From top left: Waterhouse, Circe Offering
            the Cup to Ulysses, The Magic Circle; Val Prinsep, The Queen Was In the Parlour Eating Bread and Honey; Burne-Jones, Wine of Circe;
            Waterhouse, The Sorceress; Frederick Sandys, Morgan Le Fey; Holman Hunt, Isabella and the Pot of Basil; Frederick Sandys, Medea; 
            Evelyn DeMorgan, Queen Eleanor, Love Potion; Waterhouse, Circe Invidiosa; Millais, The Bridesmaid; Henry Meynell Rheam, La Belle Dame Sans Merci

Pre-Raphaelite Women of Magick

Victoriana: Spells and Potions

Accent Tiles and Border Tile Sets

What thou seest when thou dost wake,
Do it for thy true-love take...

A Midsummer Night's Dream, II,2,679

The most common Victorian spells were love spells. We sometimes idly count the number of daisy petals when uncertain about our true love's affections. The Bridesmaid passes a pomegranate seeds through a wedding ring nine times, a bit more earnestly.

This tiles set is centered around Spells and Potions. It is part of the Pre-Raphaelite Women of Magick series. You can choose individual tiles, tile sets or to make your own set of tiles of the same size across different sets.

More tiles may be added to this set over time. Individual tiles make good accent tiles, or you can create a unique border.

Tile sets offer a better value than individual tiles. You can make your own set.

Spells and Potions Tile Set

From top left: John William Waterhouse, Circe Offering the Cup to Ulysses; Waterhouse, The Magic Circle*; Valentine Cameron Prinsep, The Queen Was In the Parlour Eating Bread and Honey; Burne-Jones, The Wine of Circe*; John William Waterhouse, The Sorceress; Frederick Sandys, Morgan Le Fay; William Holman Hunt, Isabella and the Pot of Basil; Frederick Sandys, Medea*; Evelyn DeMorgan, Queen Eleanor; Evelyn DeMorgan, Love Potion*; Waterhouse, Circe Invidiosa; John Everett Millais, The Bridesmaid*; Henry Meynell Rheam, La Belle Dame Sans Merci

*Available on 4.25 and 6 inch tiles only

The Bridesmaid

John Everett Millais, The Bridesmaid

The Bridesmaid, by John Everett Millais, is emblematic of the Pre-Raphaelite philosophy of art. A Victorian superstition promises that if a bridesmaid passes a piece of wedding cake through the wedding ring nine times (in essence, a spell), she will see a vision of her future lover. As mentioned earlier, the Bridesmaid passes a pomegranate seed, the seed that Hades persuaded Persephone to eat, resulting in her spending half the year in the underworld as his queen. A half-eaten pomegranate rests on her plate. The Bridemaid wears orange blossoms, symbol of chastity, while a ripe uneaten orange sits besides the half-eaten pomegranate. The painting is eminently religious and at the same time profoundly sexual; a silver jar reminescent of a censer sits on the table before her.

Circe Offering the Cup to Ulysses

Waterhouse, Circe Summons Ulysses

Circe summons Ulysses to drink a cup containing the potion that will bring him under her spell. Ulysses's reflection can be seen in the mirror.

I never turned anyone into a pig.
Some people are pigs. I make them look like pigs.

~Louise Gluck, Circe

Circe Invidiosa

Waterhouse, Circe Invidiosa

Glaucus, a Greek mortal turned sea-god, fell in love with the nymph, Scylla. He asked Circe for a potion to make Scylla fall in love with him, but Circe fell in love with him instead. Glaucus held fast to his love for Sylla, so Circe poisoned the waters where Scylla bathed, turning her into a monster with twelve feet and six heads.

The Sorceress

Waterhouse, the Sorceress

In this version of The Sorceress, Circe, sits across the table from a group of large cats, possibly familiars by way of enchantment of sailors who fell prey to her and were trapped on the island Aeaea.

Queen Eleanor

Evelyn DeMorgan, Queen Eleanor

According to legend, King Henry II built a home for his mistress, Rosamund, at the center of an elaborate maze called Labyrinthus. Queen Eleanor found her way through the maze by following a thread and poisoned her. Eleanor is accompanies by conjured spirits, monkeys, bats, and dragons.

