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Orphic Prayer Sheet
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Gift of Lenore Barozzi

Unknown
Greek, 350 - 300 B.C.
Gold
1 7/16 x 7/8 in.
75.AM.19

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Reportedly found folded in with the ashes of the deceased in a bronze cinerary urn, this lamella or gold sheet with its engraved inscription provides instructions about the path to be followed in the underworld in order to ensure salvation. Gold lamellae are quite rare. This example, said to have been found in Thessaly in northern Greece, gives a condensed version of the standard text. The dead soul is thirsty. It is guided to the proper spring. The soul is asked about its origin and replies with the formula of salvation, stressing its half-terrestrial, half-celestial origin.

Beginning in the 500s B.C., various religions sprang up in Greece of a type called mystery religions. These new cults often promised people a hope of a better afterlife, which in traditional Greek religion was quite grim. Linked with the beliefs of Orphism, this lamella provided the key for the deceased to reclaim the tiny divine spark that existed in mortals and to pass a happy afterlife among the heroes.