Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Hebrew Magic Love Charms

[Standing beneath a potent palm tree (see below) are the hunky Jacob with the babalicious Rachel - known to the celebrity press as "Jakhel" - the first lustbunnies of the Bible]

Long (at least 3000 years) before Viagra came along, Jews were been looking for love in a bottle.

The first reference to a aphrodisiac may appear in the Torah itself. In Gen. 30:14, we read of the love-deprived Leah gathering something called דודאים. As it turned out, they worked for her, though not in the expected fashion. Now we translate this term as "mandrake," a root with long sexual associations, but the word itself is evidently derived from the verb דוּד, "to love." So it could easily mean, "love root" or even "love potion."[1] Unfortunately, the only other use of the word, in the Song of Songs 7:14, doesn’t really resolve the ambiguity.

But there is no ambiguity in the fact that later generations of Jews were looking hard into the lusty Song of Songs for that special formula, amulet, or magical potable that would ensure the affection of a beloved and/or the cure for what my commercial-watching 8 year old misinterprets as "reptile destruction."

Thus we find the words of Song of Songs, which the Rabbis banned from being sung in taverns, nevertheless appearing on amulets with fraught phrases such as אמרתי אעלה בתמר אחזה בסנסניו "I say: I will scale the palm; let me grip its branches" (7:9). I suppose a non-sexual, even theological, meaning could be attributed to this, but given the context from which it was extracted ("your awesome body is like a palm; your breasts are like clusters") the function of this talisman seems pretty clear - its the agrarian forerunner of "Your body's name must be Visa, because it's everywhere I want to be"- but with the the power of the divine, a kind of spiritual Porche, to help reel 'em in. Now we know why the Sages said we had to keep it out of the bars.

And if the quest for the ultimate pick-up line reaches all the way back into the hoary antiquity of Scripture, the battle against impotence is always looking for the next great solution. Here’s one I never thought of. This formula appears in a magical manual found in the Cairo Geniza:

ל [ח] ל אלמעקוד יכתב עלי ורק נאר וישרב בנביד והדא אלדי תכתבה....אתון אתיא קדישיא וקל קטיריא שרין וכשרין לגידא רביא דפל' בן פל'

"To release someone who is 'bound': Let him write on a leaf of pomegranate, and drink it in wine. This is what you should write (magic figures and letters) ‘You, holy symbols and characters, loosen and make fit the big sinew of Ploni ben Ploni’..."[2]

Both examples on message and straight to the point. You gotta wonder, how could these ancients fail with God as their wingman?
The Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism makes the perfect Chanukah gift: http://www.amazon.com/Encyclopedia-Jewish-Myth-Magic-Mysticism/dp/0738709050

[1] Davies, Magic, Divination, and Demonology Among the Hebrews and their Neighbors, p. 35.
[2] T-S K 1.91, as transcribed and translated in Naveh and Shaked, Magic Spells and Formulae, p. 178.


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