Yesterday we talked about the Greek Magical Papyri . We saw what the term PGM stands for and what these Papyri really were. Today, we are going to be delving deeper into this subject. We all know and we have evidence in our hands which suggests that people did practice magic in the ancient world but I want us to delve a little deeper. I want us to examine those texts, compare their practices with ours. Did they practice magic the way we do today and if yes then how was that done? What did the ancient world think about magic? Okay, enough with my rambling now.
Today we are going to be talking about a curse . Yes, yes, a curse. An actual curse. People have been using curses since the dawn of time, as we all know. People still do that to this very day. But this curse is a little bit different . Let's take a look and keep things simple. This ancient curse is one of the earliest surviving Greek documents on papyrus from the land of Egypt . Dating from the late 4th century BC, it comes from the community of Ionian Greeks that was established at that time in Memphis. It is written in Greek by a woman named Artemisia .
~ So, what do we know so far? ~
Some woman named Artemisia wrote a curse on a papyrus in the 4th century BC (quite a long time ago).
But why did she do that? And whom did she curse? Who was this curse directed to? Here's this poor woman's story.
Artemisia had a husband and they had a daughter together. The little girl was around 12 years old when, unfortunately, she passed away. Now, her husband, this terrible father, refused to pay for the funeral and her burial goods. Let us keep in mind that a proper burial is everywhere important but nowhere more so than in Egypt. So Artemisia curses him and boy does he curse him bitterly. But who could blame the poor woman? So, in revenge Artemisia appeals to the God Oserapis that he may be given the same respect at his death as well as his parents.
- ~Let us now take a look at how she worded this curse. How was it written? Let's take a look.~
[O lord [Sarapis] and the gods who sit with [Sarapis] , Artemisia the daughter of Amasis [appeals] to you against the father of her daughter, who has deprived her of her funeral rights and burial. So ... he has not treated me and his children rightly, indeed he has treated me and his children wrongly] . That is how the curse begins. Basically, she begs the god to deny this man the solace of being buried by his children in turn, and for good measure that he fails to bury his own parents. She then curses the man who mistreated her roundly: may he and what is his be destroyed evilly on land and on sea by [Serapis] and the gods who sit in the House of [Serapis] . To ensure that the god hears her plea, she sensibly deposits the papyrus in the god's house, the Serapeum which existed at Memphis (and where it was found almost two millennia later(!!!)), along with a final angry demand:
While the appeal lies here, may the father of the young girl receive no favours at all from the gods.
Basically, the wording she uses is quite simple and I want us to focus on the fact that the papyrus was deposited in the god's house (Serapis') and it actually stayed there. Many curses up to this very day could be formed this way.
- Initially, the person who is writing the curse, in our case, that is Artemisia, calls on a deity.
- Then, she introduces herself to the deity.
- Then she presents her plea, request to the deity.
~But who was this Serapis ... god?~
Serapis was an invented god. He was a composite of several Egyptian and Hellenistic deities He was meant to form a bridge between the Greek and Egyptian religion in a new age in which their respective gods were bought face to face with each other, so that both Egyptians and Greeks could find union in a specific supreme entity. Basically, he is a combination of the god Osiris and Apis, hence [O] Serapis.
Finally, to sum up: this curse was actually very simple. It was written in a very simple way. The wording is also quite simple. Nothing elaborate. Artemisia only writes this curse and deposits it in Serapis' "house" and the curse remains there. Soon, we are going to be delving even deeper into the Greek Magical Papyri, and examine the rituals they describe, spells, processes, tools, and many aspects that would definitely fascinate anybody who practices Magic or not. So, stay tuned for more. ;)