From Ancient Elixirs To Modern Mysteries: The True History Of Love Potions

From Ancient Elixirs To Modern Mysteries: The True History Of Love Potions

It takes a lot of effort to fall in love. Staying in love may be much more difficult. Instead of submitting to the tyranny of dating apps or the arduousness of couples therapy, what if there was a pill or potion that could whisk you away to your happily ever after?

We’ve been attempting to figure out how to hack love for as long as people have been experiencing it, concocting potions that claim to turn the enigma of love into a definitive science. 

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What happened in history with love potions?

history of love potions

A love potion provided by his own wife, Lucilia, is said to have driven the ancient Roman philosopher and poet Lucretius insane—and finally to death. Though it is unknown what substances Lucilia may have employed, the so-called Spanish fly (which is neither Spanish nor a fly) was a typical element in ancient Greek love potions. 

When swallowed, the bug or crushed beetle generates a warm, fuzzy feeling throughout the body, which Roman gladiators and empresses mistook for the hot burn of new desire.

In truth, the sensation was most likely produced by inflammation—the species contains a lethal toxin that, when taken in large enough quantities, can blister the skin and kill. 

Another famous example of love potions 

love potions

According to Eleanor Herman’s bestselling history, Sex With Kings, the “ravenously beautiful and venomously cunning” Madame de Montespan spiked King Louis XIV’s meat and wine with “disgusting concoctions made of dead babies’ blood, bones, intestines, along with parts of toads and bats” in order to win—and keep—his love.

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Madame de Montespan, born into one of France’s oldest noble families, was keen to woo the notoriously philandering king.

Montespan was King Louis XIV’s “reigning beauty”—and a royal flirt. Despite her beauty and Louis’s infamous philandering, she was unable to win the king’s attention. “She tries hard,” he said to his brother, “but I’m not interested.” 

The legendary magician Catherine Monvoisin, who was jailed in connection with a string of Parisian poisonings in 1679, revealed the secret of Montespan’s seduction. 

Many murmured during her trial that she had one particularly high-profile customer, but Monvoisin kept her mouth shut for the remainder of her brief life—she was burnt at the stake in 1680. 

history of love potions

The connection to the king’s most famous mistress was disclosed by the (claimed!) witch’s own daughter. According to Herman, “Louis finally understood why, for 13 years, he had awoken with a headache every morning” after dining with his beloved mistress. 

Montespan was allowed to stay in Versailles, but the king’s visits to her grew increasingly uncommon, and he never ate or drank with her.

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