Following up last week's post on queer stuff in ancient Egypt, here's a fun thing I found in a book just a couple of days before I wrote that post! I was thumbing through a book on ancient Egyptian magic that was dropped from the course lit list after I'd already bought it when I stumbled upon a reference to this spell made in passing. Frustrated with this lack of information, I decided to look up the book used as source in the university library.
Thus I now present: a lesbian love spell from Graeco-Roman Egypt, third century BC.
By means of this corpse daemon inflame the heart, the liver, the spirit of Gorgonia, whom Nilogenia bore, with love and physical desire (philia) for Sophia, whom Isara bore. Constrain Gorgonia, whom Nilogenia bore, to cast herself into the bath-house for the sake of Sophia, whom Isara bore; and you, become a bath-woman. Burn, set on fire, inflame her soul, heart, liver, spirit with love for Sophia, whom Isara bore. Drive Gorgonia, whome Nilogenia bore, drive her, torment her body day and night, force her to rush forth from every place and every house, loving Sophia, whom Isara bore, she, surrendered like a slave, giving herself and all her possessions to her, because this is the command of the great god /iartana ouousio ipsenthanchochainchoueoch aeeioyo iartana ouousio ipsoenpeuthadei annoucheo aeeioyo/
The reference to this spell peaked my interest because proof of women loving women in antiquity, while certainly present (especially in Greco-Roman times), is a lot more scarce than evidence of homoerotic relationships between men. This spell was found in the Egyptian city of Hermopolis written in Greek on a small oval lead tablet. After making an offering, Sophia who commissioned the tablet would have been able to conjure and control a demon that would bring her object of desire to a bath-house in order to heat her up - literally, and subsequently metaphorically.
This tablet is not unique; other spell tablets have been found, and the language itself implies that this is a mass-produced product. The names are consistently in the wrong grammatical case in the original text, as the spell was probably pre-produced with blanks to fill in the names of the customer and the person to be cursed - usually, a man and a woman respectively.
A lot can be said about the strong, practically violent language used by men in love spells and how ideas of masculinity affected the ancients' view of women loving women as "female men"... but I need to make dinner now.
(The book btw is "Sex and Society in Graeco-Roman Egypt" by Dominic Montserrat.)
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