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The Magick of Jinxing

Some dictionaries will inform you that ‘Jinx’ means ‘a bringer of bad luck, a curse, a hoodoo’, and then go on to blithely tell you that it’s an American slang word. Which just shows you how much dictionary-compilers know about magick. The origin of the word is pure ancient Greek, and it refers to a magical wheel originally used, not in cursing, but in love Magick. It was called a Iynx, which is pronounced, roughly, "yunx" ... and from that we get ‘‘jinx’’.

A Iynx is basically a small wheel, suspended at the middle of a loop of string. It’s wound up and then, as the string winds and unwinds, the wheel spins to make a humming sound. These days, it’s the sort of thing which is given away as a free gift in kids’ comics... but the Iynx is actually an extremely ancient magical tool.

Before we get into the details of how to make one, let’s take a look at the mythology and the ancient uses. Iynx was the name of a nymph, the daughter of Pan and either Echo or Peitho (whose name means ‘persuasion’). With parentage like that, it’s not surprising that Iynx specialised in love-potions, and it was one of her potions that caused Zeus to fall in love with Jo. hera wasn’t at all pleased about this, of course, and vengefully turned Iynx into a bird, the wryneck, which bears her name in Greek.

The wryneck is a bird which, when in danger, can extend its neck considerably. At the same time its head-feathers will stand up, and it will twist its head and neck around to give a fair imitation of a snake. Most of the commentators seem to think that the wryneck is connected with the magick wheel because it can turn its head right round; the phallic imagery of an extended neck and ‘swollen’ head seems to have passed them by completely.

The original, and perhaps purely mythical, form of Iynx-magick was invented by Aphrodite, who fastened a wryneck to a wheel and set it spinning, this she gave to Jason, who used it to seduce Medea. Its powers were obviously sufficient to overcome Medea’s own considerable witchcraft.

As a simple magical wheel, the Iynx produces a rushing, windy, humming sound, though this isn’t constant, as the wheel winds up and unwinds by turns. The end result sounds rather like heavy breathing, which, in context, again has obvious passionate connotations. And in ancient paintings, the Iynx is occasionally seen in the hands of love-deities like Eros and Himeros ... or, in more realistic scenes, in the hands of women.

So the mythological scenario includes witchcraft, sexual symbolism and potent sexual deities. In ancient magical practice, though, there’s also a strong connection with the Moon. Mythologically, of course, Iynx’s father Pan was the seducer of Selene (though we have nothing to suggest he used a magical wheel). Hecate is also associated with the Iynx, and besides having lunar associations she was also the supreme goddess of Greek witchcraft.

Besides, the main practitioners of Iynx-magick appear to have been women (not surprising if the victim was supposed to react physically like an endangered wryneck) and female witchcraft is essentially carried out under the sign of the Moon.

The best description we have of a ritual involving the use of a Iynx is found in a poem by Theocritus. written in the 3rd Century B.C. here the goddesses Selene, Artemis and Hekate are called upon (the Moon Goddess in her celestial, terrestrial and chthonic aspects). Then a number of magical acts are performed - wax is melted, barley burned, a bull-roarer whirled, etc.) with simultaneous incantations such as "so may my lover melt". In between these acts, the operator uses her Iynx, with the spoken refrain: "Draw into my house my lover, magic wheel". The Iynx is used nine times, and then the operator enters into a conversation with Selene, telling of the progress of the love-affair. The whole rite ends with a salutation to Selene.

At this period then, the Iynx was used in love magick, to draw the target to the operator and bind him to her. This binding aspect was probably further symbolised by the way the two strings intertwine and coil round each other as the wheel spins. There also seems to be some suggestion that the Iynx was used by Thessalian witches to ‘draw down the Moon’, and again we have the notion of drawing the target, in this case the goddess, to the operator and binding them to their will.

There doesn’t seem to be much surviving evidence of the Iynx being used for sorcery after the beginning of the Christian era, and the practice may have faded into obscurity. It seems though, to have been revived by the Neoplatonists some 3 or 4 centuries later, as one of the practices of Theurgy (divine work). Here the Iynx was closely associated with Hekate, who was of great importance in the Neoplatonic theology that derived from the Chaldean Oracles.

