Friday, September 09, 2016


An Incantation Against Headache

Papyri Graecae Magicae 20.13–18, in Patricia Gaillard-Seux, "Magical Formulas in Pliny's Natural History: Origins, Sources, Parallels," 'Greek' and 'Roman' in Latin Medical Texts: Studies in Cultural Change and Exchange in Ancient Medicine, ed. Brigitte Maire (Leiden: Brill, 2014 = Studies in Ancient Medicine, 42), pp. 201-223 (at 216-217):
Φιλίννης Θε[σσ]αλῆς ἐπαοιδή π[ρὸς]
Κεφαλῆς π[ό]νον.
Φεῦγ' ὀδύν[η κ]εφαλῆς, φεῦγε φθ[ίνουσ']
ὑπὸ πέτ[ρα]ν φεύγουσιν δὲ [λύ]
κοι, φεύγ[ουσι] δὲ μώνυχες [ἵπ]
ποι, ἐ[σσύμενοι] πληγαῖς ὑπ' [ἐμῆς τελέας ἐπαοιδῆς]

The incantation of Philinna the Thessalian for headache: flee, headache, flee in weakness under a rock! Wolves flee and single-hoofed horses flee [propelled] with blows [by my perfect incantation] (trans. by Faraone [2000: 197–198] modified).

The structure is not completely canonical, but there seems to be an underlying identification between headaches and wolves and horses, the threat being represented by the incantation itself.

49 Revised text by Henrichs (1970: 204–209). See also Maas (1942: 34), Lloyd-Jones/Parsons (1983: n° 900), Furley (1993: 93–94). Bibliography: see de Haro Sanchez (2010: n° 1871).
References from the bibliography at the end of the article:
Richard Wünsch (1869-1915) first used the terms apopompē (ἀποπομπή) and epipompē (ἐπιπομπή) to describe two different ways of banishing evil. See his "Zur Geisterbannung im Altertum," Festschrift zur Jahrhundertfeier der Universität zu Breslau = Mitteilungen der Schlesischen Gesellschaft für Volkskunde 13/14 (1911) 9-32. Wünsch used apopompē to mean simply driving away evil, epipompē to mean driving away evil onto someone or something else or to some other specific location. A classic example of epipompē can be found in the Gospels (Matthew 8.30-32, Mark 5.11-13, Luke 8.32-33), when Jesus, in performing an exorcism, drove demons into a herd of pigs.

Although the text is uncertain, this incantation against headache may be an example of epipompē, because the headache is apparently driven away to a specific location, under a rock. For more examples of epipompē see here.

Related post: Epipompē in a Spell against Headache.

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