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Magic 1, Requirement 8

Discuss three key magical techniques or symbols from one Indo-European culture. (minimum 100 words each)


Defixiones are curse tablets, usually made of lead (but also other metals, less commonly), that bind or curse a person or thing. In general, we can see these binding spells for a variety of topics, including judicial, erotic, agonistic, economic, and anti-theft reasons (Graf, 120-121). The curse tablet may be our physical representation of the binding, but it is the ritual that is really important in the curse, not the tablet. Often, the tablet describes the action of the magician, as in one that we have from Attica in Greece: "All of them, I bind them, I make them disappear, I burry them, I nail them down." This is, according to Graf (p. 135) actually a set of actions performed by the priest.


The word "amulet" derives from the Latin amulėtum, meaning, "an object used or a ritual performed in order to avert evil." Pliny informs us that "almost the entire Orient makes use of the jasper as an amulet." In this form of amulet, a simple stone can be carried by the person (who may not be a magician at all), and he or she will derive a magical benefit from it. More complex, we come across spells written on papyrus, gold, or silver that are then folded up and carried on the body of a person. Often, prayers are said over them, or magical signs are added to them to add weight to their work. Sometimes, instructions are given to the bearer that describe how to end the spell the amulet carries.

Voodoo Dolls

Similar to the defixiones above, we have voodoo dolls throughout the ancient world. The idea behind these is that what happens to the doll will happen to the person that it represents. This is a more visual form of the defixiones above (and often accompany them, as well), and often more intriguing. Often, the doll is bound, sometimes with prominent bindings of iron. A number have nails pressed into their feet, genitals, eyes, or back. Sometimes, the figures are purposefully deformed or disfigured. There is an element of sympathy in this form of magic, and we see that many figures have what is referred to in texts as "magical essence" (ousia), which is something physical from the person that the doll represents.


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