The History of Western Sex Magic – New Discovery from Sweden

While writing my review of Tidebast och Vandelrot, I came across one particular charm that effectively rewrites the history of sex magic in the West.   Because it involves sex and some of you might be at work or eating, I’ve taken the liberty of putting it behind a cut:

On page 257 of Johnson’s work appears the following charm:

So that a mother can with one method cure her children from troubles of all kinds. When man and woman have “the way of their flesh” together, and the woman then dries off her “secret parts”, the moisture and the slime that falls from her, this she should take when it is released from the mouth. Wash then this lip in a little running water that is taken with the stream and spit into the river before you take it. And just as the outside a little can get in and a little of the inside can get out, just so shall you smear them over their entire bodies, each joint and limb, and give them internally from this water in the new and waning moons, but be careful that no one puts their hands on or touches this salve, or any person drinks from it or not either that any mouse comes too near to it, for then it won’t help at all.

This particular spell comes from a manuscript held by Bengt Ahlström (1827-1919), a Swedish cunning man who lived near the town of Eslöv.  After his death, he left three books of charms which later became part of the collection of his town’s museum.  The volume from which this charm is taken is given the date April 13, 1865.

The date is significant, as this was before the first publications of the American magician Paschal Beverly Randolph (1825-1875) on the topic of sex magic.  Randolph is generally credited as the first individual to bring the magical usage of sex and sexual fluids from Eastern to Western practice. It might not be possible to prove that the Ahlström and Randolph never had contact, but it seems quite unlikely, especially as the two procedures are quite different.  It seems likely, then, that a form of sex magic was practiced in Sweden as part of folk tradition in the mid-nineteenth century, with little or no link to parallel Eastern traditions.

This is hardly to say that this subtracts from the importance of Randolph’s work, or that this is the “true” origin of Western magic.  It differs from most such practice in the West in a few particulars – the curious statement about the mouse, the use for physical healing rather than item consecration or spiritual transformation, and even (gasp!) the woman’s role as the chief operator instead of as a passive medium.  At this time, it is an anomaly, but one worth pointing out nonetheless.

If you have any leads or commentary, please let me know.  And congratulations are extended to Mr. Johnson, whose work made this possible.

Published in: on January 9, 2012 at 5:37 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. (Perhaps I misunderstood the meaning of the message and all the things I writing are wrong) but I don’t think that Mr. Paschal Beverly Randolph was the first person that used sexual fluids in western magic practice.
    As in many grimoires appear and in popular folklore it was widely used, i. e. for making a little devil putting semen fluids in an egg. This system appeared also in inquisition trials from Valencia – Spain. I don’t remember now the dates of the trial.

    Another item widely used in magic is the menstrual bloog, mainly in love charms.

    In folklore and other studies (including magic) I think that they are usually too english language oriented, and they use usually only bibliography in this language. It seems that all the things that weren’t writen in english language don’t exist.
    This information about this swedish charm is an example of this.

    Sure that the work of Tomas Johnson is wonderful and adds a lot of nice information for the studies of magic in western tradition as for scholars that have waited a long of time for such work.
    I am very interested in it as I am a researcher of the traditions about St. Cyprian

    • Felix,

      The usage of semen to create a homunculus is usually considered to be more on the alchemical side of things rather than the magical. Then again, I haven’t seen the Valencian version, so . I’d also argue that menstrual blood is not usually associated with the sexual act, save for some formula from Grant’s particular branch of it. This might be seen as differences in categories, of course.

      I’d definitely agree that the language barrier is a prime difficulty for studies in all areas of magic. Over here, it’s difficult to even track down foreign language sources in many cases, before you can get to the process of translation and assessment.

  2. Yes, then I misunderstood the text, I talk about fluids from sexual organs, not from the sexual act by itself. Yes, they are differences in categories, as peasants, when trying to have a devil using semen and an egg surely they didn’t think they were practicing alchemy, many times these are doctrinal discussions, the same that the inquisitors had about natural magic and diabolical magic, etc. that for the practicioners didn’t meaning a lot because they only were focused in the result or outcome of their actions.

    Even in Spain, with so many languages, spanish, galician, vasque, catalonian and others, and so many regional differences is difficult to have an holistic vision of the magic practices, because usually they are recorded in etnographic books that many times they are oriented for a local public (of a county or region in particular), and edited a small number of books in each edition and with very bad distribution.


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