Spiritualism was a popular, if unorthodox, belief system from the mid-19th century onwardwith séances, table-turnings, and levitations, through the control of a medium. Her mother-in-law, Sophia DeMorgan, was a clairvoyant medium and she encouraged her son William and his wife to explore spiritualism and the supernatural. Together, they conducted a prolonged experiment over several years, including automatic writing. They anonymously published the transcripts of their experiment in 1909 as The Result of a Experiment.

Isabella and the Pot of Basil

William Holman Hunt, Isabella and the Pot of Basil

The tale of Isabella is told in Keats's narrative poem of the same name. Her family intends her to marry well, but she falls in love with the help. His name is Lorenzo. When her brothers murder Lorenzo, his ghost brings the bad tidings to Isabella. She exhumes his body and buries his head in a pot of basil, which she cares for obsessively, whiling pining away.

La Belle Dame Sans Merci

Henry Meynell Rheam, La Belle Dame Sans Merci

The many La Belle Dame Sans Merci Pre-Raphaelite paintings are taken from a poem of the same name by John Keats. The ghosts of her past encounters with knights appear as spectres against the lake in Rheam's version, underscoring the Arthurian allusions. See Lady of the Lake.

Lady of the Lake

The Lady of the Lake, Nimue or Vivien, was the foster-mother of Sir Lancelot and raised him beneath the Lake's waters. She presented Excalibur to King Arthur. Merlin fell so deeply in love with Nimue that he agreed to teach her all his magical powers. She recorded all his prophecies and became his lover. She eventually became more powerful than Merlin and imprisoned him in a glass tower. She was forced to reclaim Excalibur when Arthur was fatally wounded at the Battle of Camlann. Excalibur was hurled back to the waters. Her place as Merlin's student and lover was largely overtaken by Morgan Le Fay.

Nimue is related to Mneme (Mnemosyne), one of the nine water-nymph muses who gave weapons to Perseus.

Love Potion

Evelyn DeMorgan, Love Potion

The Love Potion depicts a witch brewing a love potion, with a black cat at her feet. It has a medieval setting, so popular with Morris and the later Pre-Raphaelites. Lovers promenade, hand in hand, outside her window. Evelyn DeMorgan's mother-in-law, Sophia, was a clairvoyant medium and both Evelyn and William had a strong interest in spiritualism and the occult.

The Magic Circle

Waterhouse, The Magic Circle

The details of The Magic Circle are well-researched. The sorceress, holding a moon shaped scythe evocative of the triple goddess, casts a firey magic circle on the earth to create sacred space. The sky is dark as if a storm brews, electrifying the air. A snake coils around her neck like a final layer of jewelry. She honors the sacred ground by standing barefoot. Outside the circle one of several ravens perches on a skull while a frog stops at the boundary of the circle near an offering of shells and flowers. An ancient figure decorates her dress, and no fewer than three discernable faces appear in the smoke. Three seated figures watch her from a lit cave in the background, while a guard stands by.


Frederick Sandys, Medea

Medea was Circe's niece so magical powers ran in the family. The backstory: Hera convinced Aphrodite to cause Medea to fall in love with Jason. Medea used her herbal magic to drug the Dragon who guarded the fleece on the condition that he would take her with him and marry her. For the task of plowing a field with fire-breathing oxen, Medea gave him an unguent to protect himself from their breath. Next Jason had to sow dragon teeth in the plowed field; the teeth sprouted into an army. Medea had forewarned him so Jason threw a rock in their midst, causing them to turn and fight and kill each other. Finally, Medea put the sleepless dragon to sleep with herbs. As Jason sailed away with Medea and the fleece, Medea distracted her father by killing her brothe Absytrus.

Medea used her charms and magic to kill many who crossed their paths. She also used to her power to heal Jason's father. She convinced King Pelias's daughter to cut his body into pieces and throw them into the pot by demonstrating a live, young ram jumping out the pot. It didn't work for Pelias. Jason and Medea fled to Corinth.

In Corinth, Jason abandoned Medea for King Creon's daughter, Glauce. Undaunted, Medea sent her a dress and coronet doused in poison. When Creon went to sae her, he was also poisoned. In Euripedes, Medea also murdered her children with Jason, although this actually may have been an accident.

