on May 21, 2016
Fantasy spells. We see them all around us. Books, movies, websites, they are literally all over the place nowadays. Flying spells, invisibility spells, transformation spells. People have always been fascinated with the impossible, the unknown, the "supernatural" ( I really do not like this term but that is for an other post).
But wait a second. Is this whole "thing" a new concept?
So... should we just um... blame the Holywood and the movies and all that or is it something that's not new at all? Actually, no, it is not a new concept at all.
Today I am coming to you with a new papyrus, well, not that new but yeah you get the idea. Today we are going to look into the papyrus PGM1(232-262) , which has to do with an invisibility spell.
Now, now don't get all excited, it is not real.
The papyrus is, but it goes without saying that the spell is not. Let's take a deep breath and go back, back in time. Fourth or probably fifth century AC. Yes, AC. This papyrus is actually one of the "contemporary" papyri. Most papyri, at least the ones we have today in our hands, come from the 3rd century BCE (thank Egypt!). Let's take a look at it.
This time, I really want us to delve deeper into this very subject so I want us to actually see the papyrus. I want us to see what it looked or rather looks like, how it was written. I want us to examine the sigils on it, etc. Unfortunately, I could not find a picture of the papyrus online, so I uploaded my own. Please, if you wish, copy and paste this link on to your browser and let's take a careful look at it together.
Here's the link: http://tinyurl.com/j9u6xgj
Right. So what do we see here? What do *YOU* see?
It looks like... a page. And it actually is. OK, so we have a page in front of us with some... scribbles. On this papyrus, the writing is actually very sloppy. It's readable, but if you've ever studied ancient greek, it is definitely going to give you a headache and we don't want that. Alright, so a page, some... scribbles and a bunch of sigils or drawings on the bottom. This page, or rather this papyrus does not include only one spell, the one we are going to talk about briefly, but three. The first spell on the top of the papyrus is an invisibility spell. The second one is a spell to improve your memory (sorry guys but it's not a legit spell) and the third one is an invocation, I believe. Right, so let's see what this spell is all about and talk about this weird papyrus with these... odd spells.
Here I translate:
Tested disappearance. Great trick. Take an ape's eye or take an eye from someone dead who died violently and then grab some rose and rub those ingredients together along with some [...] oil. While you are doing this, recite this prayer: Rise up Demon from underneath, whatever I command you to do, I [you add your name here] , you shall obey me. Therefore, if you want to become invisible, annoint your forehead with the product [/result] of your ingredients after you've mixed them together and you shall be invisible for as long as you wish. However, if you want to be visible again, moving from the West towards the East, recite this phrase and you will be visible again. And the phrase is. Voces Magicae [Magical words: these are words the majority of which are incomprehensible to us today] Make me [name] visible to all humans, today, immediately, fast, it works very well.]
Some of you are probably thinking. What did I just read?
is this REALLy a magic spell coming from an ancient papyrus?!
Believe it or not, yes it is.
Now before you go around looking for apes or dead people who passed away in a violent way, let me stop you right there. Not all people who practice magic today practice the say way. Not all people who practice magic today have the same goals, or ethics, or morals.
What makes you think that that was different in the past? Of course there were charlatans in the past, as well. Of course there were people who deceived others, of course there were frauds, and the spell you just read is proof of that.
But where did this weird spell really come from?
You may be wondering. It is believed that it came from a spellbook, which is why there are 3 spells listed on this page (of the papyrus). Quite a few people who practiced magic back then (some of them were the 'real' deal if I may say so, some though were pretty much... frauds) would copy spells from different spellbooks that used to go around back then. What leads us to this conclusion? We have quite a few papyri today of such spells, and processes, rituals, etc that are almost identical to one another. There may be some slight changes but for the most part the spells are almost identical.
Now, the story probably went like this.
You would go to this particular magician to ask for a spell. The magician" would sell this spell to you and give you proper instructions on how to cast it properly but if you failed, that was your doing, that was your mistake. So, in our case, the spell is fake, the papyrus is real but the spell on it of -course- does not work.
To sum up, today we talked about a greek magical papyrus (PGMI 232-262) which contains three spells. We focused on the first spell right on the top of it which is an invisibility spell. The spell does not work and believe it or not... "fake" spells are not really a new concept at all -- probably the exact opposite judging from what we saw today.
Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this post. :)
1) University Notes: Papyrology I (141EE), 2014, DMT
2) Papyrology II, (EEAEF152), DMT
3) Fritz Graf, Magic in the Ancient World.
4) The papyrus you saw on this post is: PGM1 (232-262) from Papyri Grecae Magicae (PGM).