Saturday, 24 August 2019

apotropaic magic

An excavation in Pompeii, a Roman city along with Herculaneum frozen in time on 24 August in year 79 AD when with the violent eruption of Mount Vesuvius it became buried under tonnes of pumice and hot ashfall, has uncovered a trove of charms and amulets believed to have been the repertoire, arsenal of a sorceress and also serves as a repository of very intimate personal items that fleeing residents might leave in the custody of the sorceress for safekeeping and retrieval upon return.
Each of the items collected in a wooden box that had all but decayed away represents not only its peculiar wish-fulfilment but by extension narratives too intriguing not to limn complete, not to mention what each talisman and totem might signify or hold power over. Included among the evil-eyes (the virtue of keeping away like with like), phalluses, skulls and scarabs were figures of Harpocrates—a Greek syncretisation of the Egyptian Child Horus who represented the new dawn and hope to conquer the day, who matured to adult form by twilight and represented the resilience to come back again as well as discretion and confidence-keeping.