magic

magic

[maj-ik]
magic, in religion and superstition, the practice of manipulating and controlling the course of nature by preternatural means. Magic is based upon the belief that the universe is populated by unseen forces or spirits that permeate all things. Because these supernatural forces are thought to govern the course of natural events, control of these forces gives humans control over nature. The practice of magic is held to depend on the proper use of both the ritual and the spell. The spell, or incantation, is the core of the magical ceremony; it unlocks the full power of the ritual. The practice of magic, in seeking its desired end, may combines within its scope elements of religion and science. In alchemy, for example, the process of transmuting a base metal into gold requires precise weights and volumes of acids, bases, and catalysts as well as the reciting of holy passages and prayers.

Anthropologists often distinguish between two forms of magic, the sympathetic and the contiguous. Sympathetic magic works on the principle that like produces like. The Ojibwa of North America would make a wooden image of an enemy and then stick pins into it. Because the doll represented the enemy, harm done to the doll was believed to harm the enemy. Contiguous magic operates on the belief that things that have been in contact will continue to act on each other after the physical contact has ceased. The aborigines of Australia believe that they can lame a person by placing sharp pieces of quartz, glass, bone, or charcoal in that person's footprints. Sometimes both sympathetic and contiguous magic are used in conjunction; certain African tribespeople will build a clay effigy around nail clippings, hairs, or bits of cloth belonging to the enemy and roast the completed image slowly in a fire.

Not all magic is performed in order to harm or destroy, and for this reason a distinction is made between black magic and white magic. White magic is characterized by those rites and spells designed to produce beneficial effects for the community (see fertility rites) or for the individual, particularly in those cases where an illness is considered to be the result of evil demons or of black magic.

See also voodoo; witchcraft.

See J. Frazer, The Golden Bough (12 vol., 1907-15); L. Thorndike, History of Magic and Experimental Science (8 vol., 1923-58); B. Malinowski, Magic, Science, and Religion (1948); M. Bouisson, Magic: Its History and Principal Rites (tr. 1961); J. Middleton, comp., Magic, Witchcraft, and Curing (1967); M. Marwick, Witchcraft and Sorcery (1970); M. Christopher, The Illustrated History of Magic (1973).

magic, in entertainment, the seeming manipulation and supernatural control of the natural world for the amusement and amazement of an audience. Entertainment magic can be divided into four main categories: sleight of hand, also known as prestidigitation or close-up magic, consisting of tricks done close to the spectators in which the eye is deceived by the fast and skillful manipulation of the hands; club or platform acts, in which various apparatuses are employed to create illusions of seemingly impossible events; escape magic, involving complicated breakouts from apparently inescapable situations; and mentalism or mind reading.

The earliest recorded example of magic as performance is thought to be a painted Egyptian papyrus dated c.1700 B.C. that pictures Dedi of Dedsnefu performing tricks for a pharoah; one of the illusions shown is the cup-and-balls trick (balls seem to jump invisibly from beneath upended cups), still a staple in contemporary magic. The performance of magic was mingled with religion in ancient Greek and Roman culture as priests performed a number of "miraculous" effects through devices built into temples (e.g., spontaneously or thunderously opening doors) or implanted in statues of the gods (e.g., they appeared to speak or wine flowed from their mouths).

In Christian Europe from the Middle Ages through the 17th cent. magic tricks were a feature of fairs, circuses, and sometimes of theatrical performance. However, until the 17th cent. magic was also commonly associated with witchcraft or sorcery and, although magicians called themselves jugglers or tricksters, they sometimes performed at their peril. The first recorded debunking of the presumed occult association was in Reginald Scot's The Discoverie of Witchcraft (1554), which explained sleight of hand and asserted that the devil had no part in magic. Another early book on magic, The First Part of Clever and Pleasant Inventions, by the Frenchman Jean Prevost, was written the same year. Performers of magic also flourished in the East. The Muslim traveler Ibn Batuta, for example, reported the performance of the so-called Indian rope trick (1355) at China's royal court.

By the 18th cent. performance magicians were known by name, notably with the ascendance of conjurers such as Matthew Buchinger (1674-1739, the "Little Man of Nuremburg"), an armless and legless prestidigitator; Isaac Fawkes (fl. 1710s-20s), who entertained crowds at English fairs; and "Jacob Philadelphia," an American, born Jacob Meyer, who entertained European audiences during the 1760s and performed for Catherine the Great and other notables. In the latter part of the century the Chevalier Joseph Pinetti (1750-1800, the "Professor of Natural Magic") became famous for his use of complicated apparatuses, his escapes, and his mentalist tricks, and is often credited with being the first modern magician.

The popularity of stage magic in the 19th cent. owes much to a clockmaker turned peerless conjurer and master of disappearances and transformations, J. E. Robert Houdin. Other important magicians of this period included the English prestidigitator Antonio Blitz (1810-77) and the Scottish magician John Henry Anderson who performed illusions from the 1840s-70s as the "Great Wizard of the North." Among the famous stage magicians of the later 19th cent. were the American Alexander Herrmann (1843-96, "Herrmann the Great"), who did card tricks, produced items from thin air, and used cabinets from which assistants disappeared, and the German Johann N. Hofzinger, known for his manipulation of cards and of various magical apparatuses.

