(Another in a series of posts about Ancient Greek Poppets called Kolossos or Kolossoi.)
In addition to an identification of the Kolossos with its Subject, there is often some formula of binding (Katadesmos, kah-TAH-dess-maws), which may be inscribed on the Kolossos, spoken above it, or both; it may take several forms of greater of less elaborateness. Inscriptions may be written backwards, to increase the Subject’s confusion. The spoken spell is usually accompanied by ritual actions, such as the mutilation, piercing or binding of the figure; further, the Defigens (Binder) may touch the ground while invoking chthonic deities, or raise his or her hands to celestial deities.
In the simplest case, the Defigens (Binder) simply declares,
Alternately, the binding may be expressed as a wish:
Let NN be restrained!
The spell may take the form of a prayer to some deities to restrain the subject; often the Subject is handed over or committed to the deity (as though being put under arrest) — a wise thing to do, since then responsibility for the binding resides with the Gods. Although any God or Goddess might be petitioned, it is particularly appropriate to appeal to Hermes Katokhos (Restrainer) in the consecration. Other deities called on for binding are Hermes Khthonios, Gê, Hecate (Khthonia) and Persephone. For example:
I commit NN to the Gods,
to Gê, Hecate and Persephone!
I bind NN, born of NN,
in Your presence, Hermes Katokhos.
May s/he be restrained
in hand and foot and body!
Finally, by the magical principal of Similia Similibus (Similars for Similars), the incantation may call for the Subject to be bound analogically by the binding of the effigy. For example, a simple binding is:
Analogies may be invoked with the material of the Kolossos or its disposition:
also cold and powerless is NN,
cold in knowledge, thinking, memory!
His soul, his mind, his tongue, his plans:
let all these things be twisted round!
For a Kolossos buried in a graveyard:
As the dead are powerless and still,
just so powerless and still will NN be,
his feet and hands and body!
Here is a typical formula for binding the partners of an oath:
Let he who breaks this promise likewise melt,
And perish all his seed and property!
This is a typical formula for boundary protection:
So long in this our land will foemen not be found!
The power of the spell is increased by the use of repetition and meter; also, multiple deities may be invoked and more of Their epithets or offices listed.
Sometimes the Kolossos is ritually destroyed, but for binding the more common disposition involves confinement and burial. First the Kolossos is usually confined tightly in a lead box with a tight cover, or wrapped in a sheet of lead, or placed in a copper of bronze cauldron or box. (Lead, of course, is the supreme symbol of fixation.) Often the container is inscribed, on the inside or the outside, with names, spells, bands, and/or bound figures. These may also be written and drawn on papyrus, which is then used to wrap the Kolossos. In some cases the Kolossos in its container is placed in a clay pot, to further constrain it.
Finally, you must dispose of the Kolossos and its container(s). They may be thrown into deep water, such as a well or the ocean, or more commonly buried, for example, in a graveyard, a sanctuary or uncultivated land; both earth and water are paths to the chthonic deities. Such disposition also makes it less likely that the Subject will find the Kolossos and thereby loose the binding.
It will be worthwhile to say a few words about removing bindings (eklusis, EK-loo-sis, release). In general only the Defigens or the Gods he or she invoked are capable of dissolving the bonds. The best option for the Subject is to pray and sacrifice to the Gods, either to Those who have bound him or her, or, if They are not known, to all deities. The binding is also released if either the Defigens or Subject can find the Kolossos and systematically unbind it (i.e., remove bands and nails, turn the head and limbs around the right way).