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Curatorial Webinar | The She-Demon Killer of Pregnant Women and Infants: Puerperant Amulets at the Crossroads of Culture

Christiane Gruber
Wednesday, March 6, 2024
12:00-1:00 PM
A bronze circular amulet is currently on display in the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology’s latest Object Spotlight exploring the “Crossroads of Culture” of the ancient and medieval Middle East, Northeast Africa, and Mediterranean after the fall of Rome. Possibly dating to the 6th century CE, this Christian protective object—perforated at the top and thus meant to be suspended around the neck or on a wall—depicts a saint on horseback spearing a quadruped with a female face and long hair. This hybrid creature most likely depicts the Byzantine she-demon Gello, the attacker of pregnant women and newborns.

Gello, however, has a long history both before and after the 6th century. Her precursors include the Jewish she-demon Lilith, who likewise appears in talismans that were worn by puerperant women, and her most widespread successor in Islamic lands is the she-demon Tabi‘a or Umm Sibyan (“The Mother of Children”), a figure that is often invoked in Islamic apotropaic incantations ( ruqya), as well as depicted in printed talismans and treatises on demonology. This talk aims to explore and pinpoint the she-demon’s trajectory in the three Abrahamic faiths, along with their associated amuletic cultures during the premodern era.

To register for this event, visit
Building: Off Campus Location
Location: Virtual
Event Type: Livestream / Virtual
Tags: Art History, Free, Museum, Religion, Virtual
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, History of Art, Interdepartmental Program in Ancient Mediterranean Art and Archaeology, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology Lectures, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology Exhibition-related