Greek Magical Papyri (III): Subjugation practices


With this we enter the perhaps most representative and dim chapter of magic of all time, the one called submission (gr. hypotaktikón) and which includes two intimately linked branches, the malefic and the erotic. The relationship between the two is manifested by the divinities that come into play, nocturnal or subterranean in both cases, and the material elements of the ritual in sympathy with said divinities.

Within the Greek Magical Papyri (GMP), from the formal point of view, two classifications should be distinguished:

A first type, more widely represented in GMP, is formed by <<empty>> forms in which we do not find the name of both the agent (magician or client) and that of the affected person (enemy, loved one); in the papyri it appears replaced by deîna, but in translations it is usually translated by <<so-and-so>>.

A second group, less numerous, is made up of <<full>> forms, that is, with proper names. Logically, these constitute simpler practices, since it is only part of a practice, the written formula, while in the first case, very often, the practice appears in all its complexity: preliminary instructions, acts, gestures, sacrifices. and incense sticks, symbols, etc. In any case, there is a fact that jumps out at us and whose explanation is not very easy to show: the magic words of the filled forms do not usually coincide with those of the empty ones.

One of the practices that we can find in the GMP collection are those that have the title Malefic Practices. Within these same practices, and in the malefic ones in which the erotic element does not enter, subtypes can also be distinguished, although very often it is difficult to draw the limits between them, either because they are embroiled or because the formulation of desires is very diffuse.

The Erotic Practices are very varied, even though the formula that encloses the agent's desire is repeated with too much monotony. The help of a daemon of the dead is usually requested and is urged to cause damage, illness or insomnia, fundamentally, to the person who wants to possess, until the magician's will is fulfilled. On occasion, the daemon is asked to take the form of the god she worships, so it is no longer an act of violence towards the person, but of persuasion.

- Spell structure:

The practices are sometimes very simple and consist of a very short formula coupled with a gesture: a sigh in front of the woman, a kiss on the plate or the simple pronunciation of Aphrodite's name. The formula had to be written in a specific material that was symbolic, in some way, of the divinity or related to it. Some of the materials used in erotic spells are: a seashell, because the goddess Aphrodite (Venus for the Romans) was born from the genitals of Uranus when she touched the sea foam and is therefore related to the aquatic environment ; if it is a metal it has to be zinc; if it is a mineral, then magnetite.

But it can also be written on the wick of a lamp so that it burns with passion, or on hellebore leaves or on a papyrus sheet, another material is the skin of a donkey, because it is related to Typhon because it is wearing a ram's skin, etc. However, it is more common that they are of intermediate complexity with the various uses of ritual gestures and material means that enhance the effectiveness of prayer.

We can also find instances in which wax or clay figurines of some of the named divinities are used: Aphrodite, Eros, Ares and a woman, etc. The figurines have magic words written on some parts of their bodies, or they are pricked with bronze needles, or the request is simply made in front of them and they are thrown into a place with a magical entity. These figurines are often called kolossoi and could also be abused for non-amorous purposes, as was the case with the Latin tabellae defixionis (curse tablets) or katadesmos.

Below there are some examples:

Malefic Practice of Magical Enchantment of an Enemy or a Woman:

<<Take a hieratic papyrus or a sheet of lead and an iron ring; place the ring on the papyrus and with pen draw the inner and outer edge of the ring; then cover the circumference with ink; then write on the circumference of the ring, on the papyrus, the name and on the outside the magical signs; later, in the internal part, what you do not want to happen and this: <<Let his mind be tied so that he does not do such a thing>>.

When this is done, place the ring on the circle you made and, removing the outer part, sew the ring until it is completely covered.

While you prick magic signs with the pen and perform the binding, say: <<I chain so-and-so to such a thing: that he does not speak, that he does not oppose, that he does not say anything against me, that he cannot look at me in the face or speak against me. , but be subject to me as long as this earring is hidden. I bind his intelligence and his thoughts, his reflection, his actions, so that he is incapable against all men>>. Then you take it to the grave of someone who has died prematurely, you make a hole of four fingers, put it inside and say: <<Daemon of dead, whoever you are, give me to so-and-so so that he does not do such a thing>>. Lastly, bury it and leave." >>

Fragment 7, Papyrus V. GMP Collection

This is a small fragment of what we can find as a magical text, where the objective is to dominate the will of the one for whom you want to obtain something, and it is done through formulas that must be pronounced as we find them, and also , a work must be followed and done with an object as an addition so that the spell or spell has a better chance of working.

The following text that we are going to show you is quite short and in it we will find the elements that are necessary for this spell to have its effect and which must be followed if you want it to be completed.

Immediate Effect Loving Charm:

<<Take a seashell and write the sacred names with the blood of a black ass. Formula: <<I conjure you, shell, by the bitter Necessity (Masceli-logos) and by those demons who are assigned to punishments laki lakiō lakimōu mukila kilaōmou iōr mōuōr mōudra maxtha mōusatha: bring so-and-so, daughter of so-and-so -here the wish that you have-, don't wait, bring her ouch ouch chauna mouchlimalcha mantor mourkana moulitha: malthali moui (vocals), bring so-and-so>>. When the crescent moon is in Aries or Taurus. >>

Fragment 8, Papyrus VI. GMP Collection.

Ignacio Povedano Selfa -

-Calvo Martínez, J.L. y Sánchez Romero, M.D. (trad.) Textos de magia en papiros griegos. Editorial Gredos, Madrid, 1987
-Herrero Valdés, F. Tipología y estructura de las prácticas de dominio y sometimiento de la magia greco-egipcia. MHNH, Universidad de Granada, 2008
-Luck, G. Arcana Mundi: Magia y Ciencias Ocultas en el Mundo Griego y Romano, Gredos, 1995

Related articles: 

>Greek Magical Papyri (I)

> Greek Magical Papyri (II)

> Necromancy in Ancient Greece: Goeteia

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