marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

Magic, Witchcraft and Ghosts in the Greek and Roman Worlds

Magic, Witchcraft and Ghosts in the Greek and Roman Worlds: A Sourcebook by Daniel Ogden

A heavy book. It includes hundreds of translated passages from ancient sources about magic. They range all over.

At one extreme, there's a passage jeering at taking a certain name literally and one of the examples is that no one uses sea-skulls for divination; at the other extreme, there's texts prescribing spells, such as one to shut up an unsuitable skull (not giving the reason, though the commentary speculates that a skull, once used, might keep it up).

There are fictional accounts analyzed for what they reflect; rhetorical exercises such as one arguing that after a woman was condemned for witchcraft and burned only because another woman helped, that the woman who help should also be burned for witchcraft; actual court cases, where you had to argue against your knowing magic while showing enough knowledge of it to make the argument; and many other reflections of belief.

Themes can be traced through: erotic magic is considered evil; Thessalonian women are all witches; skulls are often used; it revolves around conjuring spirits both ghosts and (what we would call) demons (the ghosts often being called that in the texts); the attribution of magic to the Middle East; the syncretism, such that a spell can habitually combine Greek, Egyptian, and Jewish influences; drawing down the moon, and more.
Tags: history reviews: classical

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