Lotions, potions and nefarious poultices:
October 5, 2012

A short while ago I wrote about a magic bullet for love and how feasibly our natural hormones could be blended and  transformed into a little magic bullet to create or prolong love. To put or keep us all in the love trap. My fertile imagination immediately ran riot with the idea so now it is in the throes of transforming itself into the plot for a novel, but in the meantime a little recreational research has brought forth other interesting factors to consider.

Women are always keen on lotions and potions so I started there, only to be amazed to find that versions of the magic bullet are already on sale if you look for them. On the internet there are sites selling perfumes you can add pheromones (the little whiffs that say corrrr!) to, for a price, and lo and behold, there was oxytocin – the real ‘feel good factor’ available in a spray. Now it would seem possible for anyone to go on their first date, sprayed and splattered with the various scents which will not only make you smell good but have your date develop a taste for you too! Well, all’s fair in love and war, I suppose, but what are the motivations behind needing to trick our mate into love with us.

Lotions, potions and magic love bullets have a long and heady history. In fact they have been the subject of salacious use since the Greco-Roman world. Spells of erotic attraction and compulsion are found within Hellenic Greek papyri and archeologically on amulets dating from the 2nd century BC to the late third century AD. Magic practices even influenced the private rituals of the Gauls. During the later mediaeval period (14- 17th century) the use of ‘magic’ artfully played its part in establishing and promoting marriage where the unions had special importance. ‘Magic’ was expensive and could cause damage to the spell caster so it was restricted to use only on men and women of status. Spells were supposed to be secret, but were rarely so. On hearing they were the victim of magic, the subject very often behaved as if a spell had been cast on them whether or not it would work – hence the self-fulfilling prophecy!

Love magic has its fair share of airings in art and literature too.  It is used in the stories of ‘Heracles’, in Wagner’s opera ‘Tristan and Isolde’, Donizetti’s ‘The Elixir of Love’ (L’Elisir d’amore), and Manuel de Falla’s ballet ‘El amor brujo’ (the magic of love). Magic and potions also appear in Marlowe’s ‘Dr Faustus’, and Shakespeare has a field day with them tragically in ‘Rome and Juliet’, and comically in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. Fast-forward to the modern day, and there it is again in our beloved Harry Potter’s harum scarum adventures. Taking a quote from The Tales of Beedle the Bard,

“Powerful infatuations can be induced by the skillful potioneer…”

No less than seven magic love potions are sold by Fred and George Weasley in their “WonderWitch” line of magical doo-da’s for the ladies. Unfortunately J.K. Rowling doesn’t offer too much detail about the elixirs in question so we’ll have to assume that amongst eye of newt and tail of bat, they probably also included a teensy bit of testosterone, a pooff of pheromone and ooodles of oxytocin, mixed with very vasopressic entactogens.

But why? Why do we feel the need to trap and bind a lover to our side? Are we all so convinced of our own lack of attractiveness that we have to use potions and ‘magic’ to deceive? How you see yourself, and consequently the way you behave are all very much part of the way you live your life and what you achieve in it as a result. Psychology, right? It was around very effectively even in the middle ages; remember the poor old ‘magic’ victim who thought they were under a spell and so convinced themselves of the outcome anyway?

I don’t believe that a puff of pheromone will ultimately create happiness for you. In fact steady self-belief, solid principles, good sense and a fun-loving adventurous attitude seems far more attractive to me than snorting the stuff of dreams. I think the creation of happiness is generally in our own hands, not our spray atomiser.

Happy hunting – and mind you dodge those bullets!

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Debbie Martin