In recent years scholars have focused not only on the discourse and practices of magic in antiquity, but also on its practitioners, literary stereotypes and historical shifts. Much less attention, however, has been paid to the material that was used by the magicians for their curses and incantations. Yet there is no magic without materiality. The practice of magic required a specialist expertise that knew how to handle material such as lead, gold, stones, papyrus, figurines or voodoo dolls. That is why we present new insights on the materiality of magic by studying both the materials used for magic as well as the books in which the expertise was preserved.
The starting point comprises a series of case studies of less than perfect bodies: bodies that are misshapen, stigmatized, fragmented, as well as hybrid human/animal creatures, transgendered persons, and bodies on the cultural periphery of the classical world. These examples represent deviations from the »normal« order of things and evoke feelings of alienation. One strategy for dealing with this is to canonize transgression in visual form. Fluid bodies are captured in the image, creating a visual order in disorder. The body-as-ruin is a fixed figure of fluidity and thus receptive to attributions of meaning, which helps explain its persistence as a cultural trope. It allows for the observation of cultural change.