Erotic magic in medieval Europe

Richard Kieckhefer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

4 Scopus citations


People at various levels of medieval society appear to have had recourse to magic for sex and love. Erotic magic could be used to induce a person to become a sexual partner, to encourage an intimate and lasting amorous relationship, or to enhance the sexual experience of partners who were already willing. Fear of erotic magic led to its condemnation and prohibition by ecclesiastical and secular authorities alike. The simplest and most basic distinction to be made in the realm of erotic magic is that between magical aphrodisiacs and love-charms. The techniques used in magic generally fall into broad categories: natural and demonic. While natural magic invoked hidden powers in nature, demonic magic invoked the power of evil spirits. In theory, magic and religion can be distinguished easily enough: magic appeals to occult virtues in nature or demons, while religion appeals to God.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSex in the Middle Ages
Subtitle of host publicationA Book of Essays
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9780429616242
ISBN (Print)082405766X, 9780367174514
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)

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  • Cite this

    Kieckhefer, R. (2019). Erotic magic in medieval Europe. In Sex in the Middle Ages: A Book of Essays (pp. 30-55). Taylor and Francis.