Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Incantation, a charm or magic formula, supposed to be efficacious in itself, or recited or sung to add force to magical ceremonies. It is a common belief that incantations are relics of a vanished faith, or remnants of a learning handed down from remote antiquity, while the body of knowledge of which they formed part has long ago disappeared. The occult writings of the Middle Ages are too mystical to be of much service to the general reader. The poems of Theocritus, Virgil, and Horace furnish us with admirable examples of the use of incantations. By their means sorcerers claimed to be able to command the powers of Nature, to bring down the moon from heaven, and turn back rivers in their courses; to compel the attendance and service of supernatural beings (cf. 1 Sam. xxviii. 7-14) [Faust, Magic]; to influence the affections, and to inflict or cure physical injury or disease. Where incantations survive in the present day they are chiefly employed as love-spells or in folk-medicine. An example of the first is found in the rhymes used when a girl sows hemp-seed on Allhallows Eve, to summon her future husband - "Hemp seed I sow, hemp seed I sow, Let him that is my true love come after me and mow." To the second class belongs the charm quoted by Brand as used by old women in Wiltshire to prevent a thorn-prick from festering, the finger being passed over the wound while the charm is recited - "Unto the Virgin Mary our Saviour was born, And on His head He wore the crown of thorn; If you believe this true, and mind it well, This hurt will never tester, uor yet swell.'