Magika Hiera. Ancient Greek Magic & Religion. Edited by Christopher A. Faraone and Dirk Obbink. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Pp. xiii, 298. ISBN 0-19-504450-9.
Reviewed by Gregory W. Dickerson, Bryn Mawr College.
All readers, from professional Hellenists to "Greekless" generalists curious to learn about the irresistibly intriguing world of the occult, will welcome the appearance of this uniformly useful and often stimulating collection of ten essays by established experts on practices and problems encountered in the broad sphere of Greek "magic." As a group, these chapters, each augmented by copious notes, are especially valuable in illuminating, by providing an extended context and some detailed analyses, the equally welcome publications which have recently made a rich store of evidence for Greek "magic" accessible to English readers, i.e., Luck's Arcana Mundi and the collection of Greek Magical Papyri in Translation edited by Betz. It must also be said, however, that this volume could have been made more useful still by imposition of greater consistency of format on its contributors. For example, special bibliographies of works most frequently cited, extremely helpful for readers wishing to pursue further a specific topic, are prefixed to the notes of the first four chapters but absent in the rest; cross-referencing between chapters dealing with identical issues and texts is surprisingly rare (there is no index of the principal ancient texts discussed for the reader to use as a substitute); and provision of the Greek, with careful English translation, of the texts and key terms studied, though laudably prevalent in the book as a whole, is by no means uniform throughout. (There is a somewhat curious inconsistency in the the editorial decision to translate Greek for readers, but not the German occasionally cited in the texts and notes of the book.) In addition, the sequence in which the ten contributions are presented (four chapters "devoted to newly found or reedited inscriptional material and to the subsequent refinement of categories and theories of historical development," followed by six chapters dealing with "specific ritual practices and procedures -- and with new definitions of ... religion and magic or science ... prompted by refinements in methodology" (p.vi) seriously disjoints a consecutive reading of the book for anyone led by its title to expect a systematic, linearly logical discussion of "Greek Magic and Religion." Chapters 1, 3, and 8, for example, closely related in both subject and argument, could be read far more profitably and easily as a connected group, and one, or all, of the efforts (Chapters 7,9 and 10) dealing directly with what almost all the contributors acknowledge to be the critical problem of definition confronted by modern attempts to distinguish magic from religion should most definitely have been situated at the start of the volume, especially since each author was urged by the editors "to ask whether the traditional dichotomy between magic and religion helped in any way to conceptualize the objective features of the evidence examined." [pp.vi-vii] This injunction seems, moreover, more than a bit odd, since, in the immediately preceding paragraph of their brief preface, the editors have explicitly admitted: "There cannot at present be said to exist anything approaching a consensus over the deployment and definition" of the terms 'magic' and 'religion,'" an assessment amply validated by what we find in the ten chapters to follow. What, then, is the "traditional [does not this word imply some sort of consensus?] dichotomy" against which the contributors, and readers, are supposed to bring to bear the specific texts and practices discussed throughout the book? In sum, the volume's title implies that "Greek Magic" is somehow legitimately separable from "Greek Religion," but it conspicuously fails to provide an initial demonstration to both its contributors and its readers of precisely how this line, at least for purposes of discussion, should be drawn. The result is a significant degree of "overkill" on this issue, with each of the contributors compelled to duplicate the efforts of his collaborators in demonstrating the inadequacy of any such "traditional dichotomy" when applied to to the specific material under study on each occasion. Some, however, treat this unquestionably important -- and interesting -- definition problem more fully and forcefully than others, as will be noted in the following comments on individual chapters.
Chapter 1, "The Agonistic Context of Early Greek Binding Spells," by Christopher A. Faraone.
Here co-editor F. sets out to "provide an analysis of the function and social context of the katadesmoi in early Greek society." (p.3) (The emphasis on "early" both here and in the chapter title is puzzling, since F. stresses in his opening paragraph that the earliest of these curses yet discovered belong to the 5th century B.C. and in fact proceeds to discuss many exx. dating to late Classical and Hellenistic times, not to mention one type (athletic) which does not originate until the 2nd-3rd c enturies A.D.) The chapter's first section (pp.4-10) is mainly devoted to the presentation of a tripartite typology of the spells employed on the more than 600 Greek defixiones so far made available for study (F. mentions that over 400 others still await publication): 1) "the direct binding formula, ... a performative utterance ... by which the defigens hopes to manipulate his victim ... 2) the prayer formula... to underworld deities ... that they accomplish the binding ...; 3) the ... similia similibus formula, ... a form of 'persuasive analogy,' ... a wish that the victim become similar to something which he or she is manifestly dissimilar." (p. 10) [Example: "Just as this lead/corpse/etc. is useless, so may person X be useless in respect to his Y."] Interspersed throughout this concise but uniformly interesting introduction to the language of these strange documents are descriptions of materials used, writing styles, and placement procedures, for which F. generally prefers "practical" rather than superstitious origins (e.g., lead was first used simply as convenient and cheap writing medium and retrograde writing was originally "accidental" as in many earlier Greek written documents, but both features over time became fixed in ritual usage as archaic oddities with magical powers of their own). Throughout this section, discussion of linguistic and ritual detail alike makes a persuasive case for the first of F.'s two major theses in this chapter: "Defixiones ... provide means of binding or restraining enemies without killing them." (ibid.) The demonstration that these curses, despite their invocation of chthonic forces, were, almost always, not murderous in intent, constitutes a valuable clarification of the role of these imprecations within Greek religion and society and certainly, by eliminating actual demise as the sole criterion for judging their success, helps explain the survival of reliance in their efficacy over so many centuries.
