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.