[Ethiopian Divinatory Text]. Awda Nagast [The Circle of the King].

Ethiopia, late 18th or early 19th century CE.

8vo (110 x 180 mm). Ge'ez manuscript on vellum. 141 ff. 22 lines written in black and red ink, with 19 fortune charts and magical circles in red. Stitched wooden boards, open spine.


A rare manuscript containing astrological and divinatory texts, including the Awda Nagast ("Royal Cycle"). Most likely created in the 15th century as a manual for diviners, an Awda Nagast consists of 16 circular tables of Ge'ez letters and numbers, each with sixteen sections representing day and night, sun and moon. Within these sections, the subject of the prediction is written that the person wishes to make, in the form of a general topic such as a wish, marriage, travel, money and trade, etc. As each of these fortune-telling circles and the sections within them are named after a body of water in Ethiopia, the book is also called "Amashafa Bahr", or the "Book of Lakes".

This manuscript includes the sixteen magic circles of Awda Nagast, along with three introductory fortune-telling charts preceding the circles. Quite as in a similar manuscript in Princeton (Ethiopic MS 42), two of these charts (fol. 3 r/v) represent the four quarters of heaven, while the following chart is a table of numerals and characters in the Fidel (Amharic) alphabet. These three charts are used to make numerological calculations which indicate one of the sixteen magic circles. The lake or river names within the circle sections are used as chapter titles; hence, the initial calculations make it possible to refer to the corresponding chapter of the following comment pages to complete the act of divination.


Wrinkled; natural flaws to the vellum. Some browning, especially near the spine.


Carlo Conti Rossini, "Lo 'Awda Nagast scritto divinatorio etiopico", in: Rassegna di Studi Etiopici 1.2 (1941), pp. 127-145.