The chapter's second section, (pp. 10-17) is structured similarly to the first, beginning with a typology of the social contexts which seem to have generated "binding spells." F. divides them into four categories, commercial (e.g., attempts to invoke profit loss for rival workshops), competitive public performance (athletic and dramatic), judicial, and amatory with the last divided into two sub-types, of which one aims at separating a rival from the beloved and the other at inflaming reciprocal passion . (F. reasonably excludes the purely aphrodisiac spells from further discussion, noting that they lack the agonistic element which is his focus and that they are discussed by Winkler in a later chapter.) A number of interesting exx. of all four categories are discussed, with careful attention to issues of relative chronology, e.g., the puzzling fact that tablets attempting to hex athletic rivals do not occur before the 2nd century A.D., whereas those directed against rivals in theatrical performance are already underway in the Classical period. (F's suggestion [p.11] that Pelops' prayer to Poseidon for help in the race against Oenomaos in Pindar, O. I, 75-8 constitutes the earliest example of athletic defixio is not convincing, given the absence of any reference to chthonic divinity or accompanying ritual action.) Judicial curses are persuasively argued to be attempts to gain an advantage during the actual legal proceedings, rather than "posttrial" exercises in revenge by unsuccessful litigants, as some have argued. (F.'s n. 67, succinctly outlining this scholarly dispute over this issue is a good example of the rich store of information provided in the ample notes to this chapter.) F. rightly stresses the powerful appeal of such supernatural intervention within a legal system requiring all litigants to do their own pleading before the jury. (p. 15) The best effort of a Lysias could, after all, be thwarted by an uncanny case of stage fright or memory lapse. As a whole, the detailed discussion in this segment lends convincing support to F.'s second major thesis: that these spells, in which political as well as professional rivalries may often be involved, originate out of the agonistic element long recognized as permeating Greek society.
In his "Conclusions," F. provides some judicious demonstration of the perilous subjectivity, at least when applied to binding spells, of the "piety vs. superstition / religion vs. magic" dichotomy which dominates much of the earlier scholarship on his topic. (Nabers' claim to find such a distinction in the six Morgantina lead tablets receives a convincing refutation here [p. 19]: "Whether the prayer is benevolent or malevolent is immaterial to the pious belief that the gods addressed can and will do what they are asked provided they are approached in a ritually correct manner.") As an alternative to "shame" (considered by some as a criterion for differentiating [black] magic from "religious" practice) as the explanation for the secrecy and anonymity which characterizes the placement and authorship of these spells, F. suggests practical motives. The need to prevent discovery from prompting ritual countermeasures explains the burying in taboo areas. Much less cogent is the suggestion that difference in social or political status motivates the anonymity. (Self-protection seems an obvious and much more compelling reason for concealed identity.) This approach has value as a corrective to an assuredly simplistic view that all or even most practitioners of these rites observed secrecy to conceal activities felt to be disreputable, but it is itself a bit simplistic in failing to note the existence of evidence clearly showing that intense moral disquiet could, at least occasionally, be generated by such actions , e.g., the intense ambivalence about the ethics of agonistic amatory spellbinding expressed by Sophocles' Deianeira in Trachiniae.
Chapter 2, "'Cursed be he that moves my bones'," by J. H. M. Strubbe.
Choosing a line from Shakespeare's epitaph for his title, S. here provides a study of funerary imprecations (i.e., those directed against potential tomb violators) found in Greek epitaphs of Asia Minor. These are classified into two types, "specific" and "non-specific," depending on whether or not the [supernatural] punishments involved are made explicit. (S.'s terminology here is a bit confusing, since his exx. of the "non-specific" group, with which he begins, frequently contain very "specific" fines to be paid to the city by violators. Hence my insertion, in brackets, of "supernatural" as an essential qualifying adjective.) Latte's claim that the first type is "religious" and Anatolian in origin, whereas the second reflects Greek "magic," is convincingly argued to be arbitrary, and a brief but somewhat rambling discussion of the non-specific type is provided (pp. 33-6) before addressing examples of the specific group (the ca. 350 exx. extant were closely studied in S.'s 1983 doctoral dissertation), which serves as the focus of all that follows. S. first notes (pp. 37-41) that the general practice of protection through imprecation was common throughout Greece as well as in Anatolia and the Near East in ancient times, whereas funerary imprecations "are very rarely [only twenty exx., and of these only two prior to the imperial period] used ... in the Greek world outside of Asia Minor." (p. 38) As the cause of this phenomenon, S. reasonably suggests the "oriental tradition" of such curses, already attested in 11th century Phoenicia, with the first Greek exx. occurring in 4th century Lydia, although they do not become numerous until imperial times. The eastern tradition itself is reasonably linked with the oriental habit of viewing the tomb as a house, a permanent residence for the corpse, an idea alien to the conventional views of death prevailing in Greece proper. The following section, "The Power of Words" (pp. 41-5), presents an amalgam of miscellaneous observations on fairly familiar characteristics of curses in general without any conspicuous specific relevance to funerary imprecations per se, e.g., rhetorical devices (anaphora, metre, triplets), accompanying gestures, and scope (extension to cover the entire oikos and genos of the victim). The discussion of the spear ritual associated with some of S.'s Lydian exx., by contrast, provides more interesting, because less familiar, food for thought. The chapter concludes with a brief and somewhat superficial look at "Funerary Imprecations and the Gods" (pp.45-7).
