The Manichaean story of Adam drawing circles around Seth to protect the child from the evil archon al-Sindiµd is found neither in the Bible nor in any extrabiblical Jewish or Christian book. But there may be a reference (until now unrecognized) to Adam’s protective act in one of the so-called magical incantation bowls produced in Mesopotamia in the late first millennium C.E.

The inside of these ceramic bowls is inscribed with an apotropaic (protective) incantation (and sometimes an image) intended to ward off demonic attack. The bowls are inscribed in Aramaic and appear to have been used by Mesopotamia’s Jewish, Christian and gnostic (Manichaean and Mandaean) communities, for the inscriptions appear in the Aramaic dialects used by each religious group (Jewish Aramaic, Syriac and Mandaic, respectively). The Jewish Aramaic inscription on one bowl (photo below) reads:

This amulet is for the health of Neµwanduµk bat Kafni, and her husband Kafni bar Sðarqoµy, and Zadoµ(y) her son, and her house, and her entire threshold, in the name of YH, HW, ‘H…Sealed and countersealed are this house and threshold…in the name(s) of [various angelic names]…and Neµwanduµk and Zadoµ(y) [are sealed] and countersealed with that seal with which the First Adam sealed his son Seth, and he was protected from d[emons], devils, tormentors, and satans. Again, sealed and countersealed are…They shall be expelled, be neutralized, driven out, and removed from them, their house, their lodging, and their bedchamber, from this (very) day and forevermore. Amen, amen!1

The italicized passage provides clear evidence that Adam was believed to have protected Seth from demons. Does this late magic incantation bowl preserve a much older Jewish tradition of Adam protecting Seth by magic? Or did a Jewish sorcerer prepare this incantation based on his knowledge of Manichaean lore?2