Love Magic

Red-Figure Squat Lekythos (Oil Bottle) with Eros

In antiquity, there were two main types of love magic, as described by Faraone in Ancient Greek Love Magic which were philia and eros. Philia magic was usually used by women to fix a relationship or marriage and was usually used on “kings, husbands and other male ‘heads of households’” (Faraone 28). This type of magic was used more to instill affection or “more benign feelings that generally describes a reciprocal relationship based on mutual affection” (Faraone 29). The purpose of philia was usually to make someone, oftentimes a woman, seem more charming to all men. Love potions that were made by women and used on men were to change a man's mood, make them more affectionate and friendly to anyone who came into contact with him. The overall effect that philia was to have on its “victims” was to “bind, enervate, or mollify victims thereby reducing their anger and making them esteem their companions” (Faraone 28). In this way, this magic would become beneficial to most people in a neighborhood or surrounding area. The magic itself would usually be nonviolent, as this type originated from a more protective and healing type of magic. The main forms that this magic takes is that of ointments, amulets, rings, and potions.

The second type of magic was eros. Eros as opposed to philia, was considered to be more dangerous and violent. This type of magic addressed love in terms of “bodily passion and lust” (Faraone 28). Faraone describes the way the Greeks saw eros saying, “Greeks describe the onset of eros as an invasive, demonic attack or use a ballistic model in which Aphrodite is said to throw and hit someone with eros or pothos” (Faraone 29). The Greeks considered eros to be much more invasive and dangerous than philia. Unlike philia, eros was usually used to start a new relationship and was used by men, courtesans, and whores. The typical victims of these spells were young men and women and were usually “used by an outsider in courtship or seduction to destroy existing loyalties to natal family, spouse, or community” (Faraone 28). This type of magic, in order to start a relationship, would force its victims into the arms of the person performing the magic, usually through violent means. For example, Jason using eros against Medea in which he ties a bird to a wooden wheel and whips it in order to “whip up” sexual desire in her. These types of spells were performed for the express purpose of arousing the victim’s sexual desire for the person performing the spell.

Eros and philia are different in that eros was more violent and used for inducing uncontrollable passion and lust in its victims. It was considered to be a type of curse in which the performer of the spell needed to know the person’s identity for it to work. Eros focused on one victim, usually female and was performed from afar. Philia on the other hand, was not as demonized as eros. Faraone describes this saying, “Greeks never personify or demonize philia or agape, nor do they ever picture a deity hurling philia or agape at mortals in a hostile way” (Faraone 30). Philia was never used in a threatening, violent way.