Friday, November 23, 2007

Two fave collage divination decks

Top - Ishtar - from The Secret Dakini Oracle. Botton - The Magician - from Tarot Universal Dali.

I Love Collage Tarot

Ever since I saw Nik Douglas and Penny Slinger's "Secret Dakini Oracle Deck" I've had a penchant for divination cards (and anything else) done in collage. I really love Dada and Surrealist collage. Years ago my friends, The Ladies Benevolent Friendly Society, and I used to sit around making collage Tarot trumps on Friday nights, but these ones pictured here are from a later period, although still quite a few years ago from now. My pal Bill reminded me about Salvador Dali's collage Tarot, and I recalled that I actually own it - thanks for Louise's brother who got it in Spain - so now have dusted it off and am about to look over them again. Then of course there's the very glam "Voyager" Tarot that are also collage, very slick - I don't own them, but used to sort of gaze at them when I worked at Nigel Cooper's Tarot shop in St Kilda, "Mythical Moon". Bloody hell, today has been such a day of remembering stuff...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


These are my fembots. I made them for an exhibition we had in 2006, or maybe it was 2005... Anyway, I like dolls, I like collage, so these are collage dolls. They are made out of images of meat and machinery, and some other things like jewels, and Barbie dolls.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Sign of the Witch

My freind, David Waldron, has a new book out. See below:

The witch is a uniquely powerful image in Western society. It is a symbol alternately vilified, ridiculed and idealised by differing sectors of society and is a powerful symbol in Western mythology. This book traces the evolution of the modern representations of Witchcraft and Paganism from the popular imaginings of witchcraft in 16th-century England to their contemporary manifestations amongst neo-Pagan and Wiccan religious movements in America, Australia and Great Britain today. Tracing how this symbol is continually constructed and reconstructed by the neo-Pagan movement is indicative of broader social, political and cultural issues arising out of the interaction of Romantic and Enlightenment epistemes in Western society.

Central to this process is the locating of representations of witchcraft within the twin discourses of romanticism and enlightenment modernity. Beginning with the aftermath of the English witch hunting craze of the 17th century, the book examines how the witch transformed from a symbol of ridicule during the enlightenment to an idealised symbol of romantic rebellion which led to its systemic adoption by romantic religious and political movements. Along the path it examines the development of the neo-Pagan movement from 19th-century Romantic pagan revivals, to Gardner’s Wiccan movement, the sixties counter culture, the rise of eco-feminist neo-Paganism and the contemporary phenomena of “teen witches” and pop commercialization.

Monday, November 12, 2007

IO Pan!

I've always found this Pan image very interesting, it's very honest and to be expected in one way, rather confronting in another... I believe it is from the Naples Museum's 'erotic section' and comes from Pompeii.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Greco-Roman Witchcraft workshop notes

Australian Wiccan Conference 2007
Greco-Roman Witchcraft workshop notes

By Caroline Tully.

Part 1. Witch Sketches

No writings by witches themselves survive, dependant on literary depictions by male authors.
Greek Circe and Medea are the archetypal ancient Greek witches. They are both very ancient and developed in the early epics.

No early account of Medea survives but there is the Hellenistic “Argonautica” or story of Jason and the Argonauts by Apollonius of Rhodes – this may have derived from an older story.
Circe features prominently in Homer’s Odyssey (700 BCE) and hence is the first witch in Western literature.

Circe and Medea are not mortals, but solar goddesses. Circe is a daughter of the sun, Helios, and Medea is his granddaughter, daughter of Circe’s brother Aeetes. Later witches – like Simaetha – are mortal.

Both Circe and Medea have echoes of the predatory dawn Goddess, Eos, and of Aphrodite. Both are edge dwellers, Circe on the island of Aeaea and Medea at distant Colchis. Both are dangerous to men – beautiful but deadly.

Circe is depicted naked on vases – an ancient example of ritual nudity, or we should probably say magical nudity.

Circe, famous in Homer’s Odyssey for changing men into pigs – of course Circe does eventually send Odysseus to the Underworld, and pigs in Greek religion were sacred to Earth and Underworld deities.

Circe is also surrounded by wild animals – Potnia Theron, or Mistress of Animals. This quality while shared by Artemis is also shared by goddesses like Cybele, and by Aphrodite in the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite.
Female witches are always associated with plant drugs and the fine line between magic-medicine-and poison.

Roman While Greek witches were beautiful but deadly, Roman witches like Canidia, Sagana and Erichtho are depicted as horrible, ugly and old – and dangerous to men. They are mortal, but look like Furies, with matted hair entwined with snakes.

Roman witches are still involved in love magic, but are depicted by the poets such as Horace, Lucan and Apuleius as figures of ridicule and disgust.

They are still edge dwellers, but now in cemeteries, or foreign countries like Thessaly in northern Greece. Compare Shakespeare’s witches on the blasted heath.

