It took humans thousands of years to understand love. Nowadays, love is the bonding hormone released into your veins, triggering positive, caring feelings; decades ago, love was the independent will upon which people choose their trajectory of lives; hundreds of years ago, love was formidable, restricted, caged by arranged marriage and pre-calibrated lives; but in antiquity, the Greeks and Romans interpret love in the forms of magic and sorcery—something beyond normal humans’ capacities the require witches to resolve. In this lecture, Professor O’Neill lead us into a world of witchcraft, nature and love.


In antiquity, people interpret love as a form of magic: as a female is seen as attractive, it is an effect of a cast spell. The words “charming”, “enchanting”, “bewitching”, etc., describing the attractiveness of a female, are originated from the idea of an enchantress performing and seductive magic trick. This “love is magic” idea was deeply embedded in the ancient society that “love potion” was sold to people to acquire attention from love interests. This practice was extended to casting spells on love rivals, making them unattractive. Although it’s commonly understood that witches are female figures manipulating male victims, many spells were found to profit males. The similar controlling factors apply: getting rid of competitors, fortifying loyalty of a lover (“nailing the beloved”), or pursuing an interest.



Overall, magic in antiquity is a simple solution for people to deal with challenging desires. Instead of personally making much effort to achieve a goal, they bet on magic and wish there was a quick, painless, satisfying result. It’s just an alternative way for people to feel empowered, and to simplify the complicated world.