19th century "magic squares" from India. What?
October 20, 2013 11:45 AM   Subscribe

I went to an exhibit of historic swords today and read the following inscription: . . . the blade also carries the name of the craftsman . . . a magic square for protection, and blah blah. The sword in question is from the Talpur rulers of Sind[h], in what is now known as Pakistan, and is from the 19th century. I'm just really curious about these protective magic squares, and am hoping there is someone out there who can tell me something about them and/or show some examples.

I have a very fuzzy photo (cursed 14mm lens!) of what I think one of the squares looks like.

grainy zoomed image

And yes, I will eventually contact the curator about this or someone at the museum.
posted by craniac to Society & Culture (6 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Ah, I googled "protective magic square" and apparently they are known as Buduh marks.
posted by craniac at 11:47 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: A look through Google Books brought up this link, which disappears when I click on it:

Google Book Result which led me to search for "bdwh protective" and that brought me to a probable answer.

Apologies for not figuring this out before I posted here.
posted by craniac at 11:55 AM on October 20, 2013

No need to apologize... you asking and then answering a question it would never have occurred to me to ask in a month of Sundays is brilliant. Thanks!
posted by Mister Bijou at 12:54 PM on October 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

Take a look at the page for "magic square" on Wikipedia. They have a long history in both magic and recreational mathematics.
posted by Nomyte at 1:29 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Here's a bit of randomness about magic squares in general (from The Guardian, science/mathematics - the comments are fun.)

The Wiki article includes pics of the Sagrada Familia and of the Durer square. The Sagrada Familia square is repeated, much smaller, on one of the cast bronze doors.

Here is another fairly random bit of info about a 1915 German publication mentioning Asian magic squares.

Further searches got me to that Bedouin silver article too (which has a link to a further page on the subject.) Also googleable is a PDF, Magic Squares in India from the Indian Journal of History of Science, which concentrates mostly on the varieties of square and their mathematics, rather than their history or symbolism.

What an interesting question.
posted by glasseyes at 6:03 PM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Whoops, here is the grainy image.

The full descriptive text.
posted by craniac at 11:02 AM on October 22, 2013

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