Here S. first notes that approximately thirty divinities are addressed in these documents, with hoi katachthonioi, the lunar gods, and Helios being the most frequently invoked, and then proceeds to suggest some fairly self-evident motivations for the practice, e.g., (p.46): "The gods may have been chosen because the Greeks were convinced that the gods punished all crimes."
In general, then, though this chapter contains some information of considerable intrinsic interest, the discussion is somewhat diffuse, symptomatic, perhaps, of an effort to include too many facets of the argument developed within the more expansive framework of the author's doctoral dissertation on this subject.
Chapter 3, "Beyond Cursing: The Appeal to Justice in Judicial Prayers," by H. S. Versnel.
In this masterfully constructed contribution, V. presents a uniformly compelling discussion of inscriptions on lead (and occasionally on other materials), Latin as well as Greek, which, though they share some features of the defixiones discussed in the first chapter of the book, nonetheless also differ from them in purpose, placement, tone and content in such striking ways that they must clearly be assigned to a special category, "judicial prayers," in order to distinguish them from the "judicial curses" previously discussed by Faraone. Whereas F.'s exx. were anonymously authored, coercive in spirit, universally indifferent to any issues of "justice," secretly placed, and closely associated with chthonic powers, the authors of V.'s prayers frequently identify themselves, adopt a much humbler, supplicant posture, specify the wrong for which they are seeking redress, often make their pleas public, and address Olympian as well as underworld deities. They also occasionally imply embarrassment at being forced to resort to "magic." (V. explicitly rejects F's view that use of defixiones was morally and socially acceptable in antiquity, discerning in their characteristic anonymity evidence of a "double standard of morality," still operative in modern Mediterranean societies, permitting strictly private resort to publicly condemned stratagems for personal advantage, "There can be little doubt that...social abhorrence is the main reason why people did not add their signatures to what must be unconditionally labeled as an instrument of black magic." [p.63]
V. begins with exx. from "The Border Area" (pp. 64-8), i.e., those in which elements of curse (e.g., first person verbs like katagrapho and katadeo) coexist with those of prayer for justice (e.g., reference to wrongful treatment suffered and dike-related vocabulary), concluding with a tablet from Delos which responds to the theft of a necklace by a curse on one side and by a prayer on the other, so providing an ideal transition to the consideration of the unadulterated form in the following subsection, "The Prayer for Justice" (pp. 68-75). Here coercive elements are absent, and the responsibility for securing revenge for irreparable harm or redress of wrongful action is humbly ceded to divinity by the injured parties. The appeals for redress cited by V. are particularly interesting. Victims of theft "consecrate" to the divinity sometimes the perpetrator (whether already known or still to be identified), and sometimes the stolen article itself, urging the god to torment the culprit until a public confession is made and the lost property restored, whether to the victim or to the god not always being clear. (Here, as on other uncertainties, V. has much of value to suggest about the possibilities.) Reference to the occasional requests for confession leads smoothly to a discussion of the "confession inscriptions" (pp. 75-9) erected in Anatolia during the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D., eloquent testaments to the perceived effectiveness of the gods in bringing hidden wrongdoers to light and repentance. Here exposed culprits, including practitioners of black magic (further evidence that at least some of the supernatural manipulation reflected in the defixiones was not, in fact, sanctioned by society at large), confess their crime, praise the god who has compelled the confession by infliction of illness, accident or the like, and profess their wonder at his power. In one case the confessing culprit makes explicit reference to a document (pittakion), provided by the man he has slandeed, which apparently precipitated the punishment inflicted by god and so provides close and illuminating analogues to the judicial prayers previously discussed. V.'s "Conclusions from the Greek Material" (pp.79-81) succinctly summarize the results of the argument up to this point and persuasively suggest that though clearly there was no uniformity of practice with regard to the degree of secrecy maintained by the authors of these prayers for justice, "the most obvious... procedure may be that the injured party first tries to draw a confession from the suspected culprits and then tells them explicitly that he is making a higher appeal to the gods." This, suggests V. would likely be enough to compel the culprit "to reconsider his deeds, especially when shortly thereafter he does not feel perfectly healthy." (p.81) Next, the results of this intriguing investigation of the Greek documents are applied to a fresh look at a group of Latin "curse tablets," many of them discovered in Britain, which until now have been loosely categorized as defixiones despite a variety of enigmatically anomalous features. Noting that Seneca reported the submission of libelli involving legal cases to the Capitoline Triad, V. masterfully dispels the obscurity of the anomalies by establishing incontrovertible parallels with the language, tone, and procedures characteristic of the Greek prayers for justice just discussed (e.g., consecration of missing property to the divinities, prayers for visitation of disease to prompt restitution by the culprit), so revealing the Latin texts to be prayers for justice as well. (In the course of this illuminating discussion, V. provides some convincing new readings of some of the problematic Latin texts and suggests some important alternatives to prior translations of certain words, e.g., [pp. 84-7] the recurrent phrase sanguine suo, which Egger had intepreted as "in person," but which V. here decisively demonstrates to mean "with his own blood / life.") At the end (pp. 90-3), V. finds the similarities between his hellenistic Greek exx. and his 3rd-4th century A.D. British exx. too numerous and too close to be explained by "spontaneous generation," and prefers to see the practice brought to England from regions further east by Roman soldiers. The attempt to "legitimize" the appeal for supernatural retaliation by reference to wrong done is reaffirmed as "the essential criterion" for differentiating true judicial prayer from true defixio, and both are claimed to be "the two opposites on the extreme ends of a whole spectrum of more or less hybrid forms" connecting the realms of "religion" and "magic." (p.92) Finally, V. presents as "perhaps the most interesting" aspect of his study the fact that "'manipulative' aspects predominate in the traditional defixiones found in Greece proper, whereas we find supplicative elements in areas where Greek culture was imported at a later period," reflecting the "strongly monarchical ideology" which had previously prevailed in these regions. (p.93)
Chapter 4, "Incantations and Prayers for Salvation on Inscribed Greek Amulets," by Roy Kotansky.
