MANUALS: Love Potion Number IX
Love and its adjuncts have long prompted efforts at controlling others that range from desperate to dangerous. Secrets Magiques pour l'Amour en nombre d'Octante et trois (Eighty-Three Magic Secrets for Love), a collection of "Charms, Conjurations, Spells and Talismans" ("Charmes, Conjurations, Sortileges et Talismans"), offers one example of how this urge has spanned the centuries. The book itself is from 1868, but in fact is extracted from a work in the collection of Marc-Rene de Voyer d'Argenson, Marquis of Paulmy, a famous bibliophile - and, at the start of the eighteenth century, head of the Paris police. The editor ("C. J., book lover") has also added some recipes from the Great and Little Alberts, two collections that were popular in our period, as well as some citations from the Roman author Pliny echoed in later entries.
Otherwise, "it seems to us impossible to assign a precise date to this erotic grimoire. The writing of the two manuscripts shows a naïve, unpracticed hand, from the seventeenth, possibly even the beginning of the eighteenth century; but the formulas and secrets, gathered with no order or logic, certainly to back to various extremely diverse ages." The origins, too, are diverse: "Most can be attributed to a few miserable village sorcerers, such as our tribunals still summon from time to time, to send back to their sheep after a short period of administrative penance". Others give off "a perfume of priests and sacrilege, of compressed, shameful passions." Still others "breath in our face a toxic miasma of" the era of the poisoners (under Louis XIV).
The actual contents of the book include a wide range of advice, starting with (I) how, simply, to: "unfailingly be loved by whomever you please":
If you can have from the person by whom you hope to be loved something that comes from their body, be it hairs, saliva, blood, underwear where they have sweated. Put that with something similar of your own, tie it all up in a red ribbon, where you will form these characters [drawn in the text] with your name and theirs in your own blood. Roll all this so that the [last two characters] which is where the two names are touch: then take another ribbon and tie your characters in love knots. Close all this in the body of a sparrow, and carry this under your armpit until it stinks...
See what I mean about 'desperate'?
Personally, I'd prefer IV: "Rub your hands with verbena juice and touch him or her to whom you want to give love." This is probably the simplest of the various ways listed (through XXII) to be loved by another.
From XXXIII on, the tone starts to change. Want to see your loved one while you sleep? You'll need some pulverized coral, diamond dust, and more. And if, after all that, you don't see them, it's probably not meant to be.
Want your wife only be able to bear "yours"? Dry goat fat and gall and, when you're ready to use "it", soak the goat goodies in oil and rub the item in question with this lubricant: "She won't be able to stand anyone but you." (XXXIV)
There's a number which are downright sinister: "To Force a Person to Come Satisfy You" (XL); "To Attract to Yourself Any Person You Desire, And Make Them Submit to Your Will, Either Girl, Man or Woman, So That They Will Not Rest Until They Have Satisfied You" (XLI); "To Make Someone Follow You "(XLIV) (wisely, this one also includes a way to UNDO the spell); "To Make Two Lovers Quarrel (XLVII); etc..
But even some of these hint at male adolescent fantasy: "How to Make a Girl Dance Naked in Her Nightshirt" (last part of XLVIII). (Good news, guys - in 200 some years, there'll be this thing called 'the Internet', and all you'll need is a credit card.)
But women's concerns are certainly not ignore. Well before the current vogue for vaginal plastic surgery was "To Shrink" (LXIV): "Make a decoction of comfrey, wash with it three or four days after the... And eight days before.
Only seven or eight days are needed, lest it become too narrow."
Etc. Let me just end with the same warning as the 19th century editor put at the start of this edition: "For the edification of bibliophiles and no others."
I trust no readers will misuse this dangerous information!