- A superior power created by the combining of inner power with supernatural forces and beings such as ANGELs and DEMONs. The term magic is derived from Greek, either from megus, which means “great” (as in “great” science); from magein, referring to Zoroastrianism; or from magoi, referring to a Median tribe in Iran recognized for its magical skills and known to the Greeks. Many systems of magic exist, each with its own procedures, rules, and proscriptions.Magic lies at the heart of all esoteric and occult traditions and is found in mystical and religious teachings. Through magic, a person can cause inner change and change in the physical world. High magic has a spiritual nature. Low magic, such as spell casting, is a form of SORCERY.Magic had its beginnings in humankind’s earliest attempts to control its environment, survival, and destiny, either by controlling natural forces or by appealing to higher powers for help. The anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski defined magic as having three functions and three elements. The three functions are to produce, to protect, and to destroy. The three elements are spells and incantations, rites or procedures, and altered states of consciousness accomplished through fasting, meditating, chanting, visualizing symbols, sleep deprivation, dancing, staring into flames, inhaling fumes, taking drugs, and so forth.Magic is practiced universally by skilled individuals who either are born into their powers or train themselves to acquire powers. Magic is not inherently good or evil but reflects the intent of the magician. The ethical and moral uses of magic have always been ambiguous. Evil magic is associated with sorcery and WITCHCRAFT. Throughout history, people and authorities have had an uneasy relationship with magic, depending on it and tolerating its practice and at the same time condemning it. Magic is both part of religion and a competitor of religion. It has been regarded as a science and has been discredited by science. In modern times, however, science is providing evidence in support of magic.Magical phenomena exist in a realm of liminality, a blurred borderland that is neither in the material world nor in the spiritual world but in both simultaneously. Liminality is a term coined by the anthropologist Arthur van Gennup to refer to the condition of being “betwixt and between.” The word is from limen, or “threshold.” Change, transition, and transformation are conditions that are conducive to psi and the supernatural. Magic ritual—and ritual in general—exposes the ordinary, predictable world to the instability of the liminal world. Strange things happen. The liminal realm is considered to be a dangerous, unpredictable one. Individuals such as magicians thus are dangerous because they work in this uncertain world. As adepts, they are themselves the agents of change and even chaos.Magic InfluencesThe Western magical tradition is rich and complex, evolving from a mixture of magical, mystical, philosophical, and religious sources. It incorporates the low magic of spells and divination, the dark magic of sorcery and witchcraft, and the high magic of spiritual enlightenment that is closer to mysticism than to spell casting. There are several major streams of influence.Egyptian magicMagic played an important role in ancient Egypt, and the magic of the Egyptians became important in the development of Western ritual magic. Egyptian priests were skilled in magical arts of spell casting, divination, necromancy, making of amulets and talismans, procuring and sending of dreams, use of magical figures similar to poppets, and use of magic in the practice of medicine. Illnesses were believed to be caused by a host of demons who controlled various parts of the human body; thus cures involved EXORCISMs. The mummification of the dead was done according to precise ritual magic to ensure safe passage to the afterlife. The Egyptian Book of the Dead is a magical handbook of preparation for navigation through judgment into Amenti, the underworld domain of Osiris, lord of the dead. In Hellenistic times, Egyptian magic was mixed with classical magic. Especially important to Egyptian magic was the proper use of words and names of power. Some incantations involved strings of names, some incomprehensible, borrowed from other cultures.Greek and Roman magicThe Greek and Roman worlds teemed with magic. Power was channeled from a host of sources: deities, spirits called DAIMONes, celestial intelligences, and the dead. Everything was connected by sympathetic bonds, which allowed magical action at a distance. The Hermetic principle that the microcosm reflects the macrocosm (“As above, so below”) was espoused in variations by Pythagoreans, Platonists, and Stoics. All magical arts were practiced; the Greeks were especially interested in destiny and devoted great attention to the prophecy of oracles and to the fate forecast by the stars in a horoscope. Both Greeks and Romans practiced numerous forms of divination, especially lot casting and the examination of signs in nature. Dreams were