Magic has been used throughout history as a means to gain power and control one's environment. Early magicians included the alchemists of prior centuries, who did more than turn lead into gold. Magic indeed has to do with the nature of reality as a consciousness hologram, and how some people are able to shift the energies within its grid matrix.

Magic is found on all levels of consciousness. Learning how to use it in a positive way is the key. You start with physical tools that deceive the mind of the viewer as part of the illusion. Later you learn to use your mind instead.

Any good psychic will tell you that the tools they used in their early readings, soon gave way to messages received by thought and consciousness (clairvoyance and clairaudience). The magic is connecting beyond the physical.

Magic takes us to the word Magi or Zoroastrian astrologer-priests from ancient Persia. The best known Magi are the "Wise Men from the East" in the Bible. In English, the term may refer to a shaman, sorcerer, or wizard; it is the origin of the English words magic and magician. They are part of the myth about Jesus of Nazareth.

Magic next takes us to magnetics and the electromagnetic grids that create the illusion of our reality. Magnetics have polarities - hence duality, north and south poles, pole shifts in the physical and in consciousness - forever seeking balance and never finding it. eye, but the source of creation works through the rods and cones of the eye of God or Creation.

A well-known magical practice is Divination, which seeks to reveal information about the past, present or future. One of the more popular oracles of divination is Scrying - a subjective way of defining abstract images.

Magic is everywhere. We incorporate it into everything we do, including religion, meditation, and our everyday lives. Magic is in the Moment. Magic IS the Moment as all is happening in the Now. You can make anything mystical and magical if you believe.

Magic is the claimed art of altering things either by supernatural means or through knowledge of occult natural laws unknown to science. Magic has been practiced in all cultures, and utilizes ways of understanding, experiencing and influencing the world somewhat akin to those offered by religion, though it is sometimes regarded as more focused on achieving results than religious worship.

Magic is often viewed with suspicion by the wider community, and is commonly practiced in isolation and secrecy. Modern Western magicians generally state magic's primary purpose to be personal spiritual growth, many seeing magic ritual purely in psychological terms as a powerful means of autosuggestion and of contacting the unconscious mind.

Modern perspectives on the theory of magic broadly follow two views, which also correspond closely to ancient views. The first sees magic as a result of a universal sympathy within the universe, where if something is done here a result happens somewhere else. The other view sees magic as a collaboration with spirits who cause the effect.

Magic in Various Cultural Contexts

Appearing from aboriginal tribes in Australia and Maori tribes in New Zealand to rainforest tribes in South America, bush tribes in Africa and ancient Pagan tribal groups in Europe, some form of shamanic contact with the spirit world seems to be nearly universal in the early development of human communities.

Magic in ancient Egypt was used for protection against angry deities, jealous ghosts, and foreign demons and sorcerers who were thought to cause illness, accidents, poverty and infertility. Much of the Babylonian and Egyptian pictorial writing characters appear derived from the same sources.

Although indigenous magical traditions persist to this day, very early on some communities transitioned from nomadic to agricultural civilizations, and with this shift, the development of spiritual life mirrored that of civic life. Just as tribal elders were consolidated and transformed in kings and bureaucrats, so too were shamans and adepts changed into priests and a priestly caste.

This shift is by no means in nomenclature alone. While the shaman's task was to negotiate between the tribe and the spirit world, on behalf of the tribe, as directed by the collective will of the tribe, the priest's role was to transfer instructions from the deities to the city-state, on behalf of the deities, as directed by the will of those deities.

This shift represents the first major usurpation of power by distancing magic from those participating in that magic. It is at this stage of development that highly codified and elaborate rituals, setting the stage for formal religions, began to emerge, such as the funeral rites of the Egyptians and the sacrifice rituals of the Babylonians, Persians, Aztecs and Mayans.

In 2003, Sinafasi Makelo, a representative of Mbuti pygmies, told the UN's Indigenous People's Forum that during the Congo Civil War, his people were hunted down and eaten as though they were game animals. Both sides of the war regarded them as "subhuman" and some say their flesh can confer magical powers.