The usual deity of Greco-Roman witchcraft is Hekate, but in Lucan’s depiction of Erichtho the deity becomes Seth-Typhon – a prototype of the Devil.


Part 2. Two Spells and Analysis

Spell 1. Simaetha’s erotic magic to recover the errant Delphis.

A literary depiction of a Greek Witch (Pharmakeutria) by a poet called Theocritus. It appears in his Idyll 2, and dates to the 270s BCE – the Hellenistic period. This spell is a Philtrokatadesmos [pl. Philtrokatadesmoi] = Literally a binding love spell. Philtron [pl. Philtra] = A magic spell that creates philia (affection) and Katadesmos [pl. Katadesmoi] = A binding spell, usually inscribed on a lead tablet and buried underground or deposited in an underground body of water like a well or spring. The reason I’m looking at this spell is because it is quite different from what modern practitioners – like us - may be used to both in regards to ingredients and also ethics. The spell also uses a particular magical tool – a wheel called the Iunx, a disk pierced by two holes, threaded with leather or string and whirled back and forth.


We begin with Simaetha instructing her slave girl Thestylis…

Where did I put my bay leaves? Fetch them Thestylis. Where are my love potions? Garland the bowl with crimson sheep’s wool, so that I may bind my dear man, who is unkind to me. The miserable man has not even visited me for eleven days, nor does he know whether I am alive or dead. Nor has he knocked at my door, the hateful one. Eros and Aphrodite have gone off, taking his flighty mind with them. I’ll go to Timagetus’s wrestling gym tomorrow to see him, and I’ll reproach him for his treatment of me. But now I will bind him with sacrifices. Moon, shine brightly. For I shall sing gently to you, goddess, and to chthonic Hecate, at whom even the dogs tremble as she comes across the tombs of the dead and the black blood. Welcome, frightful Hecate, and accompany me to the completion of my task. Render these drugs no less powerful than those of Circe, Medea and blonde Perimede.

Iunx, draw this man to my house.

First, barley-grains disintegrate in the fire. But sprinkle them on Thestylis. Poor woman, have you lost your mind? Sprinkle them, and while you do it say this: “I sprinkle the bones of Delphis.”

Iunx, draw this man to my house.

Delphis has caused me pain. I burn this bay leaf against Delphis. And as this bay leaf is set alight, crackles loudly in the flames, and quickly blazes up, leaving no ash for us to see, so may Delphis too shrivel his flesh in the flames.

Iunx, draw this man to my house.

Now I will sacrifice the bran. You, Artemis, could move even the admant in Hades and anything else difficult to shift. Thestylis, the dogs howl in the city. The goddess is at the crossroads. Sound the bronze as quickly as possible.

Iunx, draw this man to my house.

See, the sea is silent, silent the breezes. But the pain within my breast is not silent. I am ablaze over him who has made me a wretched, wicked, despicable nonvirgin, instead of a wife.

Iunx, draw this man to my house.

As I melt this wax doll with the help of the goddess, so may Delphis of Myndos at once be melted by love. And by the power of Aphrodite this bronze rhombos whirls around, so may he whirl round at my door.

Iunx, draw this man to my house.

Three times I libate, and three times, lady, I make this utterance. Whether a woman lies beside him or a man, may he forget the person as utterly as they say Theseus forgot fair-tressed Ariadne on Dia.

Iunx, draw this man to my house.

Hippomanes is a plant from Arcadia. All the swift mares and foals rave on the hills for it. May I see Delphis in this condition, and may he come to this house like a madman from his shining wrestling gym.

Iunx, draw this man to my house.

Delphis lost this bit of cloth from his cloak. I pluck it apart and cast it into the fierce fire. Oh, grievous Eros, why have you drunk all the black blood from my skin, sticking to me like some leech of the marsh?

Iunx, draw this man to my house.

I will powder a lizard and take him an evil drink tomorrow. Thestylis, take now these herbs and knead them above his threshold while it is still night, and say the while, in a mutter, “I knead the bones of Delphis.”

Iunx, draw this man to my house.


Spell Components

Although highly evocative, this portrait of a Greek witch at work is probably not entirely accurate. An actual ritual would most likely have had less components, whereas this depiction appears to weave several different love magic procedures together.

Firstly, the crimson sheep’s wool is apotropaic.

The archetypal Great Witches of Greek myth – Circe and Medea – are mentioned by Simaetha. Also Perimede, a variant of Medea. It would have been thought that the mentioning of them would help empower the spell, would associate the practitioner with these powerful sorceresses, and hence their power.

The bay leaf is apotropaic, also represents Delphis himself being burned up.

The sounding of the bronze, a gong, is also apotropaic – it was intended to deter ghosts and demons (who fear bronze and iron) who might be accompanying Hekate up from the Underworld.

