Magic Perfumes and Deadly Herbs: The Scent of Witches' Magic in Classical Literature
- Preternature: Critical and Historical Studies on the Preternatural
- Penn State University Press
- Volume 8, Number 1, 2019
- pp. 1-34
- Additional Information
The magic of Greek and Roman witches is often described as fragrant, or even as being itself a kind of scent. Classical descriptions of witchcraft thus echo ancient fears of women's perfumes and scented cosmetics, which were conventionally thought of as altering the minds of men, who could be seduced by sweet scents into doing things they would not willingly choose to do. Witches' spells similarly charm and confuse their targets, acting as more aggressive supernatural versions of ordinary women's scents, even as witches themselves were increasingly described as old, repulsive, and foul-smelling. Meanwhile, male magicians are largely inodorate in the fantastic literature of antiquity. Clarifying the links between ancient discourse on perfumes, gender, and magic offers new ways to read Greco-Roman fantastic literature.