Drawing Down the Moon: Magic in the Ancient Greco-Roman World

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Princeton University Press, Jul 2, 2019 - History - 496 pages

An unparalleled exploration of magic in the Greco-Roman world

What did magic mean to the people of ancient Greece and Rome? How did Greeks and Romans not only imagine what magic could do, but also use it to try to influence the world around them? In Drawing Down the Moon, Radcliffe Edmonds, one of the foremost experts on magic, religion, and the occult in the ancient world, provides the most comprehensive account of the varieties of phenomena labeled as magic in classical antiquity. Exploring why certain practices, images, and ideas were labeled as “magic” and set apart from “normal” kinds of practices, Edmonds gives insight into the shifting ideas of religion and the divine in the ancient past and in the later Western tradition.

Using fresh approaches to the history of religions and the social contexts in which magic was exercised, Edmonds delves into the archaeological record and classical literary traditions to examine images of witches, ghosts, and demons as well as the fantastic powers of metamorphosis, erotic attraction, and reversals of nature, such as the famous trick of drawing down the moon. From prayer and divination to astrology and alchemy, Edmonds journeys through all manner of ancient magical rituals and paraphernalia—ancient tablets, spell books, bindings and curses, love charms and healing potions, and amulets and talismans. He considers the ways in which the Greco-Roman discourse of magic was formed amid the cultures of the ancient Mediterranean, including Egypt and the Near East.

An investigation of the mystical and marvelous, Drawing Down the Moon offers an unparalleled record of the origins, nature, and functions of ancient magic.

 

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Contents

Drawing Down the Moon
19
An Overview
32
The Nature of Ritual
45
Conclusions
52
Where and When Were Curse Tablets Deposited?
64
Curse Tablets Work?
75
Conclusions
88
What Is the Evidence for Erotic Magic?
92
Who Performs Divination?
226
Divination and Magic
233
Astrology in Practice
242
Astrology and Risk Management
259
9
269
Cosmology and Alchemy
276
The Alchemical Perfection of Matter
283
The Practice of Alchemy
305

How Does Erotic Magic Work?
107
Conclusions
113
What Kinds of Protective
119
How Do Amulets and Other Protective
133
Conclusions
144
Mechanics of Prayer
153
Gifts for the Gods
161
Magic or Religion?
169
Conclusions
183
Why Use Divination?
190
What Are the Varieties of Divination?
201
Interpersonal Communication
212
THE ILLUMINATIONS OF THEURGY
314
Philosophical Accounts of Theurgy
322
The Evidence for Theurgy
342
Choosing the Propitious Times
365
Theurgy as Magic or Religion
371
11
378
SelfLabeling of Magic
396
Conclusions
415
Index Locorum
445
Subject Index
463
Copyright

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About the author (2019)

Radcliffe G. Edmonds III is the Paul Shorey Professor of Greek in the Department of Greek, Latin, and Classical Studies at Bryn Mawr College. His many books include Redefining Ancient Orphism and Myths of the Underworld Journey. Edmonds lives in Haverford, Pennsylvania.

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