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 Greek Origin of Magic

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Join date : 2011-09-19
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PostSubject: Greek Origin of Magic   Sun Oct 07, 2012 2:28 pm

In the era of the Greeks, people had methods of casting magic that
would heal, and also magic that was intended to harm. The Greeks and
Romans were notorious for creating and using effigies and other
magical objects and items so that they could implore the gods or use
the forces of nature to get what they wanted. Curse magic, and magic
that was used to heal, was useful and popular in the pre-Christian
Greek and roman era, so much that it was eventually it was outlawed
with the advent of Christianity in Rome.
The Greeks were a society of people that had developed their religion
and magical ideas from the surrounding cultures that they conquered.
The Greeks who practiced animism, had a spiritual understanding of
nature, and they considered every thing that was living or non-living
to contain a spirit or force. The Greeks had a deep interest in the
soul, or spirit and they sought to understand the experience of
conscious and unconscious states of being.
Greek and Roman curse magic had generally been used for two main
purposes - first, to bind a subject to the magician's will, and
secondly, to ward or protect from harm. Magic of the Greeks was known
as Goes, or witchcraft.1 The goal of Greek magicians was to locate
these secretive forces of nature, called physis, and to study the
similarities and opposites that they represented. Through this
understanding they knew that they could control the forces of nature.
The manipulation of these forces through the art and science of magic
was called dynameis.2 It was similar to the concept of the daimones,
from which the word daemon was developed, representing the divine
forces of the gods and their interaction with humans through the
forces of fate.
Greek society employed the gods to help them with their magic, to aid
them in spell casting, and cause certain effects. Attributed to Plato
is a commentary on the availability and popularity of magic in the
Greek era - "If anyone wishes to injure an enemy; for a small fee
they (sorcerers) will bring harm on good or bad alike, binding the
gods to serve their purposes by spells and curses."3
Greeks had a simple but effective method of spell casting, by using
items and objects that were similar to the forces that they wanted to
effect. Some of the oldest examples of these ritual effigies were found throughout the Mediterranean dating as far back as the fourth
century.4 Greek magicians used effigies, human figures they created
called kolusus, that were made of wood or clay and shaped into the
form of the magician's target. The substances these effigies were
made of and how the figure was treated during spell casting was
indicative of the desired result.
These basic natural figures made of wood or clay were no doubt meant
to degrade over time. There were also figures made of more permanent
substances, like lead, bronze or silver so that the figures would
remain intact and unchanged.5
The intent of creating these effigies was a form of sympathetic
magic. It worked under the principle that like, attracted like. If a
magician created an effigy, they believed that it would contain a
part of the target's soul or eidolon, and through this the magician
could effect this target in many different ways. To burn, destroy or
bind the figure would, as the Greeks believed, cause a similar effect
in nature.
An effigy like this could be used to bind a god or a spirit, so that
the magician could influence the forces of fate. These effigies were
also used to restrain a god from taking action, or to specifically
direct the god's forces of daimones. The forces of the gods were
bound or captured within the effigy and the magician would direct the
forces through the power of dynameis through the method of magic
ritual.6 In this way humans were able to control the effects of fate
through magic, and direct the actions of the gods.
Effigies of this type were often used in burials, to protect the
spirits (the eidolon) of the dead. The Greeks performed these
bindings on spirits to prevent the sometimes hostile eidolon of the
dead from returning from the underworld. The Greeks believed that
these unseen forces could not be destroyed but they could be bound
and directed according to the magician's desires.
The Greeks also used these effigies to bind and control their fellow
humans. For example, a Greek sorcerer could create an effigy of the
war god Ares, and then bind this figure to the god and also to
whomever they wished, to bring safety or victory in battle, or even
to prevent war. They also used these magical figures to effect the
outcome of court cases, to restrain rivals or enemies, and to influence lovers and bind them to each other.7
The figures were created from specific materials so that they would
represent certain forces or effects. After the effigy was created, it
was usually tied or bound, twisted or pierced with nails and animal
fangs and claws. Each part of the process of creation would cause a
certain effect.8 The nails and other objects were placed in certain
areas such as the mouth, for silence, the heart to represent the
binding of the target's will, and nails were also placed in the
figure's hands to prevent action or cause loss of personal strength.
These kolossoi figures have also been found with the head or torso
twisted to the left, a defensive type of
binding to ensure an enemies confusion.