Here, after some helpful introductory remarks on matters of definition (e.g., an "amulet" [periapto] is "attached" to a person as remedy for medical complaint; a "phylactery" protects from impending calamity or plague) and a brief review of antecedents (curative amulets cited by Homer and Pindar; amulet to be accompanied by oral incantation first in Plato), K. focuses first (pp. 110-2) on the extremely scanty evidence for inscribed exx. from the Classical period, with some interesting remarks on the apotropaic use, written and oral, of the Ephesia grammata, mystic letters inscribed on the cult statue of Artemis at Ephesus. Here K.'s failure to provide more than a few disconnected elements of "the rather long text" of the one ex. of the actual use of these symbols during this period (a 4th century B.C. phylactery from Crete) is especially disappointing and a conspicuous departure from the generosity of the extensive citations provided by most of the contributors to the book. Discussion of the much more numerous exx. from the Roman Empire begins (pp.112-3) with remarks on some antecedents of the incantations inscribed on the amulets of these times (e.g., hariolae, short stories recounting mythological themes that sympathetically persuade the sufferer's illness to cease, as in the Philinna Papyrus of the 1st century B.C. [P.G.M. XX]), and introduces the gold and silver lamellae studied in K.'s 1988 doctoral dissertation (pp. 113-6). Here the well-known "Orphic" exx., generally buried unfolded with corpses, are presented as prototypes, and a plausible case made that three of them, showing signs of having at some time been folded up to carry, may have actually been used by the the living as phylacteries proper. Here again failure to provide complete texts and translations of any of the exx. cited, Orphic or otherwise, will certainly frustrate readers desiring to gain a sense of the essential flavor of these documents. Next (116-9), a subsection noticeably failing to deliver what its subtitle promises, "The Social Context" of these documents. Instead we are informed simply of the categories of ailments addressed by these amulets, e.g., headache, eye-ache, swelling, epilepsy, and -- perhaps -- gout. (K., p. 118, neatly connects a late literary prescription, instructing a gout sufferer to write, on tin, a curious combination of Greek with gobbledy-gook [chentima (?) tephêken (??) tephra glukaine], with a terse, four-word inscription found on a gold lamella: CHENTEMMA, TEPHREICHEN, TEPHRAIS [., BLU[... Similarly, the only Homeric verse found on K's exx. (Iliad 2.95) is also found, in still another late literary source, prescribed for lamella use against gout. Noting that the Homeric line begins with the verb tetrêchei, a noticeable sound-alike for the nonsensical tephêken and TEPHREICHEN, I wonder whether there may be traces of the magical use of the same Homeric line there as well.) From exx. of this "hocus-pocus" approach, K. turns to amulets inscribed with coherent "prayers for protection" addressed to divinities. (119-22) Here K. provides mostly exx. of simple commands to gods to take apotropaic or protective action, concluding with a demonstration that here, too, as in the case of Faraone's defixiones, the demarcation between spheres of coercive "magic" and pious "religion" is "difficult-if-not-impossible to draw." (p. 122)
Though useful as a very general introduction to amulet usage in antiquity, and here and there enlivened by some memorable eccentricities of ancient magic (e.g., p. 110, Lucian's reference to a gout cure necessitating combination of incantation with ligature of a fragment of a deceased virgin's tombstone to the patient's foot !), the value of this chapter is significantly diminished by the noted paucity of actual texts cited in any detail, and it occasionally suffers from the same sense of aggregated dissertation detail already detected in Strubbe's contribution. Proofreading lapses, extremely rare in the book as a whole, are evident in at least three places: the indication of note 37, which seems to deal with the Greek term for migraine, is confusingly placed at the end of p.112 rather than after the word (hêmikranion) at the top of the next page; there is a stray macron intruding over the word epôidh in the middle of p. 113; "foriegn" has escaped editorial notice in n. 60, p. 132. The failure, on p. 118, to provide the dubious chentima with an accent may well be supported by ms. authority; if so, the donation of an accent to the equally unintelligible tephêken seems odd.
Chapter 5, "The Pharmacology of Sacred Plants and Roots," by John Scarborough.
