08 December 2019

This short notice is just to inform about my forthcoming lecture The Role of the Supernatural Entities in the Humans' Intimate Life according to the Babylonian Talmud which will take place on December 14th at 12:00 in the Faculty of Polish Studies of the Jagiellonian University (Gołębia Street 16, room no 42).



The lecture is the part of the conference Passion, Desire, Love - Interpretations, Paradigms, Meanings, Contexts organized by the Research Institute Facta Ficta and Centre for Comparative Studies of Civilisations.
The abstract of the presentation (in Polish) can be found below.

Rola istot nadprzyrodzonych w pożyciu intymnym ludzi według Talmudu babilońskiego

Talmud babiloński to jeden z podstawowych tekstów żydowskiej kultury i religii. Powstały pod koniec późnej starożytności, stanowi świadectwo wierzeń i praktyk tej epoki jak i punkt odniesienia oraz inspirację dla późniejszych tradycji rozwijanych w następnych wiekach. Bez mała sześć tysięcy stron w standardowej edycji wileńskiej Talmudu babilońskiego dotyczy głównie niuansów prawa żydowskiego (halachy) obejmującego swoim zakresem praktycznie wszystkie sfery życia. Tekst ten nie przypomina jednak uporządkowanych kodeksów prawnych znanych chociażby z rzymskiego kręgu kulturowego: Talmud zawiera rozbudowane i pełne dygresji dyskusje teoretyczne, liczne studia przypadków pozbawione jednoznacznych konkluzji oraz wiele opowieści i anegdot z życia rabinów. W tych właśnie kontekstach narracyjnych można napotkać istoty nadprzyrodzone takie jak anioły, demony, duchy i potwory.
Nawet pobieżna lektura urywków talmudycznych zawierających wzmianki o tych istotach dobitnie pokazuje, że pojawiają się one w różnych sytuacjach: anioły dzielą się z ludźmi wiedzą medyczną, demony czyhają w opuszczonych budynkach, duchy zmarłych niekiedy wracają, żeby rozwiązać sprawy niedokończone za życia a morskie potwory napadają śmiałków wypuszczających się na głębokie wody. Istoty nadprzyrodzone stanowią „naturalny” element krajobrazu społecznego starożytnych rabinów – i jako takie manifestują swoją obecność również w bardzo prywatnych sferach życia człowieka: miłości i pożyciu intymnym.
Głównym celem niniejszego wykładu jest prześledzenie ról, jakie istoty nadprzyrodzone pełnią w tych sferach oraz rozpoznanie pewnych powtarzających się wzorców i zależności. Podstawowym narzędziem wykorzystanym w realizacji tego celu będzie Elyonim veTachtonim (http://elyonimvetachtonim.blogspot.com) – elektroniczny inwentarz istot nadprzyrodzonych we wczesnej literaturze rabinicznej służący przede wszystkim jako konkordancja tematyczna oraz umożliwiający wykonywanie prostych obliczeń. Inwentarz ten umożliwi wyjście poza wybiórczo przywoływane przykłady i spojrzenie na zagadnienie w skali makro. Zrekonstruowana w ten sposób specyfika istot nadprzyrodzonych w Talmudzie babilońskim zostanie z kolei skonfrontowana z dominującymi w innych tekstach starożytnych trendami w obrazowaniu relacji między istotami nadprzyrodzonymi a sferą pożycia intymnego – przede wszystkim mitem o grzechu upadłych aniołów współżyjących z ziemskimi kobietami oraz tradycją amuletyczną żeńskich demonów kradnących mężczyznom nasienie.
Niniejszy wykład stanowi element projektu Istoty nadprzyrodzone oraz ich relacje z ludźmi według Talmudu babilońskiego z perspektywy ilościowej i jakościowej finansowanego przez Narodowe Centrum Nauki (Nr rej.: 2018/31/D/HS1/00513).

