Greek Magical Papyri (II)


This world is far from the actual world we live nowadays. But thanks to the evidences preserved from ancient times, we can enjoy them as if we were at that precise moment in which the different methods to achieve the goal of each spell were carried out. We can enter this world full of texts and distinguish the different formula in each papyrus we read, in order to control everything.

We are going to see the different types of practices we can find in the different papyrus that the GMP collection contains. In these papyrus we can find different texts with unequal aims. First we will tell about the different types of practices inside some examples of papyrus, in order to know what we can find in the magical Greek papyrus.

First, instrumental practices with no specific objective. This type can be divided in two smaller types from the texts, which are: the search of the wizard by direct contact with deity to obtain his dýnamis, pneûma or apórroia, wizard's strenght or from other person capable which will be useful to any aim. Second type would aim to submit a demon as a servant. The nature and purposes of this demon can change.

Also, we have practices to obtain other's goods: wealth, health, economic success, sports competition and personal charm. Many of this group can be tagged as: « to all ends». Many of the gods which these practices are addressed are the Ursa deity -constellation which must move the Pole, so Destiny as well-, the Moon -as Artemis or other goddess as a symbol of universal magic power-, Hermes - Thot in the Greek-Egyptian version, as the god of success and supreme knowledge.

Third group includes mantic practices in which the wizard aims to obtain knowledge in different times and levels. Wizard is not a mystical person, he aims to know the soul of every human being and the true name of God to use it, some times with profitable ends. Also is divided in other types of practices with their respective aims. Prophetic communication about facts of the future with a mantic deity, as Apollo or Helios, which in Greek receives the name of sýstasis . Other practice is oneiric revelation, where the wizard searches for direct relation in dreams with a god or a demon.

An example of these practices belong to the spell Request for a dream.

"With blood from a quail, draw with precision Hermes god in a linen shred, straight, with the face of an ibis. Then add the name with myrrh ink and say the formula: "Come by my side, here, inmediately, you, who have the power I summon you, god of gods over the spirits; show me these on my dreams. I summon you for your father Osiris and Isis, your mother, show me one of your forms and foresee what I desire. Your name is: ēiiouathi, psrēpnoua nertēr, diochasbara, Zaraco, the one who is called Balcám; foresee about this, about my questions". Papyrus XII, VI.

Now we will focus on the different methods of the wizards to obtain a desired objective. We will focus on the spells from the three papyrus of the GMP collection, whose titles carry on the different objectives.

We have invocations to Helios as a protection against maleficent demons . To start, a praise to God has to be made, to focus on the wizard or the person casting the formula. It relates to the spell and it can not be read by a non initiated member since these spells and requirements come from masters to their apprentices, from father to son. In order to have complete success with the spell, it has to be carried out as a recipe step by step. Examples:

«Drink milk with honey, drink it before the Sun comes out and something divine will reach your heart » (...) GMP, Papyrus I. I.

«Take the falcon and put it in a juniper chapel, then decorate the chapel with garlands, prepare an oblation with food from non-living beings and very old wine. Before getting to bed, offer a sacrifices as usual and say before this bird the next formula: : a ee ēēē iiii ooooo yyyyyy ōōōōōōō , come to me, good farmer, Good Demon Harpon knoûphi brintatē siphri briskilma arouazar bamesen kriphi niptoumicmumaōph». GMP, Papyrus, I.I.

We can say the texts have a specific structure in which the deity is asked for protection for the wizard. In order to ask the favor it is necessary to beg and summoning with a recipe in a language that we mentioned before and that only initiated know:

Maleficent practices against enemies, by osirizing a cat

"Pick a cat and transform it into Hesiēs by putting his body on the water; while you drown it say the formula on its back." This is the formula to say while it is drowning: "Come here with me, you who go with Helios appearance, you, with cat's face, gaze your own body damaged by your enemies (name and name) to take revenge to them, and carry out (that) because I summon you, sacred spirit. Show your power and strenght against your enemies (names) because I cast you by your names (...) and carry out this task" Papyrus III, I.

Other structure is about sacrifices and different materiales needed to call the deity. This example is a practice addressed to a deity:

Practice for Helios to achieve knowledge from the past, present and future of all men

«Hermes' ring Scarabs preparation Take a scarab engraved as it is described down here, put it on a papyrus table, With its balsam, smear yourself in the morning, place yourself looking the East and say these words: (...) Prayer for the Sun: «I am Toit, discoverer and creator of medicines and writing, come to me, the underground, wake up for me, (...) . Papyrus V, VI.

Other magical recipe is for becoming invisible. The wizard has to prepare an ointment for his body and then a formula to say out loud. Ingredients required are: an owl's eye, a scarab ball and green myrrh oil.

There are also invocations for deities with a very clear aim. An invocation for Helios, god of the Sun. It can make the Sun light to be reflected on the skin.

It is possible to summon a love deity as the following one:

Love enchantment

« Aphrodite's name that no one knows immediately Neferieris (it is an apotropaic Egyptian name that means "the one of beautiful eyes"): This is the name. If you want to get a beautiful woman (...). Carry out this procedure during seven days ». Papyrus IV,X.

There is also an apollonian practice to obtain an oracle. For this one, we need to purify the body or the place in which it is going to be bound. Then we have to follow the recipe and the chanting of the formulae that in many cases stay incomplete and in hexameters, which are the rhyming usually employed in summoning.

As a finishing point in this article, we are going to explain our impressions concerning the contributions that the reading of the Magical Texts on Greek Papyruses have yielded us. As we have seen throughout the entire work, these magical texts are the facilitators of the recipes used by the wizard in order to achieve a goal. In many of those texts, we are shown the way to bend the spirits so they can perform tasks that favor the summoner. All the tradition transmitted for centuries has conceived these spirits as maleficent beings who want to hurt human kind, also beings that wizards or sorcerers have used in a evil way to obtain benefit for themselves. These texts tell us about beings with supernatural abilities can be slaved for the one who is summoning it and their methods, since mortal people do not have these powers. Although this is more related with the objective of the wizard for his own benefit.

We have also different objects to use in order to make the spell -if we can name it as a spell- to work and attract deity's attention. Many objects from the wizards are different luck amulets or which attracts the attention of the god and remain attached under the will of the person. We can see there are many methods to obtain what a human cannot because his nature is different. 

So these were the most of the practices, formulae and spells we can find in Greek, Egyptians and rest of the areas in ancient times and whose structure has apparently respected until the modern ages.

Ignacio Povedano Selfa -

Rachel Black - Translator -

Calvo Martínez, J.L. y Sánchez Romero, M.D. (trad.) Textos de magia en papiros griegos. Editorial Gredos, Madrid, 1987
Fernández Marcos, Motivos judíos en los papiros mágicos griegos, dentro de Religión, superstición y magia en el mundo romano, Encuentros en la Antigüedad, Dep. Hª antigua Univ. Cádiz, 1985
Luck, G. Arcana Mundi: Magia y Ciencias Ocultas en el Mundo Griego y Romano, Gredos, 1995