Iunx / rhombos. The iunx was a wheel on a string that spun back and forth as you pulled and loosened the string. It was a tool for love magic. It may have originally derived from a bird called a Wryneck that was thought to be incredibly sexually lascivious and which could turn its head round in what looked like a circle – this was interpreted to be a sexual frenzy, but it was probably in fact intended to be a hostile display. Some authors think that the iunx consisted of this bird being tied to a wheel and tortured in place of the target of the spell, but it probably was not. It is more likely that the iunx was simply this wheel, alone. We’re not entirely sure how the iunx worked symbolically. It moved in two directions, not one, so it would not have been a case necessarily of the symbolism we might be familiar with such as a deosil movement attracting the spell’s target, because it also moved widdershins. It may have been intended to simply disorient and confuse the target. The Greeks looked on the state of “being in love” as being out of control.

Much of Simaetha’s magic is of a simple sympathetic nature - Delphis is to be consumed with a fiery passion for her, just as the barley, the bay leaf, the bran, wax and cloak fragment are burned or melted. The burning and melting is precisely the effect of the love Delphis himself had claimed to experience for Simaetha, and of Simaetha’s own love for Delphis. She is turning the tables on him, projecting her burning desire back on to him. (We’ll see this in the next spell).

The wax involved was probably moulded into poppet – or “Voodoo” doll.

Simaetha uses both erotic-attraction magic to bring Delphis back, and erotic-separation magic to make him forget any potential rival. She combines two projects: philia magic to retain the affection of her existing partner; and eros magic, the magic of sexual seduction. Some modern writers on ancient magic would say that philia magic was women’s magic and eros magic was men’s magic, however courtesans were known to use erotic magic, so this categorization is not stable.

Regarding the separation magic, in the stanza beginning “three times I libate” she uses an exhaustive-dichotomies phrase which we also see on curse tablets, “whether man or woman”. This was when you were not able to be precise, you tried to cover all bases.

The mention of Theseus and Ariadne is a historiola, a paradigmatic mini-narrative corresponding to the situation at hand. The mention of a mythical precedent was thought to effect in a like manner, your own spell. Common in healing spells from Egypt.

Hippomanes. A favourite love potion ingredient. Hippomanes means “horse-madness”. We don’t really know what it was, but there are four possibilities: 1. A herb – coltsfoot(?); 2. A growth on the forehead of the newborn foal; 3. A discharge secreted by the mare; 4. Stallion’s semen.

The fragment of Delphis’ clothing acts like a lock of his hair, or any other object that had been in close contact with him, would - as an Object Link. In Greek the Object Link was called the “Ousia” = “stuff” or “essence”. The burning of the cloth is also pars pro toto or “a part for the whole” magic. The operation effected on part of Delphis is magically transferred to the whole.

The kneading of the herbs to the accompanying statement that the bones of Delphis are being kneaded sounds violent, however it should not be taken literally. It seems that the symbolism used in Greek magic was more extreme than the results were expected to be. For example, in spells where a lead figurine’s head was turned right around and their legs bent upwards, the aim of the spell was simply to bind the target, not kill them. A figurine put in a coffin and dedicated to underworld deities wasn’t necessarily meant to die, but to be incapacitated in an activity. Did the Greeks think that spells had to be extreme in order to work at all? Simaetha is not trying to kill Delphis, just make him really uncomfortable. It should probably be assumed that the discomfort would stop when he returned to her.

The beloved’s threshold – thresholds in general - are significant places for the deposition of magical material directed at whoever lives in the house.

Delphis is to be attacked again with a love potion the next day containing powdered lizards - ever-popular magical ingredients. Here the proximity between love potions and poisons is evident.


So, there are several angles from which to investigate this spell. One of which is to compare it to modern Witchcraft theory and practice of love spells. Some say you shouldn’t even do love spells, but the ancient Greeks had no qualms about it. We can see that the tools, ingredients, methods and ethics different from what modern practitioner may be used to. Even the deity involved – Hekate – is not one we might associate with love magic. Comments?

Spell 2. A Lover’s Binding Spell. (3-4th century CE)

The text of this love spell from Egypt was written in Greek on a lead sheet and placed in a vase with a female figurine pierced with needles. It is both a binding spell and an agoge spell. Agoge designates an erotic spell that burns or tortures the victim (usually female) and thereby drives her out of her home and to the practitioner (usually male). In this spell the victim is Ptolemais, the practitioner is Sarapammon and the main deity is Antinous – a ghost, one of the untimely dead called aoroi. Antinous was the young lover of the Emperor Hadrian and drowned in the Nile. Other chthonic deities are mentioned as well as voces magicae, words that appear as nonsensical, but which designate names of powerful supernatural forces..


