A binding spell is a magical formula intended to “bind” or restrain a person’s will or behavior. Examples of binding spells include love spells, attempts to silence enemies, or any other magic intended to force or restrain the behavior or actions of another person. Many binding spells involve the use of knots, pins, or other symbolic restraints. In most ancient spells, it is spirits or ghosts who are symbolically “bound” until they fulfill the demands of the spell caster.
The binding spell is probably one of the oldest types of magic known to man. Examples have been found all over the world, and they were especially popular in classical Greece and Rome, even if other versions have been found in such diverse cultures as Celtic Europe and ancient Egypt. The ancient Greeks were pretty frightened of love, which was seen as a helpless loss of control. Love spells were often buried alongside other curse tablets in graveyards where, it was assumed, there were plenty of spirits hanging around, and tended to be aggressive, violent, and spiteful, as if punishing the object of the writer’s affections for failing to return them. Most called on various deities or spirits to enforce the supplicant’s requests.
This small clay effigy doll was discovered in Egypt in a terracotta vase with a folded lead tablet that had been inscribed with a magic binding spell. Precisely, a very macabre love spell. The effigy has her feet tied together and her arms tied behind her back. She is pierced with 13 pins (one in the top of the head, one in the mouth, one in each eye and each ear, one each in the solar plexus, vagina, and anus, and one in the palm of each hand and in the sole of each foot).
It is accompanied by a lengthy Greek spell requesting the aid of numerous chthonic deities and spirits of the dead to compel fidelity and love:
“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 of 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 neighbourhood, 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 nor 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 the 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 Marmaraouoth and by Marmarachtha Mamazagar. Do not disregard me, Antinous spirit of the dead, but rouse yourself for me and go to each place, to each neighbourhood, 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, 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.”