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Esther Eidinow

Abstract

This chapter covers the body of binding spells or defixiones dating from the 6th century BCE to the 8th century CE. It provides an overview of the major published collections of defixiones and discussions of six exemplary defixiones, as well as the significance of lead, the most common medium for defixiones. The chapter examines verbal and mythological characteristics of defixiones, such as simila similibus and committal formulae and invocations of the dead. Binding spells, it is argued, were never the exclusive province of expert scribes.

Series:

Esther Eidinow

Abstract

This chapter looks at magic as a discourse of suspicion, accusation, imagination, as well as deployments of ritual materials that arise in situations of social tension. The chapter first looks at individual cases of binding and curse rites – e.g., as efforts to gain supremacy in competitive circumstances or in response to the fraught nature of a particular social situation (theft, love, arena) – and the various social and psychological models that have been applied to them. Then the chapter turns to collective panics – resulting in, e.g., judicial proceedings – and the consequent efforts to define malfeasance (mageia?) and criminal nature (pharmakos?). Ultimately, the appearance of such discourses of suspicion, accusation, and protection demand our close examination of historical and social circumstances