Magic, sometimes known as sorcery, is a conceptual system that asserts human ability to control the natural world (including events, objects, people, and physical phenomena) through mystical, paranormal or supernatural means. The term can also refer to the practices employed by a person asserting this influence, and to beliefs that explain various events and phenomena in such terms. In many cultures the concept of magic is under pressure from, and in competition with, scientific and religious conceptual systems. This is particularly the case in the Christian West and the Muslim Middle East where the practice of magic is generally regarded as blasphemous or forbidden by orthodox leadership.
Likewise, sorcery was taken in ca. 1300 from Old French sorcerie, which is from Vulgar Latin *sortiarius, from sors "fate", apparently meaning "one who influences fate." Sorceress appears also in the late 14th century, while sorcerer is attested only from 1526.
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. 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:
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.
Magic practice was actively discouraged by the church, but remained widespread in folk religion throughout the medieval period. Magical thinking became syncretized with Christian dogma, expressing itself in practices like the judicial duel and relic veneration. The relics had become amulets, and various churches strove to purchase scarce or valuable examples, hoping to become places of pilgrimage. As in any other economic endeavour, demand gave rise to supply. Tales of the miracle-working relics of the saints were compiled later into quite popular collections like the Golden Legend of Jacobus de Voragine or the Dialogus miraculorum of Caesar of Heisterbach.
From the 13th century, the Jewish Kabbalah exerts influence on Christian occultism, giving rise to the first grimoires and the scholarly occultism that would develop into Renaissance magic. The demonology and angelology contained in the earliest grimoires assume a life surrounded by Christian implements and sacred rituals. The underlying theology in these works of Christian demonology encourages the magician to fortify himself with fasting, prayers, and sacraments, so that by using the holy names of God in the sacred languages, he could use divine power to coerce demons into appearing and serving his usually lustful or avaricious magical goals.
The seven artes magicae or artes prohibitae, arts prohibited by canon law, as expounded by Johannes Hartlieb in 1456, their sevenfold partition reflecting that of the artes liberales and artes mechanicae, were:
Both bourgeoisie and nobility in the 15th and 16th century showed great fascination with these arts, which exerted an exotic charm by their ascription to Arabic, Jewish, Gypsy and Egyptian sources. There was great uncertainty in distinguishing practices of vain superstition, blasphemous occultism, and perfectly sound scholarly knowledge or pious ritual. The intellectual and spiritual tensions erupted in the Early Modern witch craze, further reinforced by the turmoil of the Protestant Reformation, especially in Germany, England, and Scotland.
Study of the occult arts remained intellectually respectable well into the 17th century, and only gradually divides into the modern categories of natural science vs. occultism or superstition. The 17th century sees the gradual rise of the "age of reason", while belief in witchcraft and sorcery, and consequently the irrational surge of Early Modern witch trials, receded, a process only completed at the end of the Baroque period or circa the 1730s. Christian Thomasius still met opposition as he argued in his 1701 Dissertatio de crimine magiae that it was meaningless to make dealing with the devil a criminal offence, since it was impossible to really commit the crime in the first place. In Britain, the Witchcraft Act of 1735 established that people could not be punished for consorting with spirits, while would-be magicians pretending to be able to invoke spirits could still be fined as con artists.
Gardner's newly publicized religion, and many others, took off in the atmosphere of the 1960s and 1970s, when the counterculture of the hippies also spawned another period of renewed interest in magic, divination, and other occult practices. The various branches of Neopaganism and other Earth religions that have been publicized since Gardner's publication tend to follow a pattern in combining the practice of magic and religion. Following the trend of magic associated with counterculture, some feminists launched an independent revival of goddess worship. This brought them into contact with the Gardnerian tradition of magical religion, and deeply influenced that tradition in return.
Some people in the West believe in or practice various forms of magic. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Aleister Crowley, and their followers are most often credited with the resurgence of magical tradition in the English speaking world of the 20th century. Other, similar movements took place at roughly the same time, centered in France and Germany. Most Western traditions acknowledging the natural elements, the seasons, and the practitioner's relationship with the Earth, Gaia, or the Goddess have derived at least in part from these magical groups, and are considered Neopagan. Long-standing indigenous traditions of magic are regarded as Pagan.
Aleister Crowley preferred the spelling magick, defining it as "the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with the will." By this, he included "mundane" acts of will as well as ritual magic. In Magick in Theory and Practice, Chapter XIV, Crowley says:
Wicca is one of the more famous traditions within Neopaganism, a magical religion of witchcraft with influences including the Golden Dawn and Crowley. Ruickbie (2004:193-209) shows that Wiccans and Witches define magic in many different ways and use it for a number of different purposes. Despite that diversity of opinion, he concludes that the general result upon the practitioner is a positive one.
The belief in Magic is often considered superstitious, although some magical practices rely on widely accepted psychological principles and are only intended to promote internal personal changes within the practitioner themselves. Visualization techniques, for instance, widely used by magicians, are also used in fields such as clinical psychology and sports training.
James George Frazer believed that magic was a fallacious system and asserted that magical observations are the result of an internal dysfunction: "Men mistook the order of their ideas for the order of nature, and hence imagined that the control which they have, or seem to have, over their thoughts, permitted them to exercise a corresponding control over things.
Others, such as N. W. Thomas and Sigmund Freud have rejected this explanation. Freud explains that "the associated theory of magic merely explains the paths along which magic proceeds; it does not explain its true essence, namely the misunderstanding which leads it to replace the laws of nature by psychological ones". Freud emphasizes that what led primitive men to come up with magic is the power of wishes: "His wishes are accompanied by a motor impulse, the will, which is later destined to alter the whole face of the earth in order to satisfy his wishes. This motor impulse is at first employed to give a representation of the satisfying situation in such a way that it becomes possible to experience the satisfaction by means of what might be described as motor hallucinations. This kind of representation of a satisfied wish is quite comparable to children's play, which succeeds their earlier purely sensory technique of satisfaction. [...] As time goes on, the psychological accent shifts from the motives for the magical act on to the measures by which it is carried out—that is, on to the act itself. [...] It thus comes to appear as though it is the magical act itself which, owing to its similarity with the desired result, alone determines the occurrence of that result.
Many more theories exist. Practitioners will often mix these concepts, and sometimes even invent some themselves. In the contemporary current of chaos magic in particular, it is not unusual to believe that any concept of magic works.
Key principles of utilizing Magic are often said to be Concentration and Visualization. Many of those who cast spells attain a mental state called the "Trance State" to enable the spell. The Trance State is often described as an emptying of the mind, akin to meditation.
Related to both magic and prayer is religious supplication. This involves a prayer, or even a sacrifice to a supernatural being or god. This god or being is then asked to intervene on behalf of the person offering the prayer.
The difference, in theory, is that prayer requires the assent of a deity with an independent will, who can deny the request. Magic, by contrast is thought to be effective:
In practice, when prayer doesn't work, it means that the god has chosen not to hear nor grant it; when magic fails, it is because of some defect in the casting of the spell itself. Consequently magical rituals tend to place more emphasis on exact formulaic correctness and are less extempore than prayer. Ritual is the magician's failsafe, the key to any hope for success, and the explanation for failure.
A possible exception is the practice of word of faith, where it is often held that it is the exercise of faith in itself that brings about a desired result.
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 devolved 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.
Officially, Judaism, Christianity and Islam characterize magic as forbidden witchcraft, and have often prosecuted alleged practitioners of it with varying degrees of severity. Other trends in monotheistic thought have dismissed all such manifestations as trickery and illusion, nothing more than dishonest gimmicks.
Another famous work, the Sefer Yetzirah, supposedly dates back to the patriarch Abraham. This tendency toward pseudepigraphy has its roots in Apocalyptic literature, which claims that esoteric knowledge such as magic, divination and astrology was transmitted to humans in the mythic past by the two angels, Aza and Azaz'el (in other places, Azaz'el and Uzaz'el) who 'fell' from heaven (see Genesis 6:4).
The current Catechism of the Catholic Church discusses divination and magic under the heading of the First Commandment. It is careful to allow for the possibility of divinely inspired prophecy, but rejects "all forms of divination":
The section on "practices of magic or sorcery" is less absolute, specifying "attempts to tame occult powers" in order to "have supernatural power over others". Such are denounced as "gravely contrary to the virtue of religion", notably avoiding a statement on whether such attempts can have any actual effect (that is, attempts to employ occult practices are identified as violating the First Commandment because they in themselves betray a lack of faith, and not because they may or may not result in the desired effect).
The Catechism expresses skepticism towards widespread practices of folk Catholicism without outlawing them explicitly:
Any discussion of Muslim magic poses a double set of problems. On the one hand, like its counterpart in predominantly Christian cultures, magic is forbidden by orthodox leaders and legal opinions. However, this has not prevented the practice of magic in Muslim cultures, nor staved its influence on European magical traditions and the early stages of scientific thought. On the other hand, translating various Arabic terms as ‘magic’ causes another set of problems with no clear answers.
As with any question regarding the behavior of Muslims in relation to authorized practices, theological decisions begin by consulting the Qur’an. The second chapter introduces an explanation for the introduction of magic into the world:
The Sunni and Shia sects of Islam typically forbid all use of magic. The Sufis within these two sects are much more ambiguous about it's use as seen in the concept of "Barakah". If magic is understood in terms of Frazer’s principle of contagion, then barakah is another term that can refer to magic. Barakah, variously defined as “blessing,” or “divine power,” is a quality one possesses rather than a category of activity. According to Muslim conception, the source of barakah is solely from Allah; it is Allah’s direct blessing and intervention conferred upon special, pious Muslims. Barakah has a heavily contagious quality in that one can transfer it by either inheritance or contact. Of all the humans who have ever lived, it is said that the Prophet Muhammad possessed the greatest amount of barakah and that he passed this to his male heirs through his daughter Fatima. Barakah is not just limited to Muhammad’s family line; any person who is considered holy may also possess it and transfer it to virtually anyone. In Morocco, barakah transfer can be accomplished by spitting into another’s mouth or by sharing a piece of bread from which the possessor has eaten because saliva is the vessel of barakah in the human body. However, the transference of barakah may also occur against the will of its possessor through other forms of physical contact such as hand shaking and kissing. The contagious element of barakah is not limited to humans as it can be found in rocks, trees, water, and even some animals, such as horses.
Just how the actor maintained obedience depended upon the benevolence or malevolence of his practice. Malevolent magicians operated by enslaving the spirits through offerings and deeds displeasing to Allah. Benevolent magicians, in contrast, obeyed and appeased Allah so that Allah bore his will upon the spirits. Al-Buni provides the process by which this practice occurs: First: the practitioner must be of utterly clean soul and garb. Second, when the proper angel is contacted, this angel will first get permission from God to go to the aid of the person who summoned him. Third: the practitioner “must not apply . . .[his power] except to that [i.e. to achieve goals] which would please God.
However, not all Islamic groups accept this explanation of benevolent magic. The Wahhabis particularly view this as shirk, denying the unity of Allah. Consequently, the Wahhabis renounce appellations to intermediaries such as saints, angels, and djinn, and renounce magic, fortune-telling, and divination. This particular brand of magic has also been condemned as forbidden by a fatwa issued by Al-Azhar University. Further, Egyptian folklorist Hasan El-Shamy, warns that scholars have often been uncritical in their application of the term sihr to both malevolent and benevolent forms of magic. He argues that in Egypt, sihr only applies to sorcery. A person who practices benevolent magic “is not called saahir or sahhaar (sorcerer, witch), but is normally referred to as shaikh (or shaikha for a female), a title which is normally used to refer to a clergyman or a community notable or elder, and is equal to the English title: ‘Reverend.’”
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 failure to follow the exact formula, general circumstances being unconducive, lack of magical ability or downright fraud.
Another well-known magical practice is divination, which seeks to reveal information about the past, present or future. Varieties of divination include: Astrology, Augury, Cartomancy, Chiromancy, Dowsing, Fortune telling, Geomancy, I Ching, Omens, Scrying and Tarot reading.
Necromancy is another practice involving the summoning of and conversation with spirits of the dead (necros). 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 thing the practitioner intends to influence. Sympathetic magic involves the use of images or physical objects which in some way resemble the person or thing one hopes to influence; voodoo dolls are an example.
Other common categories given to magic include High and Low Magic (the appeal to divine powers or spirits respectively, with goals lofty or personal as accords the type of magic). Manifest and Subtle magic typically refers to magic of legend rather than what many individuals who practice the Occult claim to use as magic, where Manifest magic is magic that immediately appears with a result, and Subtle magic being magic that gradually and intangibly alters the world.
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, and illusionary magic, which seeks to conjure the manifestation of various wonders. A spell that conjured up a banquet, or that conferred 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 for in Kieckhefer's categories.
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 "sorcery."
Examples of magical, folk-magical, and religio-magical traditions include:
magic is a wonderfull thing but it has its consiquenses its something to beleive in if you want which could be good it will make you more opend minded to things that may or maynot exsist. How nows if you tri you my injoy it but its your chose.