Back on the road, Medea fled to Thebes, healing Heracles on the way, then on to Athens where she married Aegeus and bears a son, Medeus. Happily ever after again until the arrival of Theseus, claiming his inheritance. As Medea hands Theseus a cup of poison, Aegeus recognizes his son's sword as his own, left for when the child came of age. Medea flees Athens on her flying chariot to live among the Aryans.

The gold background in this painting suggest the passion for all things Japanese and Chinese among the Bohemian types in Britain that started in the late 1860s. Jason's ship departs in that golden background, as can the golden fleece, As Jason is leaving her for Glauce Medea casts the spell which will destroy Glauce and her loved ones, except Jason, whom she will pay back by murdering their children. Medea casts her magick circle with red thread, reminiscent of the red thread of traditional Celtic witchcraft practice. Her coral necklace, like the red circle, acts as protection. Rossetti also used coral in many of his paintings.

Sandys's Medea was rejected from exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1868, causing a backlash of protest.

Morgan Le Fay

Frederick Sandys, Morgana Le Fay

Frederick Sandys's Morgan, like the Lady of Shalott, stands before a loom where she weaves destinies. About her are icons of occult magic, an Egyptian frieze and a Hindu bronze.

Morgan and Nimue are two of the three queens who escort Arthur to Avalon.

Morgan Le Fay, Morgana, Morgaine, was a powerful enchantress. In earlier chivalric romances by Chrétien de Troye, she was a healer and enchantress. In later medieval stories, she is the dangerous half-sister and arch-enemy of King Arthur. Their father, Uther Pendragon, aided by Merlin kills her father and rapes and marries her mother. Morgan is sent to a nunnery where she takes up the study of magic. She continues her magical studies under Merlin, who she enamors and later scorns, using her powers as a sorceress and temptress to exact revenge on King Arthur and Queen Guinevere, for whom she cherishes a special hatred for banishing Morgan from Camelot.

Morgan's plots against Arthur and Guinevere are repeatedly foiled by his new sorceress advisor, Nimue (Lady of the Lake). As the prime victim of Morgan's affections; Lancelot is her favorite obsession. She alternately attempts to seduce him and other knights with charm, enchantments, drugs, conjuring the devil, and imprisonment. When that fails, she exposes Lancelot as Guinevere's adulterous lover.

For a time, Morgan exiles herself in the forest to study magic, learning more spells than any other woman and gains the ability to transform herself into any animal. When Arthur wanders into her castle while on a hunting trip, he is welcomed warmly and they reconcile. Arthur sees the frescoes of Lancelot painted of his love for Guinevere while imprisoned in Morgan's castle. Arthur is finally convinced of the truth of the rumors about their secret love affair. The ensuing conflict between Arthur and Lancelot brings down the fellowship of the Round Table.

The Queen was in the Parlour

Valentine Prinsep, The Queen was in the Parlour Eating Bread and Honey

Val Prinsep is primarily known for his part in painting, with William Morris, Rossetti, Burne-Jones, John Spenzer Stanhope, J.H. Pollen and Alexander Munro, the Oxford Union murals on a commission from John Ruskin. This is a different style for Val Prinsep and one fitting its subject matter. It was painted about the same time as Il Barbagianni. This is a full-length portrait of the queen in medieval dress, eating bread and clutching a honey pot. Bottles of colored liquids teeter on shelves behind, and beside her a basket of Easter lilies.

Am I the only one who sees the highly stylized metal figure beside her? There is no dragon in the nursery rhyme, with which Prinsep was sure to be familiar. Walter Crane, also in the wider Morris circle, illustrated a book featuring the rhyme. No dragon there.

The Wine of Circe

Edward Burne-Jones, Wine or Circe

It is usual that poetry inspires painting but in this case the reverse is true. This painting by Edward Burne-Jones inspired Rossetti's sonnet For the Wine or Circe. Rossetti said in a letter: "I have tried in the first lines to give some notion of the colour, and in the last some impression of the scope of the work,—taking the transformed beasts as images of ruined passion—the torn seaweed of the sea of pleasure. You will remember that in the picture the window shows a view of the sea and the galleys which bear the new lovers and victims of the enchantress." (letter of 15 March 1870).

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Pricing for Spells and Potions Tiles

4.25 inch: $45

6 inch : $52

8 inch: $86 each

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