Welcome fellow souls to « The Human Family Crash Course Series, » a new project collaborated together by empress2inspire.blog and diosraw0.wordpress.com. Together we will be working on a different topic for each crash course; our seventh topic is focused on «Magic». Each topic will have ten posts with posts on Mondays and Thursdays. We hope you enjoy our series and we look forward to knowing how our posts have inspired you!
In ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome, practitioners of magic exploited symbolic words, images, and rituals to achieve desired outcomes through supernatural means. Using magical acts, they attempted to control supernatural powers— gods, demons, spirits, or ghosts—to accomplish something beyond the scope of human capabilities. Here’s an attempt to understand the ancient magic practices and what they signified.
In ancient “binding magic,” it was all about the spells. Unlike modern-day magical phrases like, say, “bippity boppity boo,” practitioners of magic in ancient Greek and Rome used spells to “bind” people up to different outcomes in sporting events, business, and personal affairs related to love and even revenge. Binding spells had known formulas and named involved parties, like gods and people, and then connected them to actions or results. You could use a binding spell to invoke an upcoming athletic victory or ensure your happy marriage to a new partner—and to do so, you’d use powerful strings of words passed on by magicians or ordinary people.
One of the more charmingly bitter traditions of ancient Greece and Rome were “curse tablets”—spells written on lead, wax or stone that laid out the ways in which people had been wronged. Think of curse tablets as the takedowns of the ancient world: If someone disrespected or harmed you, you could head to your local magician and pay to curse them. People cursed people who hurt their family members, but they also cursed them when they committed crimes or even entered into court cases against them. Large caches of curse tablets have been found in Roman digs in the modern-day United Kingdom.
Of course, if someone dissed you, you also had the option of creating a tiny effigy to do harm to. Though sometimes compared to modern-day voodoo dolls, scholars still aren’t entirely sure what the tiny figurines used in binding magic in ancient Greece and Rome were for. What they do know is that the word “binding” was taken literally when it comes to these figures: They have been found in tiny coffins with bound hands and feet or mutilated bodies and seem to have been molded along with binding spells.
Just as today, the future was a source of concern in antiquity. This anxiety was mitigated by the use of a number of divinatory practices, including consultation with seers, oracles, and other specialists in predicting the future and interpreting signs and omens. In ancient Rome, astrologers, who read the movements of stars and constellations to determine the destiny of individuals, were commonly grouped with magicians as magical practitioners. Their power, derived from knowledge of the future, rendered them dangerous, with the result that they were frequently expelled from Rome throughout antiquity. In most societies from the ancient Mediterranean whose laws survive, offensive magic such as placing a curse was regarded as a crime. However, the legality of various divinatory practices changed according to time and culture.
Magic was a resource frequently used not just during life, but also after death. Many funerary practices incorporated magical elements. This was particularly the case in Egypt, where the intricate rituals of mummification ensured preservation of the body and soul for the afterlife. The placement of amulets over certain body parts during mummification and the preservation of organs in canopic jars protected the body for new life after death. The Egyptian Book of the Dead details these rituals, compiling spells that were painted or inscribed in the tomb and aided in achieving the ultimate restoration of life to the soul of the deceased. Similarly, mystery cults in ancient Greece and Rome had their own secret rituals that ensured an afterlife for their practitioners.
Hope this brings to light some of the ancient magic practices.