consulted, especially for healing. Cursing one’s competitors and enemies was routine in daily life. Incantations involved long strings of magical words, often nonsensical, which had to be precisely pronounced along with the correct gestures. An exalted form of magic, theurgia, had religious overtones and was akin to ritual magic. The Neoplatonists favored theurgia, believing they could summon divine powers to Earth and enable their souls to ascend to heaven. In Natural History, Pliny asserts that all magic originated in medicine, in the search for cures. The magical workings of the heavens, especially the Moon, both caused and cured illnesses. In addition, demons flying through the air and shooting arrows stirred up poisonous vapors that caused plagues and pestilence.Jewish magicThe early Jews were steeped in magical lore, much of which was borrowed and adapted from the magical practices of the Canaanites, Babylonians, Egyptians, and, later, Hellenistic-Gnostic influences. Magic was not organized into systems; rather, it was a collection of beliefs and practices chiefly concerning protection from demons and the procuring of blessings. As early as the first century C.E., magical lore was attributed to the wisdom of King SOLOMON. This lore provided the basis for the later GRIMOIRE the Key of Solomon, the most important of the old handbooks of Western magic.According to Jewish lore, the magical arts were taught to human by ANGELS, chiefly the WATCHERS, who fell from God’s grace when they departed heaven to cohabit with human women. The gift was dubious, for the Tanakh— the Old Testament—condemns sorcery, the use of spirits and various forms of magic, such as enchantment, shape shifting, divination, mediumship, and necromancy. Talmudic law reinterpreted sorcery. Magic requiring the help of demons was forbidden and was punishable by death. Magic that did not require the help of demons was still forbidden but received lesser punishments. The distinction between the two often was not clear. Later, the use of mystical names of God and angels and verses of Scripture were incorporated into incantations. Magic was organized into systems around 500 C.E., about the same time as the development of Merkabah mysticism, a precursor to the KABBALAH. Merkabah mystics performed elaborate rituals of purification, contemplation of the sacred and magical properties of letters and numbers, the recitation of sacred names, and the use of AMULETs, SEALs, and TALISMANs. The trance recitation of long incantations of names was similar to the Egyptians’ “barbarous names,” in that many were corruptions of names of deities and angels.By the Middle Ages, Jewish magic depended almost entirely on the use of names and interventions of spirits. The Kabbalah, a body of esoteric teachings dating to about the 10th century and in full bloom by the 13th century, does not forbid magic but warns of the dangers of it. Only the most virtuous persons should perform magic and do so only in times of public emergency and need, never for private gain. How strictly these admonitions were followed is questionable. A practical Kabbalah of magical procedures developed from about the 14th century on. Kabbalists were divided on the issue of whether or not one could invoke demons as well as angels.Black magic is called “apocryphal science” in the Kabbalah. It is strictly forbidden, and only theoretical knowledge is permitted. Those who choose to practice it become sorcerers in the thrall of FALLEN ANGELS. By the Middle Ages, Jews were renowned among Christians as magical adepts. These adepts were not professional magicians but were rabbis, doctors, philosophers, teachers, and students of oral transmission of mystical and esoteric knowledge.Christian magicAs did Judaism, Christianity held paradoxical attitudes toward magic. In general, magic was looked upon with disfavor, as the practices of non-Christians that interfered with the new religion. Manipulative “low” magic was forbidden, but helpful magic, such as for healing, was practiced within certain limits. Jesus performed magical acts, but they were cast as miracles made possible by his divine nature. The early church fathers especially opposed divination, which took one’s destiny out of the hands of God.Christian magic emphasized nature, such as herbal lore, and placed importance on mystical names. But the body of Christ, as represented by the Eucharist, held the greatest magic, as did the name of Jesus and relics (body parts and possessions) of saints.Medieval Europe was rife with magic of all sorts: folk practitioners, wizards, cunning men and women, alchemists, and others. The practical Kabbalah, Hermetic principles, Gnostic and Neoplatonic lore, Christian elements, and pagan elements joined in syncretic mixtures. A Western Kabbalah emerged that became the basis for Western ritual magic. Magical handbooks called grimoires circulated.The medieval church frowned upon magic of all sorts:• divination of all kinds• conjuration of spirits• necromancy• weaving and binding magic, in which spells were imbued into knots and