired prior to 1958.