How Does Love Magic Work?

Love magic is a wide term that encompasses many different practices and rituals, some of which were associated with witches and others not. It can be traced back to 2200 BCE and continues to be practiced in cultures around the world today.

It was thought that love magic was used by people for a variety of reasons, including seduction, the increase of love or sexual passion in an existing relationship, and to prevent someone from marrying. It could also be utilised to make a person impotent, making it impossible for them to live a normal life or have any other relationships.

The use of this kind of spell has been recorded in both classical and Late Antique texts. In addition, it was frequently practiced by women as well.

Spells that were aimed at preventing women from marrying included a number of different forms of binding. These could bind a man to his wife for an indefinite period of time, or until she killed herself. The effect of these spells was often referred to as ‘diabolical’ (Gager 1992: 78-115).

These spells were usually accompanied by dolls, which were meant to represent the target of desire. These were made according to specific instructions, which largely focused on what the woman should say to the doll and where she should deposit it.

Some of these spells utilised violent language. For example, one spell instructs the caster to say “O my sweet husband, I would like you to be able to kill yourself without any trouble or suffering” and “My dearest wife, when you want to kill yourself, it is not difficult to do”.

Such language is not necessarily indicative of any emotion relating to love, but may suggest a misogynistic view of women as victims.

It is possible that these women were using this kind of spell to ward off an unwanted suitor, or to gain some form of revenge. This type of spell could also be a way of dealing with problems in a marriage, for example by convincing the husband that his wife is having an affair, or to convince him that she is ill and therefore cannot give him what he wants.

As with all sex related practices, there was a great deal of debate about how love magic worked in medieval society. Some writers associated it primarily with women, while others did not discuss gender at all or assumed that the main users of love magic were men.

Despite the controversy over whether or not love magic was performed mainly by women, there are still some important continuities that can be found in the writings of pastoral manuals and exempla from medieval England.

The most important continuities that we find in these sources are that the majority of women seem to have been depicted using Faraone’s philia-magic, which is intended to make love between a man and a woman. In addition, we find a smaller percentage of pastoral writers who seem to have depicted women as using the same spells that were commonly used by men for other purposes, such as to cause impotence.