History Witch: Uncovering Magical Antiquity

Want to know about real magic from history? This is the place. Here we explore primary texts and historical accounts from the past.

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Get Charming

Posted by on in Studies Blogs

I'm teaching a course this semester called 'Witches, Healers & Saints' mostly so I could teach a lot about witches. One of the themes developing in all my courses is how the few people with power often abuse it (honestly, it's always been there -- I'm just making it more overt now), but a major theme in this class is magic as technology.

My aim is to get away from the modern impulse to see magic only as 'superstition'; our belief in our superiority to the past causes us to dismiss too many things. If you think of magic as the best knowledge available at the time about some very mysterious things, it's easier to understand the role it played. I'm introducing the students to sympathetic magic and the power of charms (like the Anglo-Saxon Charm for Bees or the Charm against a Wen).

I think they're getting it more, but what worked the best was making them write their own charms. I told them to come up with charms for the problems they dealt with frequently. They needed a verse to repeat, any items of sympathetic magic and any necessary herbs or other 'medicines' that would be effective.

Some of the results were hilarious: charms to fix broken wifi (' let the bandwidth flow freely'), against procrastination, for removing a bad tattoo, for getting good grades or to grow a money tree. One pair came up with a charm to assuage the regrets of a night of overindulgence which included a recipe:

1 cup blue gatorade
1 dash regret
1 cup starbucks coffee
200 mg ibuprofen

A few groups developed charms for sleep; that deprivation seems to be widespread eternally amongst students (and faculty, too). There was a charm for debt, too. We have plenty of problems we'd like to charm away even today. Wield your words with care.

Image: XX. The Fruit of the Mandragora (Fructus Mandragora) from the Tacuinum of Vienna via Gode Cookery

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K. A. Laity is an all-purpose writer, medievalist, journalist, Fulbrighter, social media maven for Broad Universe, and author of ROOK CHANT: COLLECTED WRITINGS ON WITCHCRAFT & PAGANISM, DREAM BOOK, UNQUIET DREAMS, OWL STRETCHING, CHASTITY FLAME, PELZMANTEL, UNIKIRJA, and many more stories, essays, plays and short humour. Find out more at www.kalaity.com and find her on Facebook or Twitter.

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