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Marguerite Johnson does not job-related for, consult, very own shares in or receive resources from any firm or organization that would benefit from this article, and has expose no appropriate affiliations past their scholastic appointment.

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The Louvre Doll. Wikimedia Commons

Such things is a form of sorry magic; a type of enchantment that operates follow me the principle of “like affect like”. As soon as enacting sorry magic through a doll, the spell-caster believes that whatever action is carry out on it – it is in it physics or psychic – will certainly be moved to the human being it represents.

The ideal preserved and also most notorious magical doll from antiquity, the so-called “Louvre Doll” (4th century AD), depicts a naked mrs in kneeling position, bound, and also pierced v 13 needles. Fashioned indigenous unbaked clay, the doll was discovered in a terracotta vase in Egypt. The accompanying spell, inscriptions on a command tablet, records the woman’s name as Ptolemais and also the male who do the spell, or commissioned a magician to do so, as Sarapammon.

Violent, brutal language

The spells the accompanied such dolls and, indeed, the spells from classical times on all manner of topics, were no mild in the language and also imagery employed. Old spells were frequently violent, brutal and also without any type of sense of fist or remorse. In the spell that comes v the Louvre Doll, the language is both frightening and repellent in a modern-day context. For example, one part of the spell directed at Ptolemais reads:

Do not permit her to eat, drink, hold out, venture out, or discover sleep …

Another component reads:

Drag her by the hair, by the guts, until she no much longer scorns me …


A Coptic codex with magic spells, 5-6th century advertisement from the Museo Archeologico, Milan. Wikimedia Commons

Such language is fixed indicative of any kind of emotion pertaining to love, or also attraction. Particularly when merged with the doll, the spell may strike a modern reader as obsessive (perhaps memory of a stalker or virtual troll) and also even misogynistic. Indeed, quite than seeking love, the intention behind the spell says seeking control and domination. Together were the gender and sexual dynamics the antiquity.

But in a masculine world, in i m sorry competition in all elements of life to be intense, and the score of success was paramount, violent language was usual in spells pertaining to anything from success in a court situation to the rigging the a chariot race. Indeed, one theory says that the an ext ferocious the words, the much more powerful and effective the spell.

Love potions

Most old evidence attests to men as both experienced magical practitioners and also their clients. There to be a must be literate come perform most magic (most females were no educated) and also to be easily accessible to client (most women were not totally free to get visitors or have a business). However, part women also engaged in erotic magic (although the sources on this are reasonably scarce).

In old Athens, for example, a mrs was required to court top top the charge of attempting come poison her husband. The attempt was recorded in a speech yielded on behalf of the start (dated about 419 BC). It has the woman’s defence, which proclaimed that she did no intend to poison she husband but to administer a love philtre to reinvigorate the marriage.

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The speech, entitled against the Stepmother for Poisoning through Antiphon, plainly reveals the the Athenians practised and believed in love potions and also may indicate that this much more subtle kind of erotic magic (compared to the spreading of spells and also the make of enchanted dolls) to be the preserve of women.

Desire between women

Within the multiplicity of spells discovered in the Greek miracle Papyri, two deal specifically with female exact same sex desire. In among these, a mrs by the name of Herais attempts come magically entreat a mrs by the surname of Serapis. In this spell, dated to the 2nd century AD, the gods Anubis and also Hermes are dubbed upon to bring Serapis to Herais and to tie Serapis come her.


Statue the a young seated Hermes (the Greek messenger god) in ~ rest. Wikimedia Commons

In the 2nd spell, date to the 3rd or fourth century AD, a woman dubbed Sophia looks for out a mrs by the surname of Gorgonia. This spell, written on a command tablet, is aggressive in tone; for example:

Burn, collection on fire, inflame her soul, heart, liver, spirit, v love for Sophia …

Gods and goddesses were consistently summoned in magic. In the assignment to lure Serapis, because that example, Anubis is included based on his function as the god of the keys of Egyptian magic. Hermes, a Greek god, was regularly included due to the fact that as a messenger god, he was a useful choice in spells the sought contact with someone.


Anubis portrayed as a jackal in the dig of Tutankhamen. Wikimedia Commons

The propensity to combine gods native several societies was not uncommon in ancient magic, indicative that its eclectic nature and perhaps a form of hedging one’s bets (if one religion’s god i will not ~ listen, one from an additional belief device may).

Deities with erotic connections were also inscribed on jewel to induce attraction. The Greek god that eroticism, Eros was a renowned figure come depict on a gemstone, which might then be fashioned into a piece of jewellery.

The many erotic spells in classical times – native potions come dolls to fascinating gems and rituals – not only carry out information about magic in the old Mediterranean world, however the intricacies and cultural conventions roughly sexuality and also gender.

The rigid system of clearly demarcated sex roles of energetic (male) and passive (female) partners, based on a patriarchy the championed dominance and success at every costs, underpinned the same societies’ miracle practices. Yet it is vital to note that even in magic featuring world of the same sex, wild language is employed since of the conventions the underlined ancient spells.

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Still magic remains, in part, a mystery when it concerns erotic practice and conventions. The two same-sex spells indigenous the Greek magical Papyri, for example, attest to the reality of erotic desire amongst ancient women, however do not melted light on whether this type of sexuality to be condoned in roman inn Egypt. Perhaps such desire were no socially approved; therefore the recourse to magic. Probably the desire of Sarapammon for Ptolemais were additionally outside the bounds of acceptability, i beg your pardon led him come the surreptitious and desperate human being of magic.