Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Mexican Milagros and Their Dark Sisters

If I were to strike up a collection of anything, it might be these. It's a very ancient and powerful practice dating back to before the Roman era.

The tradition of curse tablets is rather less darling, but equally fascinating.

The incisions of the stylus when freshly written would have shone against the grey oxidised surface of the lead. After writing the tablet was folded or rolled and the ends of the sheet were tucked over, making the document legible to the god alone. The rolling and folding also assisted in its magical effectiveness, helping to ‘scramble’ the text and perhaps the victim (see People goods and gods - the workings of magic). Often the tablet was pierced by nails: a tablet from London was pierced seven times. In literary accounts, witches kept nails among their magical toolkit: Pamphile (see Introduction - curses from Greece and Rome) for example kept nails from crucifixions among her magical paraphernalia. Nails and pins were also pressed into the wax figurines created for some binding spells. By a ‘sympathetic’ connection (see People, goods and gods - the workings of magic), nailing helped the curse to ‘bind’ or ‘fix’ the individual(s) named by the curse, rendering them unable to act until they had made amends.
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