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.
I understand that the ancients were rather anti-woman. I've had it explained to me (in academic settings) that in the ancient world, the concept of "leaky women" was particularly problematic. Bodily fluids are generally unacceptable in ritual (depending on culture. . . though while blood is almost always cool, menstrual blood just isn't). I know that the "don't trust anything that bleeds for five days and doesn't die" joke is really old. Yeah, I get all that.
However, since we know that there's nothing wrong with menstruation, I generally have issues with these spells on a lot of levels. Perhaps I'm just too modern to try them, really?
Heck, forget the logical arguments: what am I supposed to do if I want to try one of these spells, wear a sandwichboard sign that tells women who are menstruating to "back the hell away"?
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. . .