23 November 2019

EvT version 005 codenamed “Hormin”…


…is finally here. Although this version of the inventory is only slightly more voluminous than the previous one (743 units versus 726 in version 004), the changes are significant.
  • The tag ontology of the inventory has been thoroughly reconsidered. The previous versions have witnessed its natural evolution and somewhat “organic” proliferation of the new tags, what ultimately led to highly complex structure which was not necessarily the most user-friendly. The tag ontology of the present version has been rearranged on the theoretical and operational level and all the units of the database have been tagged anew. In result, the system is far more coherent and consequent and, naturally, all the tabs of the website are up to date.
  • A special case of the above was the removal of the redundant literary genres present in the database. Two such genres have been discarded: the cultic protocol [cult] and the proverb [prov]. Both were very rare and contained too few specific traits which would differentiate them from the other genres. The textual units previously tagged with either of the two are now classified as belonging to one of the other genres, while additional tags have been used to highlight their contents: #aboutentities/#proverbial instead of #prov and #spheresoflife/#halakhah instead of #cult. This means that the genre classification algorithm has also been changed.
  • The distinction between the personal and general names has been discarded.
  • Due to persistent slowdowns of the sheet processing, the summaries of the database had to be removed – until I find some sensible solution to this problem.
  • As always, some minor errors in spelling have been corrected courtesy of the inventory users who were kind enough to point it out in the feedback section. Thank you so much!
The present version of the database has been prepared as a part of my research project The Supernatural Entities and Their Relationships with Humans according to the Babylonian Talmud from the Quantitative and Qualitative Perspectives (SONATA 14; Registration number: 2018/31/D/HS1/00513) financed by the National Science Center, Poland.
To be expected in the next version:
  • I hope to bring back the summaries contained in the sheet.
  • Although the particular tags are self-explanatory, I am working on the short descriptions thereof to be included on the website.
  • Also, as already indicated in the previous post, I plan to add new tags to denote some formal aspects of the textual units.
Since I am in the midst of these tasks it seems fairly safe to set the estimated date of the publication of the version 006 for no sooner than autumn 2020. Meanwhile, get yourself some Halloween candies and enjoy the demonic company of Hormin the son of Lilith (Bava Batra 73a-b).

09 June 2019

It is with great pleasure that I announce the decision of the National Science Centre, Poland to finance my research project The Supernatural Entities and Their Relationships with Humans according to the Babylonian Talmud from the Quantitative and Qualitative Perspectives (SONATA 14; Registration number: 2018/31/D/HS1/00513). Since this project relies heavily on the EvT database you can expect three things to happen in the following 3 years.
First and foremost, some essential updates to the inventory are on their way. Although not much will be going on with regard to the Talmudic contents of the database, I have been rebuilding the tag structure to get a more coherent and logical system. Within next months I will upload the database with the significantly improved tag ontology. Later on I plan to add new analytical parameters to describe even more formal aspects of the text – more on this in one of the future posts.
Second, the main material result of the ongoing project will be the monograph detailing the world of the supernatural entities of the Babylonian Talmud and their relationships with humans. It turned out that after more than two years of cataloging the units, counting the tags and drawing the schemes I have collected numerous stories and observations which I will be more than glad to share in the form of a book.
Third, I hope to present some of these stories and observations in the form of research papers and conference presentations in the near future.
Most importantly, however, this project will result in far better theoretical and methodological grounding of the EvT inventory what will eventually allow for the realization of its initial purpose which had been the inclusion of all the important corpi of the early rabbinic literature, especially the Jerusalem Talmud.


11 February 2019

This is the second anniversary of EvT...

...and I really wish I could celebrate this moment with the publication of the version 005, but this has to be postponed again. Meanwhile, however I would like to give a sneak peak of the few updates I am currently working on.

  • I am rearranging the tagging system. The new one will be more accurate, more logical and more coherent. Besides it may include a new category of personage: the recurring human figures featured in the narratives about the supernatural entities.
  • I am trying to catch up with the (more or less) recent publications in angelology, demonology, Talmud studies, cognitive science of religion, etc. This will hopefully result in a better theoretical grounding of the database.
  • Version 005 will still cover only the Babylonian Talmud. This is because I want to have the theoretical and methodological details down before moving on to other textual corpuses.

