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10 Ancient Magical Spells That People Actually Believed

by Mark Oliver
fact checked by Jamie Frater

There was a time when magic was everywhere. In the ancient world, nearly everyone accepted that magic powers were real. And on quiet Sundays, people from every walk of life, from the priests at the temple to the crazy guy next door, would pass the day indoors trying to summon demons.

These spells probably didn’t work, of course—but didn’t stop anyone. And if you’d been born a couple thousand years earlier, odds are you’d have spotted your neighbor in the window, trying some of the spells on this list.

10 Voodoo Dolls Of Love

Photo credit: Bibi Saint-Pol

Like Voodoo witch doctors, the Greeks and the Romans had magical dolls. Theirs, though, weren’t always used to make people suffer. Sometimes, they’d make little of dolls of people as a love spell—although if you saw someone making one for you, you might not exactly be flattered.

All you have to do to make a woman fall in love with you, according to ancient Greek magic, is mold a male and female figurine from clay. The male figurine should look like Apollo, and the female one should be on her knees. Oh, and the male figure should be chopping off the female figure’s head.[1]

Next, grab some bronze needles and jab one of them into the likeness of your one true love’s brain while screaming, “I pierce your brain!” Then jab them in every other part of her body, saying where you’re stabbing her each time, closing with, “I pierce your anus!”

Finally, grab a lead tablet and write a message to Pluto, asking him to do things like “prevent her eating and drinking” until she comes to you and to “drag her by her hair, her guts, by her soul to me.” Simply tie the tablet to the figures and place them on the grave of someone who was murdered.

Follow these steps, and your true love will come to you and adore you forever. Or she’ll file a restraining order. Definitely one of those two things, anyway.

9 Summoning A God

Here’s a fun life hack: Next time you need a question answered, just follow these easy steps, and from the comfort of your own home, you, too, can summon a dark messenger of the gods.

Simply place an olivewood table that no one has ever sat on in the middle of the room and cover it with a tunic. Make a stack of four bricks under the table, put a clay incense burner in front of it, and start pounding wild goose fat and myrrh into balls.

Now just yell, “I invoke thee who art seated in the invisible darkness!”[2] Say, “Send up to me this night thy archangel Zebourthanunen,” three times and stare at the table until dawn in complete silence.

If you’ve followed the steps correctly, an archangel with a nose on his feet should have appeared and should now be telling you the secret truths mankind was never meant to know. When he’s gone, simply write your goals on a tablet of reading the hours (any will do) and place it on the bricks, and your twisted desires for mankind will become our dark reality.

Don’t forget to tell us what dark secret Zebourthanuen revealed to you in the comments!

8 An Invisibility Spell

Invisiblity, as it turns out, isn’t that complicated. According to a 1,700-year-old spell, all you have to do is say these words: “Assesouo, dim the eyes of every man or woman, when I go forth, until I achieve as many things as I wish!” Then you just have to soak a few ingredients in “oil with crocodile dung” and rub it on your face.[3]

A few words on the spell are illegible today, so we can’t really test it out—but the person who wrote it down clearly believed it worked. And that’s a fascinating thought because it implies that someone out there tried it thought it went pretty well.

It follows that there was almost certainly a day in history when a man walked into a store with crocodile dung smeared all over his face and started pulling things off shelves, yelling, “Ooo, I’m a ghost!” And all the people in the store whispered to each other, “Just pretend you don’t see him.”

7 A Spell To Win Chariot Races

An athlete looking for an edge in the Greco-Roman world had a weapon at his disposal: magical curses. Hexes were seen as a major problem. During the Greek Olympics, the organizers were on the lookout for anyone who seemed to be under a magical hex, and they thought it happened a lot.

Sometimes, though, these spells didn’t just give you a little edge. They were downright brutal.

One spell, in a Greek book of magic, calls on the gods to put their opponents through hell. “Torture their thoughts, their minds, and their senses!” the spellcaster would call to the gods, before upping the ante and screaming out, “Pluck out their eyes!”[4]

That was getting off easy, though. Another spell directly calls on the gods to kill the other team. It starts by calling on everyone from the Egyptian gods to Jewish angels, before asking them to “cast down and cause to fall” the other team. Then, just in case the meaning isn’t entirely clear, the spell caster begs the gods to “smite” and “drag” them from the back of their chariots.

Of course, you had the option to use a spell that just slowed the other team down—but to be fair, if you wanted to be sure you beat someone across the finish line, plucking out their eyes and dragging them to death probably was the safer bet.

6 Love Potions

There were a lot of love potions in the ancient world, but this one’s guaranteed to end in romance—because any woman who would agree to drink this thing down has to be in love with you already.

An ancient Greek spell tells you to drown a scarab in milk for four days, then pull it out and cut it in half. Bind the left half to your arm with myrrh and saffron. Then, take the right half of the scarab, the nails from your right hand and foot, nine apple seeds, and as much of your own urine as you can get and mix it all into a ball.[5] Finally, just grab a glass of wine and drop the fingernail-beetle-and-urine ball inside.