Here the name referred to both the magick wheel and also (in the plural, lynges) to a triad of entities in the upper realms who act as messengers between the worlds. The lynges are also known as ‘Binders Together’ and ‘Masters of Initiation’, and they are again associated with Hekate, whose power is said to manifest as a spiralling force.

On a practical level, we hear of the Iynx-wheel being used by Theurgists for rain-making, where it serves as a mesenger between the upper and lower worlds, drawing down the rain, or manipulating daemons and sending them Out to give prophetic dreams. Most importantly, though, the Iynx appears to have been used to invoke (and later release) the deities, drawing them down to possess a spirit medium. The rushing, windy sound of the Iynx may be associated with the approach of the divine pneuma (wind, breath, spirit - and so, inspiration). And lastly, as a whirling force, the Iynx was used simply to empower the ritual and make it work.

Some would argue that magick and theurgy should be widely distinguished, and obviously there is a difference of emphasis here, But both traditions share common characteristics, using the Iynx as a messenger that draws and binds together. Basically, though, the Iynx is a magical tool, whatever purposes it is put to. And so that you can think of a few of your own, let’s get into the details of how to make one.

Although there seem to be some mentions of spherical or triangular Iynxes, the standard Greek model was a flat disc, or spoked wheel. This would normally have saw-like teeth round the edge, to increase the noise, but as I can’t draw, the diagram just shows a disc. This would have been made of metal or wood. Something like plywood would be good, but if you just want to experiment, try thick cardboard. The heavy, compressed stuff, about an eighth of an inch thick, would be best, as this gives you some weight and rigidity. Light cardboard will flap about and fall to pieces, and you need a bit of weight to get a decent noise out of the thing.

Whatever you’re using, cut a disc about 6" across. Anything larger is a bit unwieldy, anything smaller doesn’t have the weight to keep the momentum going. Now bore two holes, one on either side of the disc’s centre, no more than half an inch apart. If they are wider than this, the disc will tend to flap sideways on the string. Cut about 5’ of strong string, thread an end through one hole, and then back through the other, and tie the ends together.

Hold one end of the loop in each hand and let it go limp so the disc slides to the centre. Rotate one wrist and swing the disc in a circle, so the disc winds up the string. Keep doing this until the string’s wound fairly tight. Now pull your hands apart horizontally, with a smooth, gentle movement. The string will start to unwind rapidly, spinning the disc. Keep pulling, but relax just before the string goes completely taut. There’s a knack to this, which you’ll pick up with practice. With the string relaxed and your hands moved a little closer together, the disc will keep spinning and wind the string up again. Just as the disc stops, pull your hands apart to increase the tension. If you keep doing this smoothly, moving your hands in and out by turns, you can build up the speed of the disc considerably. And as it speeds up it’ll start to hum. If you’re working with cardboard, the sound won’t be all that loud, but if you amplify the sound through a microphone, or have several people using them at once, the result will be quite interesting.

A couple of points. Your disc is going to be spinning quite fast, and if it’s made of wood or metal it could be quite dangerous, especially with a toothed edge. So keep it away from other people, and your own face. Also, if you’re holding the string round one finger of each hand, you’ll find it tightening and squeezing your finger quite painfully after a while, so you might like to wear gloves or add handles, it is also a good idea, with a cardboard disc, to reinforce the centre holes so that the string doesn’t eventually wear through them. The Iynx doesn’t have to be circular of course, though it should be reasonably symmetrical. So experiment; pentagrams, Chaospheres, whatever you will.

Iynx.gif (2507 bytes)

Now the embarrasing personal confession. Having foolishly said that I knew how to make a Iynx, I got my arm twisted into writing this ... but I haven’t actually used one in a magical or ritual context.

Further Reading - Theocritus’ poem is available in Arcana Mundi Georg Luck, Aquarian. For Hekate and the Iynx, Stephen Ronan’s "Hekate’s Iynx", in Alexandria, No.1 (Phanes Press); for Hekate in general, his The Goddess Hekate (Chthonios). My thanks to Steve for letting me use some of his information in this piece, though he’s not responsible for what I’ve done to it!