Ancient, magical spells of subjugation, love, and sex sounds like the opening lines to an adult fairy tale, but these steamy evildoings are also found on an 1,800-year-old ancient Egyptian “erotic binding spell.” Made by a woman named called Taromeway attempting to attract a man beyond her reach, named Kephalas, the sex spell depicts the Egyptian jackal-headed god Anubis shooting an arrow at a nude Kephalas who is illustrated with an enlarged penis and scrotum.
Since November 1924 the papyrus containing the ancient spell , which has never been translated until now, has been held in the collection of the University of Michigan. Robert Ritner, an Egyptology professor at the University of Chicago and Foy Scalf, the head of research archives at the University’s Oriental Institute have published their new study in the journal Göttinger Miszellen . According to a report on Live Science , it is suspected the papyrus was found at the Fayum area of Egypt, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) southwest of Cairo.
The sex spell includes an image of Anubis shooting an arrow at Kephalas. ( University of Michigan )
A Magic Device to Invoke Not Love, But Lust
The pair of researchers say the spell is written in Demotic, which is an Egyptian script derived from northern forms of hieratic used in the Nile Delta after Late Egyptian and preceding Coptic. The incantation specifically asks a ghost, “the noble spirit of the man of the necropolis,” to give Kephalas “anxiety at midday, evening, and at all time” until he seeks Taromeway in lustful desire. According to Dr. Ritner, his emphasized penis and scrotum are “the male organs she specifically wants to pursue her” and the arrow is a magical device to make Kephalas helplessly lustful for Taromeway.
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In Ancient Egypt a fundamental tenet of astrology was the belief that stars, sections of the sky and zodiacal constellations were governed by a ruling spirit or deity that influenced events on earth at certain times, depending on their positions in relation to the sun and its location in the sky. The erotic binding spell calls upon Kephalas to “traverse the northern constellation Ursa Major until he is wandering after [Taromeway] while there is no other woman on Earth whom he desires, as he madly pursues her.”
Part of the papyrus with the erotic binding spell. ( University of Michigan )
According to Alessandro Berio from the University of Pennsylvania in his 2014 paper ‘ The Celestial River: Identifying the Ancient Egyptian Constellations ,’ the stars comprising Ursa Major were a “major metaphor” in the religious and agricultural lives of both Predynastic and Dynastic Egyptians. Egyptian astronomers referred to the northern circumpolar constellations as “The Indestructibles,” perceived as portals to eternity and the afterlife, and Ursa Major was the circling cosmic bowl of the eternal stars which never set below the horizon.
A Priest and a Ghost Activated the Lust Spell
Ritner and Foy say Egyptian erotic binding spells were more commonly used by men seeking women and it is unclear why Taromeway lusted after Kephalas so badly, or whether she actually won him over, but they think Taromeway likely paid a priest to write the spell on her behalf. Once the magical trap had been composed, the papyrus was probably placed in a tomb where the “ghost” of the deceased was invoked to work the spell, said Ritner.
This new research come three years after Dr. Franco Maltomini of the University of Udine in Italy deciphered two papyri from Egypt dating to around the same time, 1,700 years ago, with one spell invoking the gods to “burn the heart of a woman until she loves the spell caster” and the other forcing a male to do “whatever the caster wants”, according to a 2016 CBS News report.
An Ancient Sex Spell, With No Strings Attached
Gnosticism was an ancient religion that incorporated elements of Christianity and according to a Live Science report, this 2016 deciphered “love spell” invoked several gnostic gods and instructs the spell caster to burn a series of offerings in the bathhouse and to write a spell on its walls. Maltomini translated the magical tome as:
“I adjure you, earth and waters, by the demon who dwells on you and (I adjure) the fortune of this bath so that, as you blaze and burn and flame, so burn her (the woman targeted) whom (the mother of the woman targeted) bore, until she comes to me…”
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After this, the spell names several Gnostic gods and an assembly of magical words says “Holy names, inflame in this way and burn the heart of her…” until she falls in love with the person casting the spell.
A lion-faced deity found on a Gnostic gem in Bernard de Montfaucon’s ‘L’antiquité expliquée et représentée en figures.’ ( Public Domain )
Where Taromeway’s sex spell to entrap Kephalas differs greatly from this 2016 translation is that there is no mention of enchanting his heart or dizzying his head with “love,” and her desired outcome is made very clear – to become the target of his “enlarged penis and scrotum”, with not a reference to any subsequent family. This, was a clear cut “business” deal with no strings attached.
Top Image: Ancient Egyptian Goddess. Credit: tk0920 / Adobe Stock
By Ashley Cowie