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Ancient Magic: A Love Potion for Your Valentine

Posted on 10 Feb 2019

Discover a love potion from the ancient world in this extract from 'Ancient Magic'.

Photograph © 2019 Otto Kaemmel, Spamers Illustrierte Welgeschichte, Leipzig, 1893

Ancient Magic offers us a new way of understanding the role of magic in the ancient world, looking at its history in all of its classical forms. Drawing on a wide array of sources, from Greek dramas to curse tablets, and lavishly illustrated throughout, and packed with information, surprises, lore and learning, this book will offer an engaging and accessible way into the supernatural for all.


Love Potions 

Witches approached by lovesick clients would brew potions or use herbs in amorous spells. These were also effective, though arguably they worked because the users believed that they worked. Confidence is a great aphrodisiac. If a potion inspired that confidence, then it was indeed effective. Likewise, informing someone that they were under the effects of a potion could work as a strong disinhibitor, giving subjects an excuse for behaviour they’d rather like to indulge in anyway.

To illustrate the power of belief in drugs, known as the ‘placebo effect’, in a controlled experiment, a group of college students were informed that they had consumed a beverage that contained a measure of alcohol, when in fact it did not. Another group were actually given that same small dose of alcohol in a drink, but not informed by the researchers that it was there. The first group showed signs of tipsiness, while members of the second group remained completely sober.


An odd herbal recipe

This magical recipe is typical of many surviving spells. They were written as reminders for a practising magician, rather than as instructions for a neophyte. So exactly what to do with the recipe when it has been brewed or what a shadow can do when under ‘control’ are matters that await rediscovery.

To gain control of your shadow to make it serve you, prepare an offering of ground wheat, ripe mulberries and unboiled sesame, and uncooked throne (perhaps fig leaves). Mash this into beetroot.