Some have been found with the feet
twisted backwards to prevent success of
enemies. At times these objects were
mutilated, burnt, hacked or buried to
further restrain the target against any
more actions that could happen. The
combined effect of the creation and
destruction of the kolossoi effectively
symbolized, in a magical way, the
destruction of an enemy.9
By the fifth century, effigies were not
the only method of binding magic that
the Greeks had. They also cast personal
curses by writing the spell on a tablet
made of lead or copper. Known as
katadesmoi, the oldest versions of these
tablets were basic in design, consisting
of a thin sheet of lead with the victims intended name scratched on
As the use of these curses continued, the tablets and methods of
casting curse magic became more elaborate, employing the use of gods.
Curse tablets were combined the use of lead or wax effigies and
kolossoi that were pierced, or burned, intending to represent the
fate of the victim of the spell.10
The Romans also used this same type of binding and offensive magic as the Greeks. Gods of the Greeks had also influenced Roman religion,
along with the beliefs in the powers of the spirits of nature. Roman
magic was developed after the practices and beliefs of the Greeks,
and they had many practical and social uses for magical curse
Roman Curse tablets were known as Tabulae Defixiones, derived from
the latin verb defigere, which means to pin down or to fix,
describing the process of creating the curse tablet. This term also
has its origins with the Latin word, defixio, associated with the
magical act of prayer that would deliver the target of the spell to
the powers of the underworld, sealing their fate. Essentially, the
curses were designed to hand their enemies over to the forces of the
gods, under the magician's direction.11
The Roman Deifixiones tablets were created in a similar fashion as
the katadesmoi tablets, to curse or bind an enemy or rival, to create
boundaries, or to bind lovers together. Roman Curse tablets were
inscribed with a magical alphabet, called the voices magicae,
comprised of words and symbols representing deities, their principles
and their divine actions against the magicians enemies. At times
these inscriptions were written backwards, to undo certain actions
within the spell, or to confuse an enemy.
Many tablets were created with lead, representing the god of the
underworld, Saturn [Cronus] and the cold, and heavy characteristics
of this metal were chosen to represent the slowing or fatigue of the
magicians victim. The lead was symbolic, as well, representing the
permanence of the spell due to the non perishable qualities of lead.12
The tablet was rolled or folded and then it was pierced with a nail
to ensure the fixing of the victim to their fate. After the tablet
was created it would be thrown into a well, placed in abandoned grave
or thrown into a pit- effectively giving the persons fate to demons
and the spirits of the dead. Many tablets had also been found in
caves. All of these places represented a passage to the underworld,
as the Greeks and Romans knew it.
Defixiones tablets were used in many different social contexts, from
the disgruntled lover who wishes to coerce the object of his or her
desire, to the chariot-races, theaters, courtrooms, and business
transactions, where one participant would try to ensure his or her
victory by binding or fixing a rival by persuading the gods through
Roman society was a culture that thrived on competition, envy and
revenge. These conflicts involved continual cycles of accusations,
and recrimination followed by consultations with ritual experts, then
a ritual would be performed, perhaps even in public, and if that did
not appease the situation, the person seeking revenge would have
possibly visited the priest of a temple to gain the gods favor for
the casting of magic. In many aspects the consultation with gods in
the use of curses was a contract with their divine powers.13
Sometimes these curses and bindings were carved into papyri, wood
tablets, and even carved carefully into gems. These practices of
magic were widespread in Rome, and the public had a genuine fear of
personal reprisals due to its popularity. While certain aspects of
Roman and Greek religion had relied on magic for centuries, practices
like divination and sorcery became feared by those who were in
authority, and laws were eventually created to try and control the
activities of magic throughout the empire of Rome.
In 451 bc the Roman council lead by Lucius Cornelius Sulla created a
ruling from the Twelve Tables, to prevent the widespread use of
harmful magic. The Roman council created the Law of Cornelia
(Concerning Assassins and Poisoners) which said: ".. soothsayers,
enchanters and those who make use of sorcery for evil purposes, those
who conjure demons, who disrupt the elements, who employ waxen images
destructively, shall be punished by death".14
Rulings against witches lasted for centuries afterward. This law was
interpreted by Latin writers of the bible from the original Greek
into the verse “Thou shall not suffer a witch to live”.15 Originally, the verses from Greek bible stated, “..suffer a well-poisoner to
live”. A witch who used magic became known as a poisoner in the age
of Christianity, because they poisoned the soul with dark magic. This
same Latin translation of poisoner as a witch was used during the
trials of accused witches in the medieval era, and cited as a reason
for their torture and killing

Source: www.spiritualsatanist.com
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