A long time friend of mine e-mailed me today with a link to a very interesting article on an ancient amulet. This particular one had a palindrome (reads forwards and backwards) inscription.
Very interesting! This reminded me of the famous Abracadabra inscription. Not a palindrome but it's also an example of wordplay, you repeatedly inscribe with a letter missing on each line. Both very interesting examples of wordplay in magical inscriptions.
These examples got me thinking about ancient magic. Clearly the most important text for ancient talismanic magic is the Greek Magical Papyri, edited by Betz. The Greek Magical Papyri, often abbreviated as the PGM, are quite amazing. Several hundred pages of magical spells, recipes, prayers and invocations. Coming from a period quite like our own in being very eclectic, combining many magical traditions in a new synthesis. Definitely worth having in your grimoire collection! There's just not that many examples of authentic ancient magical texts.
Another excellent book on ancient talismans is Curse Tablets and Binding Spelles from the Ancient World by Gager. This book gives many examples of defixiones, which are a very typical ancient talisman made from writing on lead strips. Curses, love spells, business, justice, even racing are covered, with lots of actual examples.
Gager even brings us full circle because the very first illustration in the book comes from Picatrix! He notes the use of magical symbols in Picatrix very much akin to those used in ancient talismans 1,000 years earlier, then notes the use of similar characters in Renaissance England. Of course, for us Picatrix is an exciting and new form of magic, the renaissance of medieval and ancient magic, in an endless birth, death and rebirth.