Once you’ve convinced your crush to drink a glass with your urine in it, you’re just one step away from making her fall in love. All that’s left to finish this spell is to sleep with her. That’s right: All you need to do to make this love spell work is convince a woman to drink your pee and have sex with you. Then she’ll start liking you.

5 Give People Seizures

Anyone who would use magic to give someone a seizure has to be a bit of a sociopath to start with, but whoever came up with this spell had to be completely bonkers.

Step one is to cut off a donkey’s head and put it between your feet. Cover your right foot with “set-stone of Syria” and your left foot with clay and place your right hand in front of you and your left hand behind you. Then, pour donkey blood on your hands and in your mouth.[6]

With the blood in your mouth, yell out, “I invoke thee who art in the void air, terrible, invisible, almighty, god of gods dealing destruction and making desolate!” Then, because the god of gods will probably have some questions about why you’re gargling donkey blood, politely explain, “He has wronged me. Therefore I do these things.”

If you’re willing to go through all that, the Greeks believed, the gods would throw you a bone and give your enemy a seizure. But you really had to commit to it. Just once wouldn’t do it; you’d have to do this eight times in four days.

4 Death Spells

If just giving someone a seizure isn’t enough, there were spells that went a bit further. In fact, that seizure spell could be turned into death spell. You just had to be willing to take it a bit further. First, you had perform it 14 times instead of eight. And you had to tie an incredibly itchy mat of palm fibers to your penis.

You had to go through a lot to get the gods to kill someone for you—but people did it. We’ve found sheets of lead engraved with spells of death. One of them calls on the god Mercury to drive three of his enemies “to the greatest death,” one that denies them a moment of “health or sleep” until they die in excruciating agony.[7]

It sounds horrible to put three people through all that, but there’s a reason he was so angry. These men, researchers believe, stole one of his cows. So, to be fair, they had it coming.

3 Dealing With Dog Bites

The Egyptians had a way of dealing with dog bites. They were worried about the “venom” in a dog’s mouth, so their sorcerers would try to get that venom out through magic.

All you had to do was gargle a mouthful of dog’s blood and declare, “I have come forth from Arkhah, my mouth being full of the blood of a black dog. I spit it out!”[8] Then you would pound garlic into your wound and yell at it every day, with your mouth full of dog blood, until it healed.

Putting garlic in a dog bite still lives on as a folk remedy today, so it might actually have done something—although modern health experts insist it doesn’t work. Whether it would treat the dog wound or not, one thing’s for sure: This spell would certainly let dogs knows who’s the boss.

2 Magical Nonsense Words

When the first civilizations in Mesopotamia started to flourish and the first people started to work as doctors, medicine came to the world in a way it never had before. People were diagnosed, evaluated, and treated in tested and proven ways. These were still the early days, though—and they didn’t trust medicine without a dab of magic.

The Babylonians and Assyrians thought repeating a word gave it magic powers, and they weren’t particularly worried about what the words meant. Sometimes, they’d repeat something that at least sort of made sense. One spell, for eye disease, has the doctor chant the words for “eye” and “open,” saying, “Igi bar igi bar, bar igi bar!”[9]

Often, though, the words were just complete nonsense. One magical spell, for example, had the doctor chant, “En ni ip pa ah min ki ri ni ip pa ah,” which, translated into English, means: “En ni ip pa ah min ki ri ni ip pa ah.”

But a lot of the time, they’d actually do medicine after all the magic. Before pulling debris out of someone’s eyes, doctors would warn the debris to “rain down here like a star” before “the knife and scalpel of Gula reach you!” This was basically just the doctor saying, “Listen, before we try this surgery thing, let’s just ask it nicely and see if it’ll come out on its own.”

1 Developing Your Magical Power

Photo credit: A. Davey

A Persian spell book teaches how to improve your magical power and experience a vision of the divine, and while we can’t speak for its magic-inducing powers, this procedure would definitely make you see some crazy stuff.

Before performing a spell, Persian sorcerers were told to spend 90 days building up their magic power. They had to live in a room “which women are not allowed to enter,” eat as little as possible, say nothing but magical words, and stare at the ground the whole time.

While in the room, they had to craft three magical amulets, sew together a patchwork cloak, and mostly just sit around memorizing the names of angels. During their last 30 days, they would have to fast and could only touch food at nighttime.

Finally, after 90 days of isolation and starvation, they would go outside, walk around a pile of seven stones a few times, and pull a cat’s tail in and out of a bottle.[10] Then they just had to look through the bottle, and they’d see a spirit on the other side.

It probably worked. Anyone who did all that almost certainly saw something in that bottle. Persia, though, could have saved a lot of time and trouble if they’d had LSD.


For more on magic and spells, take a look at Top 10 Magical Societies and 10 Secrets of Hoodoo Conjuring.

fact checked by Jamie Frater
Mark Oliver

Mark Oliver is a regular contributor to Listverse. His writing also appears on a number of other sites, including The Onion's StarWipe and His website is regularly updated with everything he writes.

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