On April, 2008, Kinshasa, the police arrested 14 suspected victims (of penis snatching) and sorcerers accused of using black magic or witchcraft to steal (make disappear) or shrink men's penises to extort cash for cure, amid a wave of panic. Arrests were made in an effort to avoid bloodshed seen in Ghana a decade ago, when 12 alleged penis snatchers were beaten to death by mobs.

Magic in the Greco-Roman World

The study of magic in the Greco-Roman world is a branch of the disciplines of classics, ancient history and religious studies. In the ancient post-hellenistic world of the Greeks and Romans (the Greco-Roman world), the public and private rituals associated with religion are accepted by historians and archaeologists to have been a part of everyday life. Examples of this phenomenon are found in the various state and cult Temples, Jewish Synagogues and in the early Christian cathedrals and churches.

These were important hubs for the ancient peoples of the Greco-Roman world that were representative of a connection between the heavenly realms (the divine) and the earthly planes (the dwelling place of humanity). This context of magic has become an academic study especially in the last twenty years. Magic is generally seen as "any attempt to control the environment or the self by means that are either untested or untestable, such as charms or spells."

The prototypical magicians were a class of priests, the Magi of Zoroastrianism, and their reputation together with that of Ancient Egypt shaped the hermeticism of Hellenistic religion.

In Ancient Greece magic was viewed negatively because it was foreign, but over time the view of magic involved negative connotations (malign magic) and positive ones in the practice of religion, medicine, and divination.

The Greek mystery religions had strongly magical components, and in Egypt, a large number of magical papyri, in Greek, Coptic, and Demotic, have been recovered. These sources contain early instances of much of the magical lore that later became part of Western cultural expectations about the practice of magic, especially ceremonial magic. They contain early instances of:

Ancient Rome

The use of spirit mediums is also documented in these texts; many of the spells call for a child to be brought to the magic circle to act as a conduit for messages from the spirits. The time of the Emperor Julian of Rome, marked by a reaction against the influence of Christianity, saw a revival of magical practices associated with neo-Platonism under the guise of theurgy.

The practice of magic was banned in the Roman world, and the Codex Theodosianus states:


It has been often stated that India is a land of magic, both supernatural and mundane. Hinduism is one of the few religions that has sacred texts like the Vedas that discuss both white and black magic. The Atharva Veda is a veda that deals with mantras that can be used for both good and bad.

The word mantrik in India literally means "magician" since the mantrik usually knows mantras, spells, and curses which can be used for or against forms of magic. Tantra is likewise employed for ritual magic by the tantrik. Many ascetics after long periods of penance and meditation are alleged to attain a state where they may utilize supernatural powers.

However, many say that they choose not to use them and instead focus on transcending beyond physical power into the realm of spirituality. Many siddhars are said to have performed miracles that would ordinarily be impossible to perform. The Aghoris consume human flesh in pursuit of immortality and the supernatural. They distinguish themselves from other Hindu sects and priests by their alcoholic and cannibalistic rituals.

Native American Medicine

The Shamanism practiced by the indigenous peoples of the Americas was called "medicine" and was practiced by medicine men. In addition to healing, medicine served many other purposes, for example among the Cheyenne, one of Plains Indians that lived in the Great Plains of North America, medicine such as war paint, war shields, war shirts, and war bonnets, such as the famous war bonnet of Roman Nose, served to protect a warrior from wounding during battle.

Common Features of Magical Practice

Magical rituals are the precisely defined actions (including speech) used to work magic. Bronislaw Malinowski describes ritual language as possessing a high 'coefficient of weirdness,' by which he means that the language used in ritual is archaic and out of the ordinary, which helps foster the proper mindset to believe in the ritual. S. J. Tambiah notes, however, that even if the power of the ritual is said to reside in the words, "the words only become effective if uttered in a very special context of other action."

These other actions typically consist of gestures, possibly performed with special objects at a particular place or time. Object, location, and performer may require purification beforehand. This caveat draws a parallel to the felicity conditions J. L. Austin requires of performative utterances.

