Erotic magic, one of the prevalent forms of magic in the ancient world, appears regularly in surviving magical papyri, curse tablets and amulets, as well as literature going back to Homer. [] The usual goal of this form of magic was to compel the object of one's desires to reciprocate sexually, although some erotic spells did seek love and marriage rather than simple pleasures of the flesh.[] A common theme was that the target was meant to burn with desire and suffer from sleeplessness, and the only cure for these and other afflictions caused by the spell was to submit to the one who was behind the spell. Often such spells could be quite explicit, and provide a unique window into gender dynamics in the ancient world. Yet no matter how violent the texts of the spells were, the purpose was not to harm the target physically, but to attain control over the mind and soul, and thus the body. By no means were men the only ones who commissioned such spells. Several exist that feature women targeting men;[] in addition, a small selection of papyri from Egypt show other situations, including women pursuing other women and men attempting to acquire male lovers.[] In addition such to "attraction" spells, there were also spells of "separation," by means of which one might hope to cause the advances of a romantic rival to fail or have a philandering spouse end an affair.[]
While erotic magic was used to seduce, there was also aphrodisiacal magic, the aim of which was to enhance the sexual experience, make the man more virile, or even make it so that a woman's desires would be captivated by that man alone. Numerous natural items were believed to aid in this manner, and their use stemmed from folk traditions. The magical papyrus handbooks have preserved numerous folk practices for healing, but they also contain some very curious aphrodisiacal methods and love potions, among them some that involved smearing all sorts of vile substances on one's genitals.[] These recipes indicate yet again the lengths to which some would go in order to attract the opposite sex.
For a discussion about creating erotic magical gems according to the "Sword of Dardanos" recipe preserved in the magic papyri, Click here.