I entrust this binding spell to you chthonic gods, Pluto and Kore Persephone Ereschigal and Adonis also called Barbaritha and Hermes chthonian Thoth Phokensepseu Erektathou Misonktaik and Anoubis the powerful Pseriphtha, who holds the keys to Hades, and to you chthonic divine demons, the boys and girls prematurely dead, the young men and women, year after year, month after month, day after day, hour after hour, night after night; I conjure all the demons in this place to assist this demon Antinous. Rouse yourself for me and go to each place, to each neighborhood, to each house and bind Ptolemais whom Aias bore, the daughter of Horigenes, so that she should not be fucked, buggered, or should not give any pleasure to another man, except to me alone, Sarapammon, whom Area bore; and do not let her eat or drink nor resist nor go out nor find sleep except with me Sarapammon, whom Area bore. I conjure you, Antinous spirit of the dead, in the name of the Terrible and Fearsome, the name at whose sound the earth opens up, the name at whose sound the demons tremble in fear, the name at whose sound rivers and rocks burst asunder. I conjure you, Antinous spirit of the dead, by Barbaratham Cheloumbra Barouch Adonai and by Abrasax and by Iao Pakeptoth Pakebraoth Sabarbaphaei and by Marmararaouoth and by Marmarachtha Mamazagar. Do not disregard me, Antinous spirit of the dead, but rouse yourself for me and go to each neighborhood, to each house and bring me Ptolemais, whom Aias bore, the daughter of Horigenes; prevent her from eating, from drinking, until she comes to me, Sarapammon, whom Area bore, and do not allow her to accept the advances of any man other than me alone Sarapammon. Drag her by the hair, by the guts, until she does not reject me, Sarapammon, whom Area bore, and I have her, Ptolemais, whom Aias bore, the daughter of Horigenes, subject to me for the entire extent of my life, loving me, desiring me, telling me what she thinks. If you do this, I will release you.



In ancient Greece, intense desire was seen as a diseased state that was difficult to treat. Some interpreters of this particular spell have suggested it was intended to function as ‘therapy’ for the practitioner, who is obviously stricken with eros for Ptolemais. The theory being that through the performance of a psychodrama involving the creation and manipulation of an image - such as the bound and pierced female Louvre figurine - the practitioner would rid himself of the intensely disturbing feelings of desire he is experiencing. By mimicking motions that are masterful and dominant rather than weak and stricken by eros, he projects his feeling of helplessness and love-sickness onto his target. This results in a “table-turning” effect whereby the practitioner now assumes calm and masterful control and imagines the victim in the state of torment that he was previously in.

However, this assumes that the practitioner was not concerned with actual results – in this case the woman literally coming to him – merely in feeling better. I don’t think this is a satisfactory explanation. The ‘therapy’ interpretation of this spell assumes that the practitioner would be satisfied with simply acting out the ritual - that performing the ritual would be as good, emotionally, as having the real thing. This implies that the practitioner did not believe in magic as an effective tool to achieve material results, but as a form of psychotherapy where the goal is a change in one’s inner state. This is a case of projecting modern sensibilities onto the past.

What is more likely is that this spell was intended to achieve what its stated purpose was – to bring Ptolemais to Sarapammon. Instead of merely trying to exorcise his feelings of hopeless desire, the imagery of bondage and humiliation, signified that the practitioner did indeed want complete domination over the woman. Just as there is no cure for eros other than the beloved themselves, so is this state is now projected onto the victim - the torments will stop when she comes to the agent who is now in the masterful position of curative beloved.

Again, although the imagery looks violent, it was not intended to kill the target of the spell, but to make her extremely uncomfortable.


Empuron – In-the-fire spell, a type of agoge that burns herbs or ousia to force the victim out.

Sumplegma (pl. Sumplegmata) – An effigy of a couple entwined in erotic embrace.

Eros – love, desire.
Himeros – desire.
Pothos – painful longing.
Peitho – goddess of persuasion.

Further Reading: "Magic, Witchcraft and Ghosts in the Greek and Roman Worlds: A Sourcebook" By Daniel Ogden. (Oxford University Press. 2002).


According to Mary Greer's book "Women of the Golden Dawn: Rebels and Priestesses", members of the Order of the Golden Dawn - when they were trying to fill in the gaps of a ritual comprised mostly of historically-attested components - would scry to find the missing parts of the rite. I'm very interested in this and in anyone else who attempts contact with 'ancient ones' in order to obtain their advice on creating rituals.

The Great Rite

Went to the Gnostic Mass last night, played the role of the Deacon. All the congregation were new people. I thought it went well, generally, despite a teeny bit of unsureness on the part of people unused to the exact procedure. But that's ok. Regarding this photo: similar but different is the Wiccan 'Great Rite' - same meaning as the OTO Mass ie/ Tantric Sex, 0 = 2, going beyond sexual dualism, becoming the Great Hermaphrodite, piercing the veil....