Erotic Binding Charms


In addition to the curse tablets that were often used to achieve lustful goals, binding spells and formulas could also be written on materials such as papyrus or inscribed in gems. Some of these charms, especially those written on papyrus, feature d explicit instructions similar to those in the curse tablets. Since it was far more difficult to inscribe an elaborate text into a gemstone, erotic magical gems more often featured symbolic images, such as the lovers Ares and Aphrodite or Cupid and Psyche, along with a few magical words.[[1]] However, some gemstones do feature more verbose communications with the supernatural world. For example, an inscribed stone features the inscribed phrase "Bring Achillas son of Serapias to Dionysias, daughter of Serapias." Later, when the relationship evidently hit some rocky spots, Serapias had another phrase scratched into the stone: "Either bring him back or lay him low."[[2]]

As was the case with defixiones, papyrus and gemstone erotic amulets could involve spells of separation, as is demonstrated by a hematite in the collection of the British Museum. The front of this stone instructs, "Separate Hierakion.. . son of Serenilla, from Serenilla, daughter of Didyme" and on the reverse side states, "For the great god [magical names] commands it."[[3]] (Click here for a photograph of the gem.) Indeed, there are numer ous similarities between the erotic magic featured in such amulets and in curse tablets. Perhaps the chief difference, other than the material used and how it was handled, lies in the tendency of curse tablets to call upon underworld deities and the spir its of the dead, while gemstones and other amulets usually invoked the powers of gods and divinities associated with the world above.[[4]]