In researching various sites and references for historical gems to authentically flavor my 12th century historical mysteries, I sometimes discover things that I (and probably few others) would ever have thought of. Such was the case recently when I stumbled upon a footnote reference to the 2009 dissertation of a PhD candidate at the University of London. It wasn’t the fact that the resource was a dissertation but rather it was the title of the work that caught my eye; Magic and Impotence in the Middle Ages by Catherine Rider
Now who would have thought this subject would qualify for such a lofty piece of work? Nevertheless intrigued, I couldn’t resist… and although the end product was published by Oxford’s University Press, I discovered that I could obtain a copy from inter-library loan (Really? Another surprise!). Admittedly, the thought did cross my mind that when the copy arrived, the cover title might have raised a few circulation department eyebrows at my local village library (did staff delve into the pages for a peek, I wondered?) In any case, I couldn’t wait to see how the subject was dealt with through an academic lens with no Pfizer Pharmaca on the immediate horizon!
At first glance, the format was predictable as these things are if one is familiar with such projects, but when I scanned the table of contents my eyes zeroed in on Chapter Five: “How to Bind a Man or Woman: Impotence in the Magical Texts”. Ah! This clearly was not going to be about cures, but rather payback! Well, I wouldn’t say the content was exactly riveting, but it did provide some very interesting…recipes (to say the least) should one find need of retribution for whatever reason.
For example, “When you wish to bind a man or woman, make an image of a man whose feet are raised to the heavens and whose head is in the ground.” [Somehow directions for a deserving woman escaped along the way]… “This [image] should be made of wax, saying ‘I have bound N. son of such-and-such a woman [notice it’s the woman’s fault, not the father] and all his veins, until he does not have a man’s desire.’ After that, bury the image in his path, and he will not use a woman for as long as the image lasts. And it is said by some that this image is made under the second decan of Aries.” (Nothing like a little astrology thrown in for good measure!) So there, Septimus…serves you right!
However, if more drastic means are needed, this ‘recipe’ might do the trick…“So that a man does not desire a woman. When you want to do this, take half a drachm each of the brain of a black cat and mandrake seed. Mix these two together and blend them very well. Afterwards make an image of wax, and make a hole in the top of the head, through which you force the above mentioned mixture. Then take an iron needle and push that needle into the image, in the place where he enjoys a woman…” there is more to this particular methodology, but I think I’ll leave it to your imagination…I wouldn’t want to give too much away !
So thank you, Dr.Rider…no doubt your research will prove very colorful fodder for my stories as they materialize.
My 12th c historical mystery series, ‘Flight of Time’ is in production and represented by Peter Miller, Global Lion Intellectual Property Management, Inc.