In 1981, Australia's Macquarie University purchased a book of bound parchment—a codex—from a Viennese antiquities dealer. How far back its origins stretch is less known, but it's believed to be about 1,300 years old and hail from Upper Egypt (it's written in Egypt's Coptic language). Now, two Australian professors have pored over its 20 pages, and describe it as "the handbook of a ritual practitioner." In their own book, A Coptic Handbook of Ritual Power, Malcolm Choat and Iain Gardner explain just what they deciphered: invocations and 27 spells designed "to cure demonic possession, various ailments, the effects of magic, or to bring success in love and business," per their publisher.
LiveScience shares the codex's prescription for controlling someone: utter magic words over two nails, which should then be nailed "into his doorpost, one on the right side (and) one on the left." The codex also offers a treatment for the bacterial infection "black jaundice." As for who would have made use of the book, Choat tells LiveScience that's unclear. "It is my sense that there were ritual practitioners outside the ranks of the clergy and monks, but exactly who they were is shielded from us by the fact that people didn't really want to be labeled as a 'magician,'" he says. He suspects the invocations and spells were joined together sometime after they were written to create a "single instrument of ritual power." (Trying to cast spells in the modern world is probably not wise.)