Definitions

incantation

incantation

[in-kan-tey-shuhn]
incantation, set formula, spoken or sung, for the purpose of working magic. An incantation is normally an invocation to beneficent supernatural spirits for aid, protection, or inspiration. It may also serve as a charm or spell to ward off the effects of evil spirits. In black magic an incantation may be the means of summoning or materializing the powers of darkness.

An incantation or incantations are the words spoken during a ritual, either a hymn or prayer invoking or praising a deity, or in magic, occultism, witchcraft with the intention of casting a spell or an object or a person. The term derives from Latin incantare (tr.), meaning "to chant (a magical spell) upon," from in- "into, upon" and cantare "to sing".

In medieval literature, folklore, fairy tales and modern fantasy fiction, enchantments (from the Old French enchantement) are charms or spells. The term was loaned into English since around AD 1300. The corresponding native English term being galdor "song, spell". It has led to the terms enchanter and enchantress, for those who use enchantments.

The weakened sense "delight" (compare the same development of charm) is modern, first attested in 1593 (OED).

Some collections of charms

In folklore and fiction

In traditional fairy tales or fantasy fiction, an enchantment is a magical spell that is attached, on a relatively-permanent basis, to a specific person, object or location, and alters its qualities, generally in a positive way. The most widely-known example is probably the spell that Cinderella's Fairy Godmother uses to turn a pumpkin into a coach. An enchantment with negative characteristics is usually instead referred to as a curse.

Conversely, enchantments are also used to describe spells that cause no real effects but deceive people, either by directly affecting their thoughts or using some kind of illusions. Enchantresses are frequently depicted as able to seduce by such magic. Other forms include deceiving people into believing that they have suffered a magical transformation.

Examples are "Abracadabra" as might be said by a magician during a trick, or the Stunning Spell in the Harry Potter books.

Effects of incantations

To be enchanted is to be under the influence of an enchantment, usually thought to be caused by charms or spells.

The Latin incantare, which means 'to utter an incantation', or cast a magic spell, forms the basis of the word "enchant", with deep linguistic roots going back to the Indo-European kan- prefix. So it can be said that an enchanter or enchantress casts magic spells, or utters incantations, similar to what are called Mantra in Sanskrit.

See also

References

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