The new estimated date of the publication of the version 005 is summer 2019 - fingers crossed!

23 August 2018

EvT version 004 "Dumah"

...is finally online, despite the obnoxious draughts which have been invading Poland for the last several weeks. This version of the inventory is substantially larger than its predecessor (726 units versus 585 units) and features the following changes.

  • The most significant improvement is the introduction of the monster class of entities. The same rules apply as with the remaining classes and the monsters are defined by the list of its examples, which include figures usually connected to the chaoskampf myth such as Behemoth or Leviathan as well as the anthropomorphized Gehenna and Sheol
  • Since it was impossible to find a monster whose name would start with “D” (save for draqon, but it does not sound rabbinic enough), the patron of the current version is Dumah, the angel responsible for the deceased spirits in the underworld.
  • Talking about spirits – various types of ruchot received specific numbers to mark their affiliation to particular classes: ruach1 is for angels, ruach2 is for demons while ruach3 is for ghosts.
  • Also, this change was reflected in the very name of the database which is now “electronic inventory of angels, demons, ghosts and monsters in early rabbinic literature”.
  • Several new topics have been introduced, e.g. voracity to denote units which speak about entities’ appetites and dominion to mark entities’ connections to various elements like fire or rain.
  • A new category of information was introduced: biblical reference. The column contains, as the name implies, the biblical sigla being referred to in the main text. For now this is a new test feature for an eventual development.
  • The summaries sheets now have the conditional formatting to make it easier to recognize certain patterns and regularities.
  • Some slight corrections and clarifications have been made to the way the material is tagged in the inventory. Here I would like to express gratitude to the users from all over the world for all the feedback I have gathered since the publication of the version 003 “Gabriel” of the database – thank you very much!
  • For the time being all the classes (i.e. angels, demons, ghosts and monsters) can be considered (more or less) complete. This means that after almost two years (I started working on the inventory in summer 2016) the Babylonian Talmud is done and with this very important milestone I can move on to the other corpi of the early rabbinic literature, most importantly the Jerusalem Talmud and Midrash Rabbah collection.

The future plans are as follows.

  • The topical tags need further clarification and ordering, since many of them were conceptualized and applied on the go what resulted in sometimes all too complex structure. This needs to be ordered into a clear two- or three-tier tag system which was initially intended.
  • The very endeavor as such demands a more elaborate theoretical and methodological basis. This means the main principles laid out in two first papers on the inventory need to be carefully revisited.
  • Some initial reconnaissance has been made in both Jerusalem Talmud and Midrash Rabbah, but it is yet to be decided which one goes first to be included in the inventory. This however will happen no sooner than the above tasks are completed.
  • The estimated (though rather optimistic) date of the publication of the version 005 of the database is fall 2018/winter 2019.

Meanwhile grab some popcorn and enjoy brand new monstrous anecdotes from the Babylonian Talmud.

02 March 2018

EvT version 003 "Gabriel"

…is finally online! Although this version is only slightly larger than its predecessor (585 units versus 560 units in version 002 “Belfegor”), it features several important changes.

  • All the units of the previous version have been revised and their descriptions reconsidered.
  • The class of angels has been significantly expanded, numerous new names (both general and personal) have been recognized and included in the database. 
  • For the time being the class of angels of the BT can be considered more or less complete. To celebrate this occasion, meet Gabriel (top right corner).
  • Several new and less popular demons have been added (inter alia arognavtis).
  • New topics have been introduced, both first-tier and second-tier, inter alia physiology and help. Some of the topics gained new sub-topics, e.g. description and proficiency.
  • Comas were removed.
  • As with previous versions the criteria provided in the “summaries” sheets are just for exemplification purposes. New functionality allows you to substitute the criteria online. For instance, navigate to “summary entities” sheet and exchange *malakh* with *satan* and you will get all the numbers for the latter. You can do this with what you wish: different topics, entities, classes and the like. To start anew, simply reload the page. The changes you make to the database are not saved – if you wish to tinker with the data, download the file instead.
  • As of version 003 genre-specific topics have been introduced.

