While Ancient Greece was ripe with some of history's most influential poets, politicians, and orators, the country was also obsessed with magic and the supernatural world. Ancient Greeks were particularly fond of placing curses on one another, and respected figures like Plato and Aristotle even created voodoo dolls to attract lovers or punish their enemies.
The Greeks Etched Curses On Precious Gold And Silvermessagetoeagle.com
In Ancient Greece, magic was something that went hand in hand with religion. In fact, the practice of invoking divine powers for good or evil wasn't considered out of the ordinary—magicians might cast spells to bring bad luck upon their enemy, or indulge in a charm that would bring a lover to their door. Recently, archaeologists discovered 2,000 year old magic spells that were inscribed on gold and silver, rolled up, and tucked inside of an amulet. The use of precious metals to enhance the power of the spell shows just how important magic was for those in Ancient Greece.
They Used Voodoo To Destroy Political Opponentsdeliriumsrealm.com
Perhaps one of the most amusing magical practices in Ancient Greece was the use of voodoo dolls for political power. It's funny to think that some of history's most talented orators and thinkers like Plato and Aristotle would engage in petty magic in a desperate attempt to win elections. While the voodoo dolls weren't as common as curses, they were still used on occasion. The dolls were usually crafted out of lead or bronze, and were typically placed on graves although they could also be placed within someone's home or in a large body of water. The dolls were usually twisted into a painful configuration, but occasionally they were mutilated or covered in melted wax.
Tripping Out On Psychedelic MushroomsTripod
If someone in Ancient Greece wanted to descend into a truly magical world, there was perhaps no better drug than a psychedelic mushroom. Some scholars believe the Ancient Greeks used amanita muscaria mushrooms as part of their religious rituals. During many Greek religious traditions, including the Dionysian orgies and Eleusinian Mysteries, celebrants were known to have powerful visions and direct conversations with Gods. Although there isn't significant evidence that the Ancient Greeks incorporated the magic mushroom into their ceremonies, it's mostly because the ceremonies in general were shrouded in mystery. However, some Greek writers like the philosopher Porphyry described mushrooms as "sons of the gods" because they didn't spawn using seeds.
Greeks Used Tablets And Inscriptions To Ward Away ZombiesAncient Origins
A belief in magic, of course, opened up a whole new dimension of fears in Ancient Greece. In fact, people were simultaneously frightened and intrigued by the thought of zombies, and actually cultivated specific burial practices to prevent dead people from rising from their graves. Some dead bodies were uncovered in an Ancient Greek burial site with heavy rocks placed on the corpse. Some graves even contained bodies with bags over heads, presumably to prevent the zombie from seeing if it did rise up and try to terrorize Athens. Additionally, the Greeks wrote magic spells on tablets and placed them inside the graves. These spells were used to defend the living from the dead, and invoke protection from the Gods.
Practicing Necromancy For Good And Evil Spellshauntedamericatours.com
When Ancient Greeks weren't freaking out about people rising from the dead to eat their brains, some magicians actually engaged in the practice of necromancy to carry out all kinds of magical acts. Necromancy, of course, is the practice of invoking the spirit of the dead to achieve some kind of purpose. In Ancient Greece, necromancy was illegal but some magicians did it behind closed doors anyway. According to Mark Cartwright in this article for Listverse, there is significant evidence of necromancy in Ancient Greece. Evidence of the practice is present in stories like the Odyssey, as well as literary texts from Plato.
Casting Spells And Using TalismansAncient Origins
Of course, if someone in Ancient Greece wanted to get some magical tasks completed, the first thing they needed to do was learn how to cast some spells. Spells and incantations in Ancient Greece could be used in all kinds of ways; spells were often used as warnings or wardings to protect valuables. Spells and curses could also be placed upon ones enemy to bestow them with a life of pain and suffering. Many cultures were deeply obsessed with the evil eye, and developed several different kinds of talismans to ward it off. In Ancient Greece, one of the most popular talismans for warding off the evil eye was a small charm that contain a blue glass eye. Often times, these talismans would be pinned to baby's clothing or worn by adults around their neck.
Obtaining Prophesies From An OracleDelphic Oracle
In Ancient Greece, magic wasn't just something people did every once in awhile. Magic was totally interwoven into the Ancient Greek worldview and culture. Perhaps some of the most important people in Greek society were the oracles of Delphi. These ancient people were priests and priestesses who could translate cryptic messages from the Gods. Additionally, an oracle could also refer to a place where religious prophesies were made or the actual prophetic statement itself. One of the oldest oracles in Ancient Greece was the oracle of Zeus at Dodona. In 5th century BC, a priestess scribbled upwards of 80 messages from the god on lead tablets.
Finding One's Fate In The StarsCrystal Links
Another popular practice that helped influence magical beliefs in Ancient Greece was astrology. Ancient Greeks thought the stars and planets had a direct effect on people, and could act as a guide for navigating the ins and outs of daily life. One of the most famous astrological works by the Ancient Greeks was a book by astrologer Vettius Valens. In his book "The Astrological Anthologies," Valens claims those who are born under the sign Taurus are likely to have "pain in the nostrils" and "sciatica and abscesses." Other astrologers, like Aristotle, predicted that the moon at its different phases would have a different effect on the people on Earth.
Going To Bed In Ancient Greece Meant Seeing Into The FutureLinda Steward/iStock/Getty Images
When Ancient Greeks weren't consulting oracles or the stars for their magical insights, they turned to their dreams. In Ancient Greece, dreaming was considered a magical art, which could help one see into the future. One Ancient Greek writer Artemidorus actually put together a dream book where he detailed what certain dreams actually mean. Prophetic dreaming is also featured in several Greek texts, including the Odyssey. In the story, Penelope is waiting for Odysseus to come home from war, and dreams that an eagle kills fifty geese, and the eagle later reveals itself as Odysseus. The geese, of course, symbolize the suitors that are eating away Odysseus's fortune within his home.
Ritual Sacrifice In Ancient GreeceStefano Bianchetti/Corbis Historical/Getty Images
It's no secret that the Ancient Greeks weren't vegan, and they didn't have any trouble sacrificing animals in religious and magical ceremonies. As soon as Ancient Greeks started keeping animals in a structured agricultural way, they began sacrificing parts of the animals to the gods. If someone believed they owed the gods something or if they desperately wanted something from the gods, it wasn't uncommon to slaughter a goat or kill a couple of chickens. The reasons for committing animal sacrifice could be petty, as well. If someone fell ill, you could sacrifice something small to help them get better. But, if you needed good luck for a wedding, you had to bust out the big guns and kill a pig or cow.