July 24th, 2008


Ancient magic and misogynist magicians

So, as many of you know, I'm a big fan of authentic (or authentically reconstructed) grimoires of ancient magic. The Greek Magical Papyri (or PGM for short), the Sepher Ha-Razim (a reconstructed Jewish magical text), and a variety of other sources really interest me. (For a selection of bits that really interested me a couple of years ago, check out my "Authentic Chaos" pages, which have transcriptions of a number of the spells.)

I have a very academic curiosity about how these spells worked, and I would love to try a few out, you know, just to see what happens. On occasion, I have, and some of the stories have been posted in my LJ and on my website.

Most of them, however, I can't manage to actually try. Either they're too fragmentary, too manipulative for my modern Neo-Pagan sensibilities, or just too generally disgusting for me to ever be willing to admit that I did them. (And who wants to do magic that they can't boast about, really? If you're not taking credit for at least twice as much as you actually do a spell for, you're not a real magician.)

Interestingly, I have fewer issues with things like drowning kittens and scooping the eyes out of doves and then setting them free in order to obtain love than I have with one particular line in a lot of the "purification" requirements:
"You may not approach a woman in her menses"
I mean, what the hell?

I can't tell you how often I've come across a perfectly awesome (and non-animal-mutilating) spell for something really cool only to have it require this stupid little instruction.

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The issue really comes down to this: I really object to the idea that purification requires staying away from mensturating women (which implies that they're somehow "dirty" or "impure"), but I'm such a stickler for "authenticity" when it comes to trying out new (old) things that I generally just skip over these spells when I see them.

Maybe it's time to start re-writing some of these old spells. That sort of thing isn't new to me: I've done it many times. But I've always had such a violent reaction to the idea that women in a specific (and natural) state are somehow unclean that I've never even attempted it.

It's interesting to me that spells designed to incite lust in married women never specify, "and could you please make sure she's not, you know, bleeding everywhere?" You'd think that would be important, given their clear obsession with it. (For convenience, we're going to ignore my obsession with their obsession for now.)

Slimy, misogynistic ancient magicians. . .