The idea of a magic charm, spell, or potion aiding the pining lover in his/her quest to win the love of their desired one reaches far into the past. In a modern context, perhaps charms and spells are not prevalent today, but products abound in the form of sexual enhancement lotions, stimulants, and drugs.
Aphrodite the goddess of love (Roman-Venus) can claim the name ‘Aphrodisiac,’ a food, drink or drug that stimulates sexual desire. These ancient stimulants have been associated with certain foods such as oysters, honey, and figs, (even today, doctors are spouting the benefits of watermelon as increasing blood flow to erectile tissue in both male and female, which increases arousal).
According to History of Magic, in ancient times, women favored the love potion whereas men leaned more toward spells that induced love and affection and the ‘benefits’ that came with them. ‘Potion’ comes from the Latin word ‘potio’ meaning ‘to drink.’ Potions from ancient Rome and Greece included ingredients such as ‘bats’ blood, crushed beetles, feathers, bird and animal claws, snake skeletons or skins, and many different herbs.’
When it comes to drink, the ancient Romans ‘swore by a brew of delicately aromatic orchid leaves,’ and the easiest of potions included wine in the right amount and stages to ensure success (too little would make for just happiness and too much for impotence or sleep). ‘Herbal aphrodisiacs and mood enhancers such as oleander, cyclamen and mandrake were also used in combination with wine for enhancements.’ Plants, herbs and flowers — such as fennel, anise and chrysanthemums — are also purported to be erotic pick-me-ups. Often narcotics were used in potions.
Get Your Sweat On
Finally, I found an interesting post by the Roman mystery writer, Caroline Lawrence, that mentions that some believe the mixture of oil and sweat scraped from a gladiator’s body known as gloios in Greek and strigmentum in Latin was used as a love potion. She heard this tale from a guide, while visiting Pompeii. Although Lawrence writes there is no hard proof for believing that gladiator sweat was an aphrodisiac, she does cite Pliny the Elder from his work, Natural History. He wrote that small amounts of strigmentum changed hands ‘for the equivalent of a half a million dollars.’
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, this might be the time to reassess what you’re getting for your sweetheart or may I be bold enough to suggest sweatheart?
Just a little oil might do the trick.