Unlucky in love? Today, you might try your luck on Tinder, read dating advice articles, or console yourself with a large tub of Ben & Jerry's in front of Bridget Jones. But back in ancient Egypt, lonely hearts and slighted lovers would often turn to superstition and wizardry to change their fate. (Presumably to little success.)
Korshi Dosoo, an expert in Egyptology and Coptic texts, leads "The Coptic Magical Papyri: Vernacular Religion in Late Antique and Early Islamic Egypt" at the Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg in Germany. His most recent work, published in the Journal of Coptic Studies, involves an ancient Egyptian papyrus he believes is a fragment of a centuries-old magician's handbook. All that remains is a single sheet of yellowed papyrus showing a curious-looking diagram and what appears to be the instructions for a love spell.
"The form and contents of the papyrus leave no doubt that it belongs to the genre typically described as 'magical” papyri'," Dosoo explains in the paper.
These are short-ish texts that either detail spells and rituals to aid a person in their day-to-day life whether that be in love, health, or success, or are produced during such rituals. Dosoo believes that this particular item is from the late-seventh to early-eighth century, making it roughly 1,300 years old – when the Egyptians had swapped hieroglyphs for Coptic and Christianity had established itself in the country.
Large chunks of the text have been destroyed, making it difficult to decipher the text. Still, Dosoo has translated what is left from Coptic (an Egyptian language using the Greek alphabet) to English:
"I call u[pon you...] who is Christ, the god of Israe[l...] and (?) of Akhetobēl ... [...] the women (?)... you will dissolve […] … and every child of A[dam…] the king (?). You will give grace to the face of [… I in]voke you y the […]… now…"