Divine Evocation in the Graeco-Egyptian Magical Papyri

by Christopher A. Plaisance


"Within the extant corpus of Hellenistic literature, there are a small number of attestations of a curious term: θεαγωγία (divine evocation). The use of the terms "evocation" and "invocation" within contemporary discourses on magic exhibit clear technical distinctions — with invocation being an activity proper to the supernal genera of beings occupying a higher place than the operator in the divine hierarchy (i.e. gods, angels), and evocation referring to activities proper to the infernal classes of beings beneath the operator in the hierarchy (i.e. daemons, spirits)." Christopher A. Plaisance


Evocating the Gods: Divine Evocation in the Græco-Egyptian Magical Papyri offers the first dedicated analysis of the practice and context of theagogy within the Late Antique world. This book is an in-depth exploration of the historical context of θεαγωγία (divine evocation) within the Papyri Graecæ magicæ (PGM), combined with a comprehensive examination and philological analysis of the technical terms found in the texts.  Christopher A. Plaisance demonstrates that the practice of theagogy is part of a wider tradition, as well as being rooted in Western Esotericism.


The PGM spells in which the magician evokes deities were controversial and ambitious even at the time when they were written down. In this monograph, the author first explores essential  terminology and their definitions before presenting detailed chapters on:


  • Spells of Binding and Constraint
  • Erotic Enchantments
  • Psychagogy and Necromancy
  • Evocating the Gods

Plaisance delves into the philosophical attitudes towards both theagogy and other magical practices within Middle and Late Platonism as part of this meticulous study. By drawing on a wide range of sources in the Western esoteric tradition, the author illustrates the contextual relationships between seemingly unrelated Late Antique magical practices such as theurgy, necromancy, erotic enchantments and binding curses.  The exploration and philological analysis of the technical terms found in the Greek Magical Papyri, as well as the crucial differences between evocation and invocation, makes Evocating the Gods essential reading for all students of the  Græco-Egyptian Magical Papyri.


2020, 160 pages. Paperback & Kindle editions available.
ISBN 978-1-910191-18-7
B&W 6.14 x 9.21 in or 234 x 156 mm (Royal 8vo) Perfect Bound on Creme w/Gloss Lam



Evocating the Gods by Christopher A. Plaisance

  • Author Christopher A. Plaisance is an independent humanities scholar researching topics within the fields of the history of philosophy, religion, and Western esotericism, from the methodological perspectives of classical philology and discursive archaeology. He holds an MA in Western Esotericism from the University of Exeter's Centre for the Study of Esotericism; and a BA in Philosophy from the American Military University. He works professionally as a cyber-threat hunter and lives in Southeastern Pennsylvania with his family.

  • Acknowledgements



    Methodological Challenges

    Essentialism in the Social Sciences

    Linguisticism and Philology

    Terms and Definitions     

    “Magical” Disjunctions



    Curse Tablets in the Graeco-Roman World

    Curse Tablet Materials

    Creators of the Curse Tablets

    Theory and Practice

    Functional Classification

    Classification by Modus Operandi

    Unmediated Operations

    Supernatural Mediation

    Wish Formulae and Similia Similibus

    Gods, Daemons, and Ghosts

    Theology of the Curse Tablets

    Daemonic Intermediaries

    Origins in the Epic Period

    Platonic Transformations

    Hecate, Daemons, and the Dead

    Intermediary Nexus

    Case Study (PGM XV)

    Ritual Mechanics

    Connections to JeagwgÐa



    Foundational Classifications

    Early Examples     



    Connections to Bridal Theft Traditions

    Mythological Roots

    Historical Traditions

    Erotic Spells and Bridal Theft

    Connective Matrix   

    Etymological Questions

    Physical and Emotional Bondage

    Paired Effigies

    Spells of Compulsion


    Case Study (PGM IV–)

    Structure of the Spell

    Divine Compulsion


    Compelling the Dead

    Case Studies

    Ritual Analysis

    Corpse Animation and Soul Evocation

    King Pitys the Necromancer

    A Coactive Operation

    The Necro-Daemon


    Necromantic Dream Divination


    Linguistic Roots

    Egyptian Magical Theory

    Spells in the Demotic Corpus

    Bilingual Graeco-Egyptian Spells


    Later Platonism