fabric• love magic and any other magic involving potions, poppets, and so forth• magical medical remediesThe populace relied on the folk magic of local practitioners, called by many names, such as cunning men, witches, and wizards. Many possessed natural healing and psychic abilities and practiced homegrown magic passed down orally through generations. The church tolerated magic that was adequately Christianized, such as through the substitution of the names of Jesus, Mary, and angels for those of pagan deities and spirits; the use of the cross, holy water, and the Eucharist; and incantations that were more like prayers.Folk magicians were often feared, and if their spell casting or divination failed, they were persecuted. Any bad luck was liable to be blamed on the black magic or witchcraft of a rival or enemy.The Inquisition capitalized on fear. In 1484, Pope Innocent VIII declared witchcraft heretical, making the persecution of any enemy of the church easy. Witchcraft was not merely black magic, but was DEVIL worship, service to SATAN’s grand plan to subvert souls. A “witch craze” swept Europe and reached across the Atlantic to the American colonies. Thousands of persons were executed. The witch hysteria died in the advance of the scientific revolution of the 17th century. Though many great scientists of the day were versed in alchemy and the principles of magic, the importance of the latter two declined.The occult revival and modern magicIn the 19th century, a revival of interest in occultism and magic occurred, centered in and spreading out from France through Eliphas Levi, Papus (Gerard Encausse), and others. Levi’s works were particularly influential and were translated into English by Arthur Edward Waite. Levi drew together the Kabbalah, Hermeticism, and magic as the three occult sciences that lead to truth. He described the Kabbalah as the “mathematics of human thought,” which answers all questions through numbers. Magic is the knowledge of the secret laws and powers of nature and the universe. In the late 19th century, magical fraternities and lodges rose in prominence, the best known of which was the esoteric Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in England. The Golden Dawn was founded by Rosicrucians and Freemasons who were also familiar with the Eastern philosophy taught by the Theosophical Society. It was not originally intended to be a magical order. It taught only theoretical magic in its outer order, but eventually its inner order taught and practiced the magical arts as well as rituals of high magic. The rituals systematized by the Golden Dawn influenced much of the magical work that was yet to unfold.A considerable contribution to ritual magic was made by ALEISTER CROWLEY, who was already well versed in the subject by the time he was initiated into the Golden Dawn in 1898. The Golden Dawn could not contain Crowley’s oversized personality, and he was expelled two years later.His most significant magical innovation is his Law of Thelema: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” The Thelemic law was dictated to an entranced Crowley in 1909 in Egypt by a spirit named Aiwass, an emissary of the god Horus. The Book of the Law lays out the emergence of the New Aeon of Horus, for which Crowley was to be the chief prophet. Everything springs from the Thelemic law, and magic is the “art and science of causing change to occur in conformity with Will.” The individual is sovereign and responsible only to himself or herself. The proper use of will raises the individual to the highest purpose, not a selfish purpose. Crowley had numerous dealings with spirits, including demons (see Choronzon).From the 20th century on, there have been cycles of revival of popular interest in magic. Influences are fiction, television (especially reality TV) and film, the growth of Wiccan and Pagan spiritual traditions (which emphasize working with positive spirits for benevolent purposes), and popular fascination with paranormal investigations of haunted places. Practitioners engage in a wide variety of magical activities. Some are derived from folk magic and involve spell casting; others involve the conjurations of spirits; some are paths of spiritual development.Types of MagicThough magic itself is neutral, practitioners often distinguish between good, or white, magic and bad, or black magic, though such distinctions are subjective. The occultist Franz Bardon divided magic into three types:• Lower magic, which deals with the laws of nature and control of forces in nature, such as the elements• Intermediate magic, which deals with the laws of human beings in the microcosm and how the microcosm can be influenced• Higher magic, which deals with the universal laws of the macrocosm and how they can be controlled Other types of magic are known by their distinguishing characteristics.Folk magicFolk magic comprises local traditions of simple magic for the purposes of casting spells for healing, luck, protection, and so forth. Folk magic blends other forms of magic, often with mixed religious elements. Folk magic