Erotic Magic in Ancient Greece
Some “binding” curses in Ancient Greece were said to physically bind victims and inflict injury upon them. Another type sought to bind victims in a different way. The goal was to incite an uncontrollable passion (eros) in the victim.
The common name for these curses, or spells, was agoge or agogimon spells meaning ‘a spell that leads’ because the aim of the spell was to lead the victim to the practitioner.
Some of these curses mention body parts, often in violent overtones, by which the speaker wishes to enjoin their invisible agents to retrieve the victim. Often spells of this type are accompanied by a figurine depicting the victim bound.
One example of erotic curses comes from a 4th century AD magical handbook which refers to spells dating back further. Philtrokatadesmos thaumastos IV.296-469 is a ‘Wondrous Erotic Binding Spell’. It instructs its user to create two figurines; a male in the form of Ares holding a sword, and a female kneeling with her arms behind her back about to be stabbed by the sword. Various vocae magicae or magic words are to be written on the female figures head, eyes, ears, shoulders, arms, hands, breast, belly, genitals, buttocks and feet. The female figure is then to be pierced with 13 copper needles- one in the brain, two in the ears, two in the eyes, one in the mouth, two in the midriff, one in the hands, two in the pudenda, and one in each foot.
During each piercing the practitioner said:
“I am piercing [body part] of her, [name of victim], so that she may remember no one but me, [name of practioner].”
The spell was then written out on a lead tablet and recited.
In Egypt, a single lead tablet and a female kneeling figure, pierced with 13 pins matches this spell has been found in a pot. However the figure itself is not inscribed. It is now housed in the Louvre and has been dated to the 2nd/3rd century AD. In this example a man named Sarapammon who wishes to attract a woman called Ptolemais. His curse tablet reads:
“I deposit this binding charm with you, chthonic gods, Pluto and Kore Persephone Ereskhigal and Adonis, also called Barbaritha, and chthonic Hermes Thoth Phokensepseu erktathou misonktaik and mighty Anoubis Pseriphtha, who holds the keys of the gates to Hades, and chthonic daimones, gods, men and women who suffered an untimely death, youths and maidens, year after year, month after month, day after day, hour after hour, night after night. I adjure all the daimones in this place to assist daimon Antinous.
Rouse yourself for me and go into every place, into every quarter, into every house, and bind Ptolemais, who Aias bore, the daughter of Horigenes, so that she may not be screwed, not be buggered, not do anything for the pleasure of another man, except for me Sarapammon only, whom Area bore, and do not allow her to eat, to drink, to resist or go out or to get sleep apart from me, Sarapammon, whom Area bore. I adjure you, corpse-daimon Antinous, by the dreadful and frightful name of the one at the sound of whose name the earth will open, at the sound of whose name the rivers and the rocks break. I adjure you, corpse-daimon Antinous, by Barbaratham cheloumbra barouch Adonai and by Abrasax and by Iao pakeptoth pakebraoth sabarbaphaei and by Marmaraououth and by Marmarachtha mamazagar.
Do not disobey, corpse-daimon Antinous, but rouse yourself for me and go into every place, into every quarter, into every house and bring me Ptolemais, whom Aias bore, the daughter of Horigenes. Keep her from eating and drinking until she comes to me, Sarapammon, whom Area bore, and do not allow her to have experience of another man except me Sarapammon only. Drag her by the hair, by the inward parts until she does not stand aloof from me, Sarapammon, whom Area bore, and I have her, Ptolemais, whom Aias bore, daughter of Horigenes, subject for me the entire time of my life, being fond of me, loving me, telling me what she has in mind. If you do this, I will set you free.”
Along with underworld Greek gods, a Babylonian goddess, Egyptian divinities, daimones and the dead are invoked to carry out the curse.