Author: John G. Gager
Trade Paperback, 296 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: August 1999
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Curse Tablets and Binding Spells from The Ancient World, by John G. Gager, deals with the wide Mediterranean phenomenon of using defixiones: binding spells carved on lead tablets and usually buried in cemeteries.
The major part of the book deals with Greek and Roman defixiones, but there are examples (total of over a 100) from all over the Mediterranean including Syria, Palestine, Spain and France. There are even some examples from the temple to Sulis Minerva in Bath, England.
I really loved this book. First of all, it gives over a 100 examples of ancient binding spells. This provides a very interesting perspective into the social and religious life of people in ancient times.
It also shows how cultures and religions influenced each other. In one binding tablet you can find an appeal to Hermes and Persephone, Jewish mystical names, secret names of Egyptian Seth and some stuff in Latin.
I also got some practical ideas from it. Some of the spells formulas have been extremely inspiring.
But what I loved most about the book was the approach of the author regarding the use of these defixiones. There are quite lovely explanations of how magic worked in ancient times, and why. It's nice for a change to see a historian that doesn't dismiss magic, and instead tries to build a solid theory around it.
I have to say, that despite my enthusiasm, Curse Tablets and Binding Spells from The Ancient World is actually a "dry" academic book. But what I can I say, I am known for my affection for this kind of book. I sort of grew tired of all the "pagan-labeled" books and I'm moving further in my reading to more in-depth stuff. And honestly, if you're into the subject Mediterranean witchcraft/magic, this book is a treasure.
Reviewed by Loreley