I am currently working on the monsters class in the BT and hope to include it in the forthcoming version 004 (code-name still to be revealed). The estimated (though optimistic) date of the publication of the next version is summer 2018. Meanwhile navigate to the database and enjoy!

16 December 2017

I have got two news, the bad ones and the good ones. The bad is that the publication of the version 003 of the database (code-name still to be revealed, Belzebub might not be the most adequate one) has to be postponed due to the duties overload. I hope to have this version prepared sometime in the first quarter of the 2018.
The good however is that yesterday saw the publication of my first paper on the EvT database. The text is slightly outdated but it is an important milestone in the theoretical and methodological development of the present endeavor, so grab a cup of coffee and enjoy some history (as long as you read Polish, though).

28 October 2017

Those who could not attend the lecture in person now have the opportunity to listen to my demonically induced stuttering (in Polish) and appreciate some random images contained in the presentation. Enjoy!

Shout-out goes to Pracownia Metodologiczna IJP PAN for being such a lovely audience. Many thanks!

08 October 2017

It is with pleasure that I inform about my forthcoming presentation Elyonim veTachtonim – elektroniczna baza aniołów, demonów i duchów wczesnej literatury rabinicznej. Praktyczne i niepraktyczne zastosowanie projektu [Elyonim veTachtonim - Electronic inventory of angels, demons and ghosts in the early rabbinic literature. Practical and non-practical application of the project] which will take place as part of the series Digital humanities lunch or: how to taste digital humanities [Digital humanities lunch albo: jak ugryźć humanistykę cyfrową] organized by Pracownia Metodologiczna IJP PAN in cooperation with Towarzystwo Miłośników Języka Polskiego.
The event is scheduled for October 27th 2017 at 13:00 in the Conference Room of the Instytut Języka Polskiego [Institute of Polish Language] of the Polska Akademia Nauk [Polish Academy of Sciences] (Al. Mickiewicza 31, Cracow, Poland).



Below I paste the presentation sneak peak.

Elyonim veTachtonim to meryzm pojawiający się kilkukrotnie we wczesnej literaturze rabinicznej oznaczający całość istot nadprzyrodzonych, zarówno tych „na górze”, tj. aniołów jak i tych „na dole”, czyli demonów. We współczesnym hebrajskim tachtonim oznacza również „majtki”, ale jakkolwiek demony lubiły rabinom zaglądać pod tałesy, to jednak nie bielizna zacnych mężów będzie nas tutaj interesować. Elyonim veTachtonim jest bowiem nazwą kodową trwającego obecnie projektu mającego na celu skonstruowanie otwartej internetowej bazy aniołów, demonów, duchów i innych istot nadprzyrodzonych wczesnej literatury rabinicznej. Owa baza z kolei służy przede wszystkim jako katalog-bestiariusz oraz konkordancja tematyczna umożliwiająca szybkie zlokalizowanie i zestawienie wszystkich fragmentów tekstu (obecnie tylko Talmudu babilońskiego) mówiących o konkretnych istotach. Nie jest to jednak jedyne możliwe zastosowanie: zarówno forma jak i struktura bazy dopuszcza istnienie różnych innych aplikacji inwentarza. Które z nich jednak mogą okazać się użyteczne?
Wszystkich potencjalnych Słuchaczy proszę o zapoznanie się z artykułem przedstawiającym podstawy teoretyczne i metodologiczne niniejszego projektu (W. Kosior, Elyonim veTachtonim. Some Methodological Considerations on the Electronic Database of Angels, Demons and Ghosts in Early Rabbinic Literature). W sytuacji odczucia TL;DR w konfrontacji z tekstem artykułu, proszę o przejrzenie poszczególnych zakładek na stronie projektu. Podczas prezentacji poświęcę co prawda kilka minut na streszczenie głównych założeń projektu, większość czasu jednak chciałbym wykorzystać na omówienie praktycznego (zarówno faktycznego jak i wciąż potencjalnego) zastosowania inwentarza. Zwłaszcza w tym drugim względzie liczę na feedback ze strony Słuchaczy.

