The leather cases on this Ethiopian necklace probably contain what are commonly called “magic scrolls,” talismanic illustrations and prayers that would be worn to help heal sickness, protect from danger, and increase piety. Probably made in the nineteenth or twentieth century, the scrolls are connected to traditions in Ethiopian Christianity, but may also have roots in Jewish and Islamic traditions, as well as in animistic religions. Scrolls are often made by unordained healers called dabtaras in response to a request for help. They typically consist of combinations of prayers or scriptural passages with either talismanic designs or figurative religious illustrations.
This item is from the Rare Book, Manuscript and Special Collections Library of Duke University; for more information about this item, and other Ethiopic manuscripts in the collection, please inquire in the Special Collections Reading Room