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Spell Codes: Interpretations
from Herbarum Aliorumque Magicorum e papyro graeca magica XII

by John Opsopaus

Because of the curiosity of the masses, Temple scribes inscribed the names of the herbs and other things which they employed on the statues of the Gods, so that the masses, since they do not take precautions, might not practice Magic, being prevented by the consequence of their misunderstanding. Here we have collected the explanations for many of them.

A Snake's Head: a Leech

A Snake's Ball of Thread: this means Soapstone

Blood of a Snake: Hematite

A Bone of an Ibis: this is Buckthorn

Blood of a Hyrax: truly of a Hyrax
[probably the rock hyrax, Procavia capensis]

Tears [Sleep Sand] of a Hamadryas Baboon: Dill Juice

Crocodile Dung: Ethiopian Soil

Blood of a Hamadryas Baboon: Blood of a Spotted Gecko

Lion Semen: Human Semen

Blood of Hephaistos: Wormwood

Hairs of a Hamadryas Baboon: Dill Seed

Semen of Hermes: Dill

Blood of Ares: Purslane

Blood of an Eye: Tamarisk Gall

Blood from a Shoulder: Bear's Breach
[probably Acanthus mollis L. or Helleborus foetidus L.]

From the Loins: Camomile

A Man's Bile: Turnip Sap
[probably Brassica napus L.]

A Pig's Tail: Leopard's Bane
[probably a variety of leopard's bane in the genus Boronicum, or one of the heliotropes]

A Physician's Bone: Sandstone

Blood of Hestia: Camomile

An Eagle: Wild Garlic
[Trigonella foenumgraecum, but the reading is doubtful]

Blood of a Goose: A Mulberry Tree's Milk

Kronos' Spice: Piglet's Milk

A Lion's Hairs: Tongue of a Turnip [i.e., the leaves of the taproot]

Kronos' Blood: . . . of Cedar

Semen of Helios: White Hellebore

Semen of Herakles: this is Mustard-rocket [probably Eruca sativa]

A Titan's Blood: Wild Lettuce

Blood from a Head: Lupine

A Bull's Semen: Egg of a Blister Beetle

A Hawk's Heart: Heart of Wormwood

Semen of Hephaistos: This is Fleabane

Semen of Ammon: Houseleek

Semen of Ares: Clover

Fat from a Head: Spurge

From the Belly: Earth-apple

From the Foot: Houseleek

[PGM XII.401-44]

This list is slightly adapted from Hans Dieter Betz (ed.), The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation including the Demotic Spells, Univ. Chicago Press, 1986 167-169. Similar lists can be found in De succedaneis transmitted among the works of Galen, Claudii Galeni Opera Omnia (Kuhn, ed.), vol. 19, 721-47; adapted version in Paul of Aegina, Paulus Aegineta, Corpus Medicorum Graecorum IX/2 (Heiberg, ed.), vol. II, 401-8; and in Dioscorides' Materia Medica.

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