By 'performativity' Austin means that the ritual act itself achieves the stated goal. For example, a wedding ceremony can be understood as a ritual, and only by properly performing the ritual does the marriage occur. Emile Durkheim stresses the importance of rituals as a tool to achieve collective effervescence, which serves to help unify society. Psychologists, on the other hand, describe rituals in comparison to obsessive-compulsive rituals, noting that attentional focus falls on the lower level representation of simple gestures.

This results in goal demotion, as the ritual places more emphasis on performing the ritual just right than on the connection between the ritual and the goal. However, the purpose of ritual is to act as a focus and the effect will vary depending on the individual.

Magic often utilizes symbols that are thought to be intrinsically efficacious. Anthropologists, such as Sir James Frazer (1854-1938), have characterized the implementation of symbols into two primary categories: the 'principle of similarity,' and the 'principle of contagion.' Frazer further categorized these principles as falling under 'sympathetic magic,' and 'contagious magic.' Frazer asserted that these concepts were 'general or generic laws of thought, which were misapplied in magic.'

The Principle of Similarity

The principle of similarity, also known as the association of ideas, which falls under the category of 'sympathetic magic,' is the thought that if a certain result follows a certain action, then that action must be responsible for the result. Therefore, if one is to perform this action again, the same result can again be expected. One classic example of this mode of thought is that of the rooster and the sunrise. When a rooster crows, it is a response to the rising of the sun. Based on sympathetic magic, one might interpret these series of events differently. The law of similarity would suggest that since the sunrise follows the crowing of the rooster, the rooster must have caused the sun to rise. Causality is inferred where it should not have been. Therefore, a practitioner might believe that if he is able to cause the rooster to crow, he will be able to control the timing of the sunrise.

The Principle of Contagion

Another primary type of magical thinking includes the principle of contagion. This principle suggests that once two objects come into contact with each other, they will continue to affect each other even after the contact between them has been broken. One example that Tambiah gives is related to adoption. Among some American Indians, for example, when a child is adopted his or her adoptive mother will pull the child through some of her clothes, symbolically representing the birth process and thereby associating the child with herself. Therefore, the child emotionally becomes hers even though their relationship is not biological. As Claude Levi-Strauss would put it: the birth would consist, therefore, in making explicit a situation originally existing on the emotional level and in rendering acceptable to the mind pains which the body refuses to tolerate ... the woman believes in the myth and belongs to a society which believes in it.

Symbols, for many cultures that utilize magic, are seen as a type of technology. Natives might use symbols and symbolic actions to bring about change and improvements, much like Western cultures might use advanced irrigation techniques to promote soil fertility and crop growth. Michael Brown discusses the use of nantag stones among the Aguaruna as being similar to this type of 'technology.' These stones are brought into contact with stem cuttings of plants like manioc before they are planted in an effort to promote growth. Nantag are powerful, tangible symbols of fertility, so they are brought into contact with crops in order to transmit their fertility to the plants.

Others argue that ritualistic actions are merely therapeutic. Tambiah cites the example of a native hitting the ground with a stick. While some may interpret this action as symbolic (i.e. the man is trying to make the ground yield crops through force), others would simply see a man unleashing his frustration at poor crop returns. Ultimately, whether or not an action is symbolic depends upon the context of the situation as well as the ontology of the culture. Many symbolic actions are derived from mythology and unique associations, whereas other ritualistic actions are just simple expressions of emotion and are not intended to enact any type of change.

Magical Language

The performance of magic almost always involves the use of language (in Western civilization, mainly Latin). Whether spoken out loud or unspoken, words are frequently used to access or guide magical power. In "The Magical Power of Words" (1968) S. J. Tambiah argues that the connection between language and magic is due to a belief in the inherent ability of words to influence the universe. Bronsilaw Malinowski, in Coral Gardens and their Magic (1935), suggests that this belief is an extension of man's basic use of language to describe his surroundings, in which the knowledge of the right words, appropriate phrases and the more highly developed forms of speech, gives man a power over and above his own limited field of personal action.

Magical speech is therefore a ritual act and is of equal or even greater importance to the performance of magic than non-verbal acts. Yet not all speech is considered magical. Only certain words and phrases or words spoken in a specific context are considered to have magical power.

Magical language, according to C. K. Ogden and I. A. Richards's (1923) categories of speech, is distinct from scientific language because it is emotive and it converts words into symbols for emotions; whereas in scientific language words are tied to specific meanings and refer to an objective external reality. Magical language is therefore particularly adept at constructing metaphors that establish symbols and link magical rituals to the world.

Malinowski argues that the language of magic is sacred, set and used for an entirely different purpose to that of ordinary life. The two forms of language are differentiated through word choice, grammar, style, or by the use of specific phrases or forms: prayers, spells, songs, blessings, or chants, for example. Sacred modes of language often employ archaic words and forms in an attempt to invoke the purity or truth of a religious or a cultural 'golden age.' The use of Hebrew in Judaism is an example.

Another potential source of the power of words is their secrecy and exclusivity. Much sacred language is differentiated enough from common language that it is incomprehensible to the majority of the population and it can only be used and interpreted by specialized practitioners, (magicians, priests, shamans, even mullahs.). In this respect, Tambiah argues that magical languages violate the primary function of language: communication.

Yet adherents of magic are still able to use and to value the magical function of words by believing in the inherent power of the words themselves and in the meaning that they must provide for those who do understand them. This leads Tambiah to conclude that the remarkable disjunction between sacred and profane language which exists as a general fact is not necessarily linked to the need to embody sacred words in an exclusive language.

Varieties of Magical Practice

The best-known type of magical practice is the spell, a ritualistic formula intended to bring about a specific effect. Spells are often spoken or written or physically constructed using a particular set of ingredients. The failure of a spell to work may be attributed to many causes, such as a failure to follow the exact formula, to the general circumstances being unconducive, to a lack of magical ability, to a lack of willpower or to fraud.

Necromancy is a practice which claims to involve the summoning of, and conversation with, spirits of the dead. This is sometimes done simply to commune with deceased loved ones; it can also be done to gain information from the spirits, as a type of divination; or to command the aid of those spirits in accomplishing some goal, as part of casting a spell.

Varieties of magic can also be categorized by the techniques involved in their operation. One common means of categorization distinguishes between contagious magic and sympathetic magic, one or both of which may be employed in any magical work. Contagious magic involves the use of physical ingredients which were once in contact with the person or a thing which the practitioner intends to influence. Sympathetic magic involves the use of images or physical objects which in some way resemble the person or thing that one hopes to influence; voodoo dolls are an example. This dichotomy was proposed by Sir James Frazer's The Golden Bough.

Other common categories given to magic include High and Low Magic (the appeal to divine powers or spirits respectively, with goals lofty or personal, according to the type of magic). Another distinction is between "manifest" and "subtle" magic. Subtle magic typically refers to magic of legend, gradually and sometimes intangibly altering the world, whereas manifest magic is magic that immediately appears as a result.

Academic historian Richard Kieckhefer divides the category of spells into psychological magic, which seeks to influence other people's minds to do the magician's will, such as with a love spell, or illusionary magic, which seeks to conjure the manifestation of various wonders. A spell that conjures up a banquet, or that confers invisibility on the magician, would be examples of illusionary magic. Magic that causes objective physical change, in the manner of a miracle, is not accommodated in Kieckhefer's categories.

Magical Traditions

Another method of classifying magic is by "traditions," which in this context typically refer to complexes or "currents" of magical belief and practice associated with various cultural groups and lineages of transmission. Some of these traditions are highly specific and culturally circumscribed. Others are more eclectic and syncretistic. These traditions can compass both divination and spells.

When dealing with magic in terms of "traditions," it is a common misconception for outsiders to treat any religion in which clergy members make amulets and talismans for their congregants as a "tradition of magic," even though what is being named is actually an organized religion with clergy, laity, and an order of liturgical service. This is most notably the case when Voodoo, Palo, Santeria, Taoism, Wicca, and other contemporary religions and folk religions are mischaracterized as forms of "magic," or even as "sorcery."

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Magic and Illusion - October 2013