Amorous Magic

Andrew Sullivan —  Nov 9 2013 @ 8:26pm

Christine Baumgarthuber looks back to when charms, elixirs, and hexes were an ordinary part of romantic life:

[L]ove charms were as often as not small, unassuming things — necklaces and rings and dish_lovemagic
small vials of unfamiliar powders. Many people favored love packets, which they could easily fashion and secret away. The Irish adorned theirs with suns and moons and magic squares. Into them they stuffed toenail pairings and underwear fragments. Amorous Turks similarly fashioned pouches to stuff with even stranger items: a man’s molar and a particular bone in the left wing of a hoopoe (the bird sent by Solomon to the Queen of Sheba), among other things. Under the pillows of pretty women these parcels would go, put there in the hope of stoking passion for the bearer.

Any increase in attraction as a consequence of such doo-dads likely owed more to common belief than occult forces. The objects of such charms and rituals certainly did complain of falling under their influence, blaming them for everything from disappointing marriages to illegitimate children. A dalliance had as its cause a strand of hair left on a pillow; an unexpected pregnancy, a lavender sachet. Such hexes people saw as matter-of-fact events. To disbelieve them they thought unwise.

(Image depicting love magic, c. 1470, via Wikimedia Commons)