Ancient Greek Binding Spells & Curse Tablets
A widespread form of baneful magick in ancient Greece (and beyond) involved inscribing lead / wax tablets and dolls with binding curses and depositing them in graves (especially of the untimely dead), cthonic sanctuaries, underground water sources, and places relevant to the target.
Some of these ancient defixiones, or katadesmoi, were rendered as inscriptions on pottery, papyri, or stone. Some also featured drawings of humans, animals, astrological symbols, and letters arranged in geometric shapes.
Literary devices such as repetition, pleonasm, metaphor, simile, personification, rhythmic phrasing, exaggerations, threats, promises, palindromes, backwards writing, and mystical words (such as ephesia grammata) were also employed.
There are three distinct ancient Greek binding spell formulae, listed below. They have been employed individualy and in tandem on the same tablets, generally as a defensive form of magick, restraining:
- Athletes & Performers
- Legal Opponents
When the intentions were baneful, they included:
- Memory Loss
- Mental Anguish
- Involuntary Celibacy
- Public Humiliation
- Loss of Family / Home
- Competitive Defeat
- Business Failure
- Legal Conviction
- Lack of Success
- Denial of Afterlife
Greek binding spells often appealed to Hermes, Hekate, Kore / Persephone, Hades, Gaia, Demeter (“and the gods with her”), Zeus, Kronos, the Erinyes / Furies, “all the gods and goddesses”, and “the holy goddess”.
Latin tablets featured addresses to Jupiter, Pluto, Nemesis, Mercury, the Manes, and water nymphs.
Throughout the ancient pagan Old World, Sulis (Minerva), Thoth, Seth, Osiris, IAO, Ereschigal, and secret diamones were also appealed to.
The resulting tablets could be accompanied with the target’s hair / clothing and / or spell pages from the PGM (Greek Magical Papyri). They were generally rolled or folded, and occasionally sealed with nails. It is unclear whether the sealing was intended to be binding, baneful, functional, or a combination of the three.
When figurines were used, they were crafted from lead, mud or wax. They have been found attached to spells on papyri and encased in miniature lead coffins with lead tablets. Some were meant to harm, some were used in binding love and sex spells. Common characteristics included:
- Hands tied behind back
- Nail mutilation
- Inscription of target’s name
These binding spells can easily be emulated (or modified) in modern practices of sorcery and witchcraft. If you decide to make a tablet / doll and deposit it, keep it eco-friendly!
Defixiones are a hallmark not just of ancient Greece, but of Antiquity and the Mediterranean. Over 1500 tablets have survived to present day.
May they inspire your own practice.
Direct Binding Formula
Automatic manipulation of the target and their body parts, using a first-person singular verb.
I bind ___.
Ancient Example: I bind Mnesithides and the tongue, work, and soul of Mnesithides.
A prayer addressed to deities, daemons, or underworld entities, asking that they bind the target.
I bind ___ before ___.
Optional: ____ , bind ____ !
Ancient Example: I register Ophelion before Hermes Cthonios. O Hermes Cthonios, Ophelion must be bound!
Similia Similbus Formula
A wish that the victim become similar to something that they are dissimilar too, using persuasive analogy.
As ____ is ____ , in the same way may ____ become ____.
Ancient Example: Just as these words are cold and backwards, so too many the words of Krates be cold and backwards.
Magika Hiera: Ancient Greek Magic & Religion (eds. Christopher Faraone & Dirk Obbink)
Curse Tablets and Binding Spells from the Ancient World (ed. John G. Gager)
Magic in the Ancient Greek World (Derek Collins)