10. First Written Record of Abracadabra
Liber Medicinalis, detail, Canterbury, 13th century ©British Library Board
Before J.K. Rowling introduced “wingardium levi-O-sa,” “expecto patronum,” and “lumos” into the magical lexicon, the most well-known charm was probably “abracadabra.” “Abracadabra” was believed to have healing powers and was prescribed as a cure for malaria. This book, Liber Medicinalis, or “Book of Medicine,” written by Roman Emperor Caracalla in the 13th century contains the first known written record of the charm. Those wishing to invoke its powers would have to write the word out repeatedly, each time omitting one letter until there was a single one left. The paper was then worn around the neck as an amulet to ward off disease.