Historians of science and students of Theophrastus will find this often rambling and repetitive chapter more satisfying than will those seeking detailed instruction about the specific functions of a wide variety of plants within Greek "magical" usage.
S. begins (pp.139-42) with a survey of the Homeric treatment of pharmaka, important in its basic differentiation of "good" from "bad" drugs, and in its concern with the specific properties of various plants, e.g., the notorious molu and Helen's Egyptian tranquilizer in the Odyssey, the latter here rather tenuously identified with opium on the basis of Homer's supposed reference to poppy juice as poppy "fruit" at Iliad VIII, 306-7. (S. here, as often, frustratingly fails to provide the reader with the Greek text of the passage adduced as evidence.) There follows some, to this reader, at least, fairly obscure general discussion of early Greek medicine, which is argued to be characterized by a theoretical fusion of "natural" and supernatural causation, precipitating a combination of "theurgy" with the "practical application of drugs" in the attempts at remedy. In the presentation of the "murky" evidence for herbalist concerns in the period between Homer and Theophrastus (pp.142-5) Musaeus, early Orphics, and Pindar are singled out, though the latter does not, as S. claims on p. 143, specify herbal amulets in the passage cited, P. III, 51-3. (Kotansky's chapter has just made it clear that all pharmaka are not of an herbal nature.) The magical practices recorded in Athenian drama are said to demonstrate that the audience must be familiar with such practices in real life, a claim that may apply to the exx. singled out here (root-cutting procedures described in a fragment of Sophocles Rhizotomoi and Aristophanic allusions to herbal contraceptives in Peace and Lysistrata), but fails to account for the clearly fantastic magical procedures imagined in the poetry of Euripides' Medea and Sophocles' Trachiniae. Discussion of the Aristophanic exx. centers on pennyroyal (blêchôn), which is first acknowledged to have general mythological associations with "birthing," apparently on the basis of its role as a constituent of the Eleusinian kukeôn, and then said to be a pharmacologically effective abortient familiar to all 5th century Athenians. (p.145) No attempt is made to explain this remarkably paradoxical usage (and, most surprisingly in a chapter devoted to "pharmacology," the discussion of the Eleusinian kukeôn is abruptly dropped without a hint of allusion to other discussions of its "active ingredients," e.g., the ergot theory proposed by Wasson and Hofmann). In what follows, the discussion rambles noticeably and sometimes fails to pinpoint the nature and location of evidence cited. (To cite only two out of several exx., S. extensively discusses "squill" without ever providing the Greek word conventionally so translated, and on p. 150 quotes Theophrastus on use of prayer by root-cutters without any reference to source.) Here S. has much more to say about the attitudes towards botanical folklore and herbal magic discernible in the writings of ancient scholars (a characteristically "grand and opaque jumble of opinions" mingling strict empiricism with religion and magic, p. 150) than about magical pharmacology as actually practiced. After a mini-history of the development of pharmacology from folklore into empirical science, beginning with Theophrastus' "muddled" definition of "herb" and culminating in praise of Dioscorides' "brilliance" in the field (pp. 151-4), comes an interesting introduction to"hermetic" pharmacology, in which astrological beliefs are employed to validate the powers of various herbs, with a full translation (but again, no Greek text) of an intriguing recipe for the use of chicory in manufacturing tablets to cure digestive disorders. (p. 156) Here, and in the following section on the magical papyri (pp. 156-61), S. finally focuses closely (except for the conspicuously repetitive and irrelevant excursus on magical use of magnets on pp. 158f.) on the "popular" usage of herbs in combination with a farrago of often revolting other ingredients (e.g., the nasal mucous of a cow, p. 158) for such purposes as contraception, and provides (pp. 159f.), though again only in translation, a fascinating papyrus text explaining code names used for various herbs in magical recipes (e.g., "tears of a Hamadryas baboon" = "dill juice").
Chapter 6, "Dreams and Divination in Magical Ritual," by Samson Eitrem.
Here, after a brief introduction from Fritz Graf courteously detailing Eitrem's impressive achievements as philologist and scholar of ancient religion (pp. 175f.), we are presented with a translation (by co-editor Obbink) of two very brief chapters from the monumental (over 700 pages) manuscript, Magie und Mantik der Griechen und Römer, left still unfinished by E. at the time of his death in 1967. The excerpts selected focus clearly and concisely on two specific types of magic, solicitation of revelatory dreams for oneself (oneiraitêta) and transmission of dreams to others by oneiropompia. Both procedures are clarified with succinct but memorable exx. of the rites prescribed, e.g. (p. 180), the use of a "'violently slain' (drowned?) tomcat" and a hippotamos doll. All readers will appreciate the economy with which these interesting rites are illuminated. For obvious reasons no response to the editorial injunction to discuss the religion/magic dichotomy is to be found in these pages. Two minor editorial oversights should perhaps be mentioned. Note 69, in directing the reader to the "Preface" for an explanation of the chapter's "abrupt ending," seems to point to the volume Preface (v-vii), but nothing about this matter is to be found there. The promised explanation seems instead to be situated in Graf's introductory remarks, identified as "a preface" solely in an almost invisible sentence prefixed to the chapter notes on p. 182. Second, in the "updating" of the notes (by whom is not made clear) acknowledged on p. 176, no effort has been made to indicate the extent of additions by use of square brackets or the like.