The presentation is in Polish. If you do not speak Polish, come anyways to bump a fist and grab some coffee.

05 July 2017

EvT version 002...

…is finally online! The most important changes and improvements include the following.
  • The contents of version 001 Azazel have been generally revised and the description of all the units reconsidered.
  • The class of angels has been significantly developed. Version 002 code-named Belfegor contains over 560 units (versus 290 of ver. 001) of which 386 speak about angels (versus 113 of ver. 001). The ghosts of the BT are still in the stub form with only 26 units and as such still need a separate treatment.
  • Despite the leap in numbers the classes of angels and demons are far from completion. The study allowed to discover numerous other entities unrecognized by previous scholarship but these still need running a dedicated complex search.
  • What is more, the classification of some of the entities needs to be reconsidered.
    • For instance, although in versions 001 and 002 batqol has belonged to the category of angels, it seems that she should be relocated to a hypothetical separate category including the anthropomorphized aspects of the god of Rabbinic Judaism like midah (divine attribute) or shekhinah (feminine divine presence). 
    • Similar is the case with these from among the entities which bear a human name (e.g. Yosef and Yonatan) and as such seem to be ghosts rather than demons.
    • The problem is most apparent in the case of ruach which tends to appear in various collocations which are currently recognized as the names of entities belonging to different classes, e.g. ruachqodesh is an angel, ruachtzaraat is a demon while ruachtumaah has some qualities of a ghost.
  • Some lesser editorial changes have been introduced, e.g. since all tags are one word in length, the comas proved redundant and as such have been removed.
  • A more detailed description of the theoretical and methodological background of the database can be found in the recently published paper available on the PJACNS site, my academia.edu account and personal web page. Please remember: if you plan to use the Elyonim veTachtonim database in your research, make sure to provide the full bibliographic data in references: Wojciech Kosior, Elyonim veTachtonim. Some Methodological Considerations on the Electronic Database of Angels, Demons and Ghosts in Early Rabbinic Literature, “The Polish Journal of the Arts and Culture. New Series”, 2017, 5 (1/2017), p. 89-112.

To be done in version 003 (expected code-name: Belzebub):
  • supplementing the angels and demons with the remaining and less popular entities,
  • reconsidering the classes of entities,
  • supplementing the topics with more detailed tags,
  • covering the ghosts of the BT.

The estimated date of the publication of the next version: December 2017. Meanwhile, head to the Database tab and enjoy the company of angels, demons and (some of the) ghosts!

29 June 2017

I have some bad news and some good news.

  1. The bad: the revealing of the version 002 will be slightly delayed due to duties overload. Still, the polishing should not take more than two weeks and you can expect the update mid-July.
  2. The good: the paper presenting the theoretical and methodological background of the EvT project together with a user manual of a kind has been finally published and can be grabbed from here. If you plan to use the database in your research, please make sure to consult it, providing full bibliographic data in references: Wojciech Kosior, Elyonim veTachtonim. Some Methodological Considerations on the Electronic Database of Angels, Demons and Ghosts in Early Rabbinic Literature, "The Polish Journal of the Arts and Culture. New Series", 2017, 5 (1/2017), p. 89-112.

Meanwhile, stay tuned.

09 June 2017

It is with pleasure that I inform about my forthcoming lecture during Ex Nihilo. A “Zero Conference” on Research in the Religious Fields organized by the European Academy of Religion in Bologna, Italy (Sunday 18th - Thursday 22nd of June, 2017). The panel I am participating in, titled In-Between Humans and Gods. The Diversity of the Supernatural Beings in the Ancient Mediterranean Religions takes place on June 20th (Tuesday), 13:30-15:00 at the Department of Language, Literature and Modern Culture (Via Cartoleria 5) in room no VII.



