Magic in Ancient Greece: Necromancy, Curses, Love Spells, and Oracles

The magical traditions of ancient Greece encompassed spells, curse tablets, drugs, potions, poisons, amulets, and talismans. For many cultures of the past, there was a very fine line between magic, superstition, religion, and science. The ancient magicians were seen as symbols of wisdom, keepers of secrets, and masters of the arts, mathematics and science, particularly chemistry. Because magicians were believed to be individuals with access to supernatural powers, they were both feared and respected.

Spells and incantations had been used by the Egyptians for thousands of years and the Greeks carried this tradition forward, as evidenced by surviving Greek papyri containing magic records that date back to the 4th and 3rd century BC.

Amulets and Talismans

Amulets in ancient Greece were believed to have provided protection or the attraction of positive outcomes to situations or desires. These were worn around the neck or wrist of a person, or placed in physical locations, such as a house, to provide the same intended results. Commonly, Greek amulets were divided into two broad categories: talismans (which were believed to bring good luck) and phylacteries (which were intended for protection).

The materials used for talismans included bones, wood, stones and sometimes semi-precious gemstones. They could also be written on small pieces of papyrus or a metal sheet. They could be carried in a pouch or small container, or in small bags containing mixed herbs. And to complete the process, one had to invoke a god or goddess (usually Hecate), or multiple gods, and recite magical words of power.

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