Healing Scroll with Saint Mary, Saint George, the Crucifixion of Christ
Gebrasellassie Gebru (Ethiopian, b. 1972)
Kasala Gebremichael (Ethiopian, born 20th century)
MediumInk and pigment on parchment
DimensionsWork : 6 ft. 11 1/4 in. x 3 1/2 in. (2.1 m x 8.89 cm)
Credit LineGift of Neal and Elizabeth Sobania
LabelEspecially in rural Ethiopia there is widespread belief in the power of both good and evil forces to shape daily life. Some people attempt to manage these forces by commissioning special scrolls that can be used to restore health, ward off demons and bad luck, and provide other types of protective magic. The scrolls are prepared by scribes known as dabtara, who are generally unordained clerics with special training in astrology and traditional medicine. When someone wishes to commission a healing scroll, the dabtara instructs them to purchase a sheep or goat and have it ritually sacrificed. The animal’s skin is then cleaned and scraped to produce strips of parchment that are sewn together to create the scroll. In many cases, the length of the scroll corresponds to the height of the person for whom it is being made. The dabtara inscribes the scroll with passages from the Bible or other religious texts that address the owner’s spiritual and physical needs. Finally, the dabtara adds religious or talismanic paintings to enhance the scroll’s protective powers. Healing scrolls may be hung in the owner’s house or carried by the owner rolled up and worn like an amulet. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church does not endorse the creation and use of healing scrolls but they still exist in Ethiopian popular culture.