In the British Library’s collection are tattered Egyptian papyri. Scrawled across them are Greek lettering, conveying magical incantations to utter. Should they be said at the proper hour, along with a sacrifice of a mule’s blood, they will draw a reluctant lover to the practitioner. Other leaves of papyri give instructions on making charms or invoking the goddesses Selene and Aphrodite to stoke the flames of passion. These particular works were not only aids in helping lonely hearts find companionship, but artifacts from when Alexander the Great’s army of soldiers, some of them Greek, brought their cultural presence into the ancient kingdom.
The prevalence of spells and rituals to conjure love has not died out. Nor will it in the foreseeable future. So long as we need to lure absentee desire back to us, when we are crestfallen but determined to pick up the pieces of our own broken hearts, love spells will persist. Hope springs eternal.
In our era, shipments of dried hummingbird are seized at the U.S/ Mexico border. The tiny winged creatures, widely venerated in Mesoamerican culture, are said to have mystical powers that will bring potency to the popular “Chuparrosa” love spell. This practice is named after a fragrant pink flower which draws hummingbirds to it; as one hopes to invite a prospective partner to them. This is one of many instances in which the well being of a particular species is threatened by a high demand based on reputed medicinal or magical properties.
While some may be inclined to instinctually shrink at the sadness of such sweet creatures being imperiled, we can also listen to the deeper story underpinning the tale of the hummingbird’s fate. Although the Greco-Egyptian spells and charms came centuries before customs officers began to seize shipments of slain hummingbirds at American borders, there’s a lot shared in the stories of either set of spells. In the article “Fantastic beasts and why to conserve them: animals, magic and biodiversity conservation” scholars Holmes, Ward, and Smith argue that maintaining traditional beliefs surrounding the magical qualities of certain animals, either real or mythological, can be a powerful means to protect or reconstruct Indigenous identity after it’s been destabilized by conquest, politics, and modernity.
Traditional practices, such as the ones reflected in the Greco-Egyptian papyri or the Chuparrosa spell, migrate with their practitioners as a way of preserving heritage even when one is uprooted. The conundrum of the hummingbird, as with other imperiled magical creatures, is that practitioners who use it in witchcraft jeopardize a divine symbol of national identity while trying to preserve it. This is not the only area of the metaphysical marketplace where ethical issues arise–we witness it occur in the case of Palo Santo (an endangered tree commonly used for purification purposes, often by American shoppers), certain species of sage, and crystal sourcing.
Conscientiousness is of course an effective and obvious solution to helping resolve some of these ethical mindfields. Shopping with sellers who curate ethically sourced and intentionally created ritual tools, if possible, is an impactful way to pitch in. There may be individuals concerned with the efficacy and authenticity of performing a spell in a modified way–one that doesn’t include the use of an animal’s parts, for example. In many traditions modifications to rituals are permissible, even in the case of making offerings to relatively strict deities.
Love spells are, at their heart, deeply concerned with authentic connection. It makes sense to take pause as we consider what’s at stake in either preserving or modifying them. They’re concerned with seeking out not solely a romantic partner or partners, but also our traditions– even if we have lost touch with them by a growing distance between our ancestors, ancestral lands, and customs.
Love spells are also an expression of our desire to connect with a power deep within ourselves or bigger than ourselves. Largely, though, they mirror an intense yearning to find intimacy. Imagine the soldiers, far from home in ancient Egypt, longing for a kind and warm spouse to lay down roots with. Imagine anyone having to start fresh in any capacity, seeking out solace. Whatever may be in the story of one who turns to a love spell, they turn to it for the warmth of connection to tradition, for connection to Divinity, and for a lasting romance.
There may be a lot to process as we navigate learning to honor tradition while sidestepping damage to our plant and animal kin. There is one simple constant, though: whether searching the annals of ancient mythology in nearly any culture or in modern works on magic, desire is said to be the most powerful agent of a spell. There’s hardly a Divine figure in any lineage’s mythos who wasn’t moved by the passionate plea of a heartsick mortal. In our everlasting search to bring about the warmth of familiarity, our desire will always be the greatest key.
So light your candles and say your incantations with ease. The anatomy of your love spell will always match the anatomy of your loneliness in all its multitudes–ancestral, ecological and romantic. Trust that your own desires are complex, and therefore loud and strong. Strong enough to put wings like a hummingbird’s on your petitions, carrying them to an empathetic and Divine ear.
Alejandra has been practicing and researching magick art forms for over a decade. She shares her crafts of tarot and crystal ball readings, angelic invocation and lectures on the occult through her practice Gemineye Tarot. Booking: www.gemineyetarot.com IG: @gemineyetarot