My lecture, The World of Supernatural Entities according to the Elyonim veTachtonim – Electronic Inventory of Angels, Demons and Ghosts in the Early Rabbinic Literature will focus on the theoretical and methodological background of the project with a special emphasis on the conceptualization and operationalization of the "supernatural entity".

I would like to express my gratitude to the following institutions for their generous financial support (in alphabetical order):



03 May 2017

For all of you who plan to be in Cracow, Poland next weekend (May 5th-7th): feel invited to attend the 2nd Demonological Conference "Deliver Us from Evil... Apotropaic Customs and Objects in the Civilisations of the World". The schedule together with abstracts and detailed practical information is available on the conference web site. My presentation on the types of the apotropaic techniques deployed in the Babylonian Talmud will take place on Sunday at 15:10. The study bases on the version 002 which is almost done and needs just some polishing before being uploaded in June. I attach the abstract below.

“Arrow in the Eye of Satan” (bSukkah 38a). Apotropaic Customs and Paraphernalia in the Elyonim veTachtonim Electronic Inventory of Angels, Demons and Ghosts in the Early Rabbinic Literature

The world presented in the Early Rabbinic Literature [ERL] is the world inhabited by numerous supernatural creatures which live side by side with humans. These entities range from the angels performing their divine missions through the demons prowling the dark places up till ghosts and spirits dwelling in various foods and as such capable of inducing painful diseases. Obviously then, in order to survive in such world one had to possess the professional knowledge of special apotropaic customs and paraphernalia. The Babylonian Talmud [BT] contains over one hundred such passages speaking about the means of repelling, appeasing or taming the supernatural creatures. All these instances in turn, can be classified according to the particular type of the apotropaic technique applied in the given situation: in some cases these are the citations from the Hebrew Bible which chase away evil spirits while in other one has to resort to some non-biblical spells and barely legal magic. The main purpose of this presentation is to reflect on both the quantitative and qualitative aspects of this classification and to see whether there are any correlations between the specific techniques and the entities being the subject of the apotropaic actions.

23 March 2017

Just a quick update about the state of things.

  1. The quest for entities of the Babylonian Talmud is going well. The working spreadsheet contains over 600 units (which is thrice as many as in the published version 001) and covers both angels and demons. As previously stated, I hope to upload the version 002 in June.
  2. I have discerned two new classes of entities: monsters and gods. These, however, need some more polishing so I am a bit hesitant about publishing them in version 002 and plan to include them in version 003.
  3. I have prepared a simplified and (hopefully) functional feedback form. Just go to the appropriate tab in the main menu above.
  4. Meet BaalPeor (above, to the right) - since I am not always here, he is going to be your host 24/7. Just do not mind his manners: apart from the knack for exposing his posteriors he is a wonderful person.
Last but not least - I would like to express my gratitude to all the good people who provided me with encouragement and feedback or simply helped to spread the news about my project. Thank you very much!

11 February 2017

Hello, world!

...and welcome to the Elyonim veTachtonim project web site. As of today the first version 001 (code-named Azazel) of the database is finally available on-line and:
  • covers the Babylonian Talmud [BT];
  • bases on the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (English) and Wikitext Talmud Bavli (Hebrew, Aramaic);
  • distinguishes between three classes of entities: angels [ang], demons [dem] and ghosts [gho];
  • (more or less) all the units involving dem of the BT are done; these with ang and gho are still in the stub form;
  • distinguishes between six genres: biblical anecdote [bib], rabbinic anecdote [rab], cultic protocol [cult], pragmatic advice [prag], proverb [prov] and statement [stat];
  • recognizes a number of entities and topics;
  • covers all the attitude types.
Currently the following tasks are pending:
  • covering the remaining corpuses of the early rabbinic literature [ERL];
  • revising and cleaning up the database;
  • supplementing the angels and ghosts of the BT;
  • adding new topics;
  • adding new themes: personage.
Estimated date of the publication of the next version: June 2017.