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Superstitions and Apotropaic Magic: From Ancient to Modern Times

June 30, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the ancient world, superstitious beliefs were an important part of everyday life and a serious concern for all members of society. The ancient Greek term for these superstitious beliefs was deisidaimonia. The superstitions were grounded in the belief that people, both living and dead, had the capacity to send bad luck and negative energy to other people. For the living, they could choose to do this to an enemy or someone who had offended them in some way. For the deceased, if they had not been granted proper burial or due respect, they may choose to haunt those who wronged them and bring them bad luck as punishment. Such vengeful characters and spirits are a common theme in ancient Greek tragedy.

 

Apotropaic magic was any form of magic designed to turn away such harm, ward off evil and deflect misfortune sent by vengeful beings. This figurine, depicting a crouching woman, was worn as an amulet for this exact purpose. An amulet (apotropaion) was any object believed to possess the power to protect its owner from negative energy, much like a good luck charm. This female figurine would have been threaded on a necklace to be worn around the neck or worn on a sash across the body. The crouching position recalls dances performed by women in ancient Greek religious rituals. In addition to being displayed on them, women often used amulets themselves for the protection of their