Curse Tablets

Having recently discovered that one of my Classics professors shares my interest in historical magic and cult practice, I’ve been pointed toward a volume edited by Bengt Ankalroo and Stuart Clark: Witchcraft and Magic in Europe: Ancient Greece and Rome.  I’m only about 60 pages in so far, but it’s (moderately) dense academic work, and there’s already been more information than some New Age/Pagan/Occult authors can cram into 150-200 pages.

This shit is fascinating, though I don’t know how much I’ll actually ever need to use this information.  The Greeks and Romans were absolutely fucking ruthless when it came to cursing their enemies: giving them over to the hands of the dead and offering their souls and bodies to demons and cthonic gods.  But if I ever need to bind anyone, I’ll know where to look.  Equally fascinating is what our cultural ancestors felt compelled to curse each-other over: litigation, above all else, followed by commercial transactions, then matters of sex and love, and finally appeals for divine justice.  Apparently the Romans stationed in the Bath (the largest cache of the last category) were chiefly interested in the return of stolen property (p38), and the use of curse tablets to get laid was particularly popular in Egypt (p36).

Obviously, as a scholarly work instead of an occult one, some of the details I might need to implement these techniques are lacking–what sort of ritual processes went into dedicating the tablets once made?–but there’s enough detail that as a creative and experienced witch, I could make up what they don’t say.  And, if I were a purist, they are kind enough to point me to the relevant Greek Magical Papyri, almost innocent of the idea that anyone might still want to use this information.

The book is broken into four sections, each by a different researcher.  The first, by Daniel Ogden, focuses on the curse tablets.  George Luck writes the second, discussing sorcery and witchcraft as represented by the Classical literary tradition.  The third section, elaborating on the ideas, construction, and language of Classical magic, is written by Richard Gordon.  Valerie Flint completes the volume by discussing the ways in which Classical magic was changed and reinterpreted by the rise of the Christian empire.

Obviously, I cannot yet offer a complete review of the book, but I can and will recommend that any of you with with an interest in either the historical or occult aspects of Classical sorcery seek it out at your local library.

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