Chapter 7, "Prayer in Magic and Religious Ritual," by Fritz Graf.
Here, too, we find laudable clarity and control of exposition.
G., reasonably adopting Frazer's familiar thesis that magic "constrains," whereas religion "meekly submits" as the "traditional dichotomy" decreed by the editors as a context for these discussions, selects prayer as his focus of interest "because it was, and still is, regarded as the quintessence of religion," noting at the outset that its "occurrence in a magical context is liable to pose some problems to those who support the traditional dichotomy." (p.188) These occurrences are systematically discussed, beginning with examples of vocabulary of prayer (euchê and its cognates) in the magical papyri, and proceeding to occurrences of traditionally tripartite prayer structure (invocation, narrative / proof of credentials, wish). Ample and illuminating exx. are provided, first in Greek and then in translation. (There is a perplexing lapse in the practice of this procedure on p. 191f., where extensive segments of PGM VIII are cited only in Greek. Though the full text and translation of the document is provided in G.'s Appendix of principal texts discussed, the Greekless reader will be helpless in his search to find in the translation there the specific Greek passages singled out for comment here. The converse lapse in bilingual citation, English but no Greek, found in a brief citation of PGM VII 756 on p. 192, is of minor consequence, since Hellenists can easily locate the relevant Greek in the Appendix.) After demonstrating that "magical prayer in general structure, content, and context is not different from religious prayer" (p.191), G. discusses two points in which the former differs from the latter: the use of voces magicae (e.g., unintelligible names and palindromes) and the distinctive materia magica employed in harmful rituals (e.g., p.196, "dog embryo" and "bloody discharge of a virgin dead untimely"). Magical naming is seen as "a demonstration of the superior knowledge the magician can display" (p.192), hence a useful technique for establishing "credentials" in prayer, just as a magician's appropriation of the legomena of mystery rituals served primarily to "prove his special relationship with, and intimate knowledge of, the Lady of the Dead." (p. 197) After constructing a compelling demonstration of his principal thesis (p. 194, "religion and magic, at least with regard to prayer, are coterminous"), G. concludes with a number of interesting suggestions about the function of various elements of occult ritual (e.g., holocaust, absence of communal meal, and sacrificial surrender of salt and fertile soil, both essential to human culture) in establishing a contrast with conventional "public," Olympian cult practice, so marking the essential "privacy" characteristic of ritual magic. (The notion that surrender by ritual signifies rejection in the case of the salt and soil seems odd and in need of supporting discussion.) As already noted, at the end the reader is rewarded with the generous dividend of an Appendix (pp. 198-206) containing the complete texts and translations of documents illustrating major points made in the chapter. The sole typographical lapse to catch this reader's eye in these pages is a failure to indent the paragraph which begins at the bottom of p.196.
Chapter 8, "The Constraints of Eros," by the late John J. Winkler.
W.'s contribution here is of such high quality that it alone would justify the purchase price of the book, were it not for the fact that it reproduces essentially verbatim what was already available as the third chapter of his similarly titled book (Constraints of Desire, Routledge, 1990) at the time the volume under review was published (1991). The reasons for this redundancy of publication are no doubt connected with the untimely death of this brilliant scholar, but it is odd that the editors do not allude to the co-existence of the duplicate version in their Preface (dated May, 1990), whereas W., on p. viif. of the Preface to his book, carefully noted that his chapter would reappear here in "abridged" form. (In fact, the version printed in this collection has not been abridged at all.) This proviso aside, wherever the reader chooses to peruse this spritely and engrossing psycho-social analysis of ancient aphrodisiac rituals, he will find himself richly rewarded.
W.'s objectives are three: to demonstrate that the ordinary ancient "technologies for managing eros" are "relatively unproblematic" when properly placed in their social and cultural context (p.215); to "explore the twilit world of agôgai rituals designed to lead a desired person to one's house and bed (pp.215f.); and finally, to explore the implications of a "tiny but deeply disquieting terra-cotta statuette in the Louvre..., a woman on her knees, hands behind her back, pierced with thirteen nails " (p.230). (Though nowhere explicitly so noted by W. or the co-editors, it is this remarkable and eloquent object which is reproduced on the book's jacket. It is lamentable that this, the one illustration provided for the collection, will not be available to readers of library copies. The value of this volume, it should be added here, could have been significantly enhanced by the inclusion of a few plates illustrating the types of objects analyzed, lamellae, defixiones, magical papyri etc.) In pursuing the first objective, W., using modern as well as ancient evidence for the social pressures precipitating the practice of erotic magic in the interfamilial competition characteristic of Greek culture (eristic preoccupation with family honor and shame as gained through success and failure of strategically motivated marriages), creates a detailed and powerful picture of the many ways in which women and, occasionally, uncooperative sons were manipulated for competitive purposes. (pp. 216-8) Similar desire for purely competitive advantage in the larger context of public and political life is revealed in "charismatic" magic (charitêsion), ritual pursuit, by males, of the charm (charis) and "sexiness" (epaphrodia) which will facilitate success within society at large. (pp. 218-20) Colorful exx. of "erotic pharmacology" are provided (e.g., penis and tail of lizard, crane brain), and the symposium is plausibly adduced as "one of the central institutions for promoting and sharing such know ledge." (pp.220f.) (W. here joins co-contributor Scarborough [Chapter 5] in emphasizing that the evidence of actual magical practice in antiquity, where men are almost always the initiators, reveals the stereotypical image of woman as arch-magician, so widespread in Greek legend and literature, to be a self-projected image of anxious male imaginations.)
In his discussion of the agôgai (pp.222ff.), after noting that the eros in question is a force far more terrifying, violent and dangerous than anything we call "love", but rather "an involuntary attraction felt as an invasion," which "confounds social expectations and medical expertise" (p.223), W. artfully sketches the "night scene" typically suggested by the papyri, with the agent muttering incantations over solitary rooftop, rituals directed against a blissfully unaware and unresponsive loved one serenely sleeping in her chamber. What we have here is argued to be a patent case of psychological "transference" (p.225), in which the agent projects upon his victim the agonies he himself is feeling as a result of his unrequited passion, an instance of displacement, "presumably of therapeutic value in itself" in providing an illusion of control over what in fact was painfully uncontrollable, an illusion enhanced by a sense of access to, and sometimes identification with, the divine powers invoked. (p.226f.)
In turning finally to the Louvre figurine, W., with commendable circumspection, observes that though "thoughts of systemwide female victimage and male dominance" are irresistibly here evoked at first sight, such a response is likely to be misleadingly simplistic. In the agôgai, after all, binding and piercing represent, at least as W. has analyzed them, "not a will to dominate" but a "replication" in the victim of the lover's own painful experience. (p.232) In addition, the inflictions involved are usually of a temporary nature, inducements to action rather than ends in themselves, self-centered, to be sure, as is so much of Greek social practice, but at the same time suggestive of innocence of real malice. When permanent bondage is expressed as a goal, it envisions not slavish subservience but the "permanence and stability" of marriage or the equivalent. Most importantly, these spells, "as a kind of sneak attack waged in the normal warfare of Mediterranean social life" (233), were crucial to "eliciting consent and independent action" on the part of the unmarried woman who served as passive actors "in the dynamic game of interfamily competition." and so constitute "a back-handled tribute to the potential power of female sexual autonomy." (ibid.)
Readers will no doubt vary in their assessments of the degree to which W. has reduced the "problematic" aspects of Greek erotic magic by illumination of its social context (Versnel, pp. 62f., cites W.'s argument as well as Faraone's in challenging the implication that the rules of the Mediterranean social "game" viewed the use of the spells discussed as "morally approved or socially tolerated"), but all will find themselves significantly enlightened by his wide-ranging and startlingly original analysis.
Chapter 9, "Magic and Mystery in the Greek Magical Papyri," by Hans Dieter Betz.
As already noted, the editors, having ordained the magic / religion dichotomy as the one concern to be addressed by all contributors, would have served their readers better by making this chapter, with its extended introductory analysis (pp. 244-7) of the shifts in the modern scholarly debate over this "key problem," one of the first in the collection. In these pages B. leads us quickly and clearly through the history of competing claims, sharply delineating the elements of self-interest which dictate not only the derogatory definitions of "magic" by participants in our own "religious" establishments, but also the criticisms of such definitions as "unscientific" by modern social scientists (Alan Segal is singled out as an example) claiming the specious "objectivity" of confirmed cultural relativists: "Far from being disinterested in the outcome of the debate about definition, the social science approach to religion is, in fact, in competition with traditional churches and synagogues." (p. 246) For B., the distinction between the two spheres in the ancient world can best be understood by a "shift from social science to theology," i.e., by considering questions about the "appropriateness" or "legitimacy" of various aspects of ritual, such as: "Is forcing the gods into the service of human desires, wishes, or needs appropriate? Is the complete separation of moral issues from the practice of magic appropriate before the deity? Is it legitimate to place the greatest mysteries of the divinity at the disposal of those who are willing to pay for it?" (p. 247) Here B. conspicuously fails to specify the identity of the arbiters of the "inappropriateness / illegitimacy" which is apparently the sine qua non of "magical" activity by his definition. (Phillips will present essentially the same concept of magic in the book's final chapter, but will articulate it much more clearly in defining "magic" as "unsanctioned religious activity" as viewed by the "socioeconomic elite" within the culture in question.) In addition, his clear implication that there is something "inappropriate" and "unreligious" about initiating anyone who can provide the requisite fee is equally conspicuous in ignoring the fact that such was the unabashed practice at Eleusis within mystery rites sanctioned as holy throughout the world of classical antiquity.
As a test case for the value of this approach by "theological" issues, B. presents a brief investigation of terminology from the "religion" of mystery cults as appropriated in the Greek magical papyri, where occasional "positive" terms for magic, e.g., hiera mageia, show that "magic and religion are a single entity" in the eyes of their authors, despite occasional intimations that some aspects of magic, e.g., coercion of divinity, were felt to be theologically "problematic." (p. 248) Within these documents, all Egyptian in origin, B. identifies "a higher cultural level" characterized by inclusion of Greek deities, hymn fragments and "bits of myth," all reflecting the results of the syncretism of Greco-Egyptian magico-religious practices over the centuries from Hellenistic to late Roman times, with older Egyptian rites being continuously refurbished and re-energized by infusions of Greek elements. In repeatedly referring to magic as musterion, in effect a mystery religion, the authors of these documents are claimed to be trying to provide "religious legitimacy and cultural approval for all the other magical materials included in the spells as well." (p. 250) Conversely, G. claims that "magic" was from the beginning an important element of the Greek cults from which the mystery terminology was borrowed. Here, paradoxically in a discussion which began with such close attention to the importance of clear definitions, B.'s argument is seriously flawed by a conspicuously loose, if not unintelligible, use of the word "magic" to refer to what were assuredly conventional "religious" elements at Eleusis, "purifications, processions, sacrifices." (ibid.) Additional confusion is created by the apparently contradictory claims which frame what remains of the chapter: "It is important to realize... that such mystery cult transformation [of magical material] is limited to a few highly conspicuous texts [emphasis mine] of the Papyri Graecae Magicai" (p. 251); "...Greek mystery cult terminology and ideas in the hellenistic era had a profound impact [emphasis mine] on the Greek magical papyri." (p. 253) Intervening between these two statements are very brief exx. of the mystery language used in two of these "highly conspicuous texts," the Spell of Psouthis (PGM I.42-95) and the Mithras Liturgy (PGM IV.479-829). The author of the latter, pace Cumont, could well have a serious commitment to "a Mithraic cultic community," but even if he does not, he "may still be a serious devotee of the god." (p. 252) And yet, most perplexingly, in concluding his discussion two pages later, B. affirms that the Liturgy would have "horrified conscientious cult officials of the mysteries of Mithras," and not merely by reason of "subjective preference," for it lacked "such essentials as the moral ethos, the oaths, the fellowship, and the loyalty among members of the cult..." In fact, B.'s "Conclusion" (p. 253f.) manifestly muddles "magic" with "religion" in its apparently conflicting claims. At the top of p. 254 we are told: "For the mystagogue-magicians the syncretistic amalgam" created in the papyri "was indeed 'religion' [emphasis mine]." At the bottom of the same page we are loftily informed that the same magicians, since they "unashamedly" lacked "a full comprehension... of the inner integrity of the cults whose materials they appropriated, ...were right in calling...their art 'magic'," for "they lacked what we would call [emphasis mine] 'religion.' They themselves no doubt believed that they possessed a 'religion that worked,' but what they in fact had produced was magic." The utter arbitrariness of this final authoritative pronouncement, truly astonishing after B.'s thoughtful criticism of the subjectivity of earlier attempts at defining the dichotomy, seems, to this reader at least, clearly to demonstrate the futility of his belief that the question can be best approached from a "theological" perspective. In sum, though B.'s discussion of the papyri themselves provides an informative survey of the role of Greek "mystery terminology" in the history of religious syncretism, Judaic and Early Christian as well as Greco-Egyptian, it merely assumes, without ever precisely locating, a line meaningfully dividing magic from religion.
Chapter 10, "Nullum Crimen sine Lege: Socio-religious Sanctions on Magic," by C. R. Phillips III.
P.'s preoccupation here is with social history, official, i.e., "legal," attitudes adopted in antiquity towards what scholarship has misleadingly termed "magic," under the influence of the "Christianizing view that magic is the antithesis to [societally sanctioned] religion." (p.261) Since it is clear that the ancients themselves found it impossible to arrive at a universally acceptable definition of "magic," P. proposes the helpful alternative terminology already cited in criticizing the obscurity of Betz's definition: "unsanctioned religious activity." Greek law is shown to be devoid of specific concern with, and legally useful definition of, what moderns consider to be "magic," instead including such actions under the broad category of asebeia, merely one of several sorts of unsanctioned religious activity which were convenient in politically motivated trials in which they could be used to imply that the defendant defied secular as well as religious norms. Such activities, omnipresent in Greek literature and daily life, only became the target of legal action when they seemed to entail "danger to the social order as the elite conceived it," and the extent of the surviving evidence for widespread "magical" activity in Greek and Roman times clearly testifies against the existence of any attempts at systematic, "large scale" repression (p.263), which would in any case be impossible in the absence of a legally functional definition. Here, the recent indecisive agonizing of the U.S. Supreme Court over defining obscenity and abortion is adduced as an exceptionally illuminating modern parallel: "Legal systems have problems with categories of presumed criminal behavior that lack definitions from religious or scientific criteria." (p. 266) The utter lack of any reliable "religious criteria," whether ancient or modern, is then established (with still another review of the scholarly controversy over definitions), followed by a bold attempt (based on Kuhn's claim that "scientific laws change, often drastically" from era to era) to argue the equal impossibility of arriving at any acceptable definition by the criteria of modern science: "science is just as subjective as anything else," lacking "a transcendental critique of its 'truth.'" Many, I suspect, will take issue with the accuracy of this last interesting but idiosyncratic assertion, but most readers will certainly be stimulated by P.'s exceptionally lively, clear, and cogent case for the general (P. carefully notes "Tiberius and the affair of Mundus" and "Diocletian's 'great' persecution" as two conspicuous exceptions) tolerance exercised by ancient social authorities towards the unsanctioned religious activities categorized by moderns as "magic," and will be inclined to concur with his conclusion that, where the record is clear that the ancients showed no interest in precisely defining such activities, "perhaps moderns should not either." (p.269) (This chapter contains one of the book's very infrequent typographical slips: "religions [instead of 'religious'] use" appears in the first full paragraph on p. 263.)