The late 1880s to the 1930s are widely considered the Golden Age of magic; the form was a favorite on the vaudeville circuit and in theaters specifically devoted to conjuring. The great Harry Kellar (1849-1922), an American conjurer and successor to Herrmann whose celebrity reached its height in the 1880s, included among his many illusions the well-known Levitation of Princess Karnak. Among the era's other magicians were London-based John Nevil Maskelyne (1839-1917), inventor of the magic play and the box escape, and his partner, David Devant (1868-1941), creator of the disappearing moth-woman; T. Nelson Downs (1867-1938), renowned for his coin tricks; Chung Ling Soo, pseud. of William Robinson (1854-1922), who waved shawls and produced goldfish-filled globes; Charles Morritt (1861-1936), master of the Disappearing Donkey, hypnotist, and mind reader; Howard Thurston (1869-1936), Kellar's celebrated American successor, noted for his dismemberment illusions and card tricks; Horace Goldin (1873-1939), practitioner of strings of rapid-fire effects; society entertainer Max Malini (1873-1942); P. T. Selbit (1881-1938), probably the first (1921) to "saw" a woman in half; world-famous escape artist Harry Houdini; mentalist Joseph Dunninger (1896-1975); and master illusionist Harry Blackstone (1885-1965).

Magic blossomed again after World War II as professionals and amateurs proliferated. It flourished on stage and in nightclubs (e.g., the Las Vegas acts of Siegfried and Roy and Melinda Saxe), became a staple of television variety shows in the 1960s, and reached Broadway with Doug Henning's The Magic Show (1974). Other noted magicians of the late 20th cent. included Harry Blackstone, Jr., David Copperfield, James Griffin, James ("the Amazing") Randi, and Dorothy Dietrich. By the turn of the century magic continued to expand in concept, propelled by the spectacular illusions of Lance Burton, the extravagant stunts and levitations of David Blaine, the superb card handling and wry humor of Ricky Jay, the quirky trickery of Penn and Teller, and the work of many others.

See N. Maskelyne and D. Devant, Our Magic (2d ed. 1946, partially repr. as Maskelyne on the Performance of Magic, 1976); W. B. Gibson, The Master Magicians (1966, repr. 1984); M. and M. Christopher, The Illustrated History of Magic (1973, repr. 1996); E. A. Dawes, The Great Illusionists (1979); R. Jay, Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women (1986, repr. 1998); T. A. Waters, The Encyclopedia of Magic and Magicians (1989); J. Steinmeyer, Hiding the Elephant (2003).

Johnson, Magic (Earvin Johnson, Jr.), 1959-, African-American basketball player, b. Lansing, Mich. After winning the national championship with Michigan State Univ. (1979), he joined the Los Angeles Lakers and with them won five National Basketball Association championships (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987-88). Respected as a consummate team player and leader, he was named most valuable player three times (1987, 1989-90). In 1991 he announced that he had tested positive for HIV and retired from professional basketball. He subsequently worked to promote AIDS awareness, played on the 1992 U.S. Olympic "Dream Team," made brief comebacks with Los Angeles in 1992 and 1996, and coached the Lakers in 1994. In 1998 he bought the Borås, Sweden, professional basketball team and has played occasional games with them. Since his official retirement Johnson has also become a successful entrepeneur, overseeing a multimillion dollar business empire based in inner-city minority neighborhoods throughout the country. He is also a vocal proponent of African-American economic empowerment.

See his autobiography (1992).

square, magic: see magic square.

Art of entertaining by giving the illusion of performing impossible feats. The conjurer is an actor who combines psychology, manual dexterity, and mechanical aids to effect the desired illusion. The form was established by the medieval era, when traveling conjurers performed at fairs and in the homes of the nobility. In the 19th–20th centuries, conjuring was performed on stage by magicians such as Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin, Harry Houdini, and Harry Blackstone. In the late 20th century magicians such as Doug Henning and David Copperfield performed colourful spectacles on television, while the postmodern team Penn and Teller offered a quieter brand of magic that emphasized irony and illusion.

Learn more about conjuring with a free trial on Britannica.com.

or magical realism

Latin-American literary phenomenon characterized by the matter-of-fact incorporation of fantastic or mythical elements into otherwise realistic fiction. The term was first applied to literature in the 1940s by the Cuban novelist Alejo Carpentier (1904–1980), who recognized the tendency of his region's contemporary storytellers as well as contemporary novelists to illuminate the mundane by means of the fabulous. Prominent practitioners include Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jorge Amado, Jorge Luis Borges, Miguel Angel Asturias, Julio Cortazar, and Isabel Allende (born 1942). The term has been applied to literature and art outside of Latin America as well.

Learn more about magic realism with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Use of means (such as charms or spells) believed to have supernatural power over natural forces. It constitutes the core of many religious systems and plays a central social role in many nonliterate cultures. Magic is often distinguished from religion as being more impersonal and mechanical and emphasizing technique. Its techniques are usually regarded as means to specific ends (an enemy’s defeat, rainfall, etc.), although another view ascribes a more symbolic, expressive character to such activity. Thus, a rainmaking ritual may both elicit rainfall and stress the symbolic importance of rain and the agricultural activities associated with it. Both the magician and the magical rite are typically surrounded by taboos, purification procedures, and other activities that draw the participants into the magical sphere. Strains of magic in Western tradition, formerly associated with heretics, alchemists, witches, and sorcerers, persist in modern times in the activities of satanists and others. The art of entertaining by performing apparently magical feats (sometimes called conjuring) relies on the use of sleight of hand and other means. See also shaman, vodun, witchcraft and sorcery.

Learn more about magic with a free trial on Britannica.com.

orig. Earvin Johnson, Jr.

(born Aug. 14, 1959, Lansing, Mich., U.S.) U.S. basketball player. He led Michigan State University to the collegiate championship in 1979 and led the NBA Los Angeles Lakers to five championships in the 1980s. Standing 6 ft 9 in. (2.06 m) tall, he was exceptionally tall for a point guard and was able to use his size to rebound and score inside. However, he was best known for his creative passing and expert floor leadership. He was named Most Valuable Player three times (1987, 1989, 1990). He retired after being diagnosed with HIV in 1991, though he returned to the Lakers for brief stints as a player and as a coach.

Learn more about Johnson, Magic with a free trial on Britannica.com.

orig. Earvin Johnson, Jr.

(born Aug. 14, 1959, Lansing, Mich., U.S.) U.S. basketball player. He led Michigan State University to the collegiate championship in 1979 and led the NBA Los Angeles Lakers to five championships in the 1980s. Standing 6 ft 9 in. (2.06 m) tall, he was exceptionally tall for a point guard and was able to use his size to rebound and score inside. However, he was best known for his creative passing and expert floor leadership. He was named Most Valuable Player three times (1987, 1989, 1990). He retired after being diagnosed with HIV in 1991, though he returned to the Lakers for brief stints as a player and as a coach.

Learn more about Johnson, Magic with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Magic may refer to:

In fantasy fiction:

In science and mathematics:

In games:

In popular culture:

In computing programming:

  • Magic (programming), a general term for hiding complexity, as well as a UNIX command for "magically" determining unknown filetypes
    • Deep magic, a term for completely unknown workings in the depths of a software
    • Black magic (programming), a synonym for voodoo programming, techniques which seem to work but aren't fully understood as to why they work
  • Magic number (programming), an arbitrary number that has been assigned a special meaning
  • "Magic", a version of the MUMPS programming language developed by Meditech
  • Magic (software), a popular VLSI layout tool
  • Magic Software Enterprises, a software company which maintains eDeveloper
  • ImageMagick, a suite of imaging programs
  • MAJC, a multi-core, multi-threaded processor targeted at running Java code made by Sun Microsystems in the 1990s
  • Magic (object-oriented programming), A prototype-based, object-oriented, event-driven (mainly I/O events) interpreted programming language developed at the Experimental Computing Facility, University of California, Berkeley.

Among radio stations:

  • Magic Radio, a radio network and television channel based in the United Kingdom (disambiguation for affiliates)
  • WKLI (Magic 100), a radio station in Albany, New York
  • KZMG (Magic 93.1), a radio station in Boise, Idaho
  • WMJX (Magic 106.7), a radio station in Boston, Massachusetts
  • KKMG (98.9 Magic FM), a radio station in Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • WMGC-FM (Magic 105.1), a radio station in Detroit, Michigan
  • WMGS (Magic 93), a radio station in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
  • Magic 89.9, a radio station in Manila, Philippines
  • WLTB (Magic 101.7), a radio station in Binghamton, New York
  • Magic 1278, a radio station in Melbourne, Australia
  • Magic 107.7 FM, a radio station in Orlando, Florida
  • KMAJ-FM (Majic 107.7 FM), a radio station in Topeka, Kansas
  • Magic 97.3 FM, a radio station in Panama City, Florida
  • Magic 96.5 FM, a radio station in Birmingham, Alabama
  • WMGQ Magic 98.3 FM, a radio station in New Brunswick, New Jersey
  • Magic 105.7 FM, a radio station in Cleveland, Ohio.
  • WTHZ (Magic 94.1), a radio station in Greensboro, North Carolina. Another station in the area, WMAG-FM, used the handle "Magic 99.5" for a period of time in the 1980s.
  • Magic 100.5 FM, A radio station in Cumberland, Maryland.
  • Majic 102.3 FM, the #1 R&B radio station in the Washington D.C. area.
  • Magic 95.5 FM a radio station in Reno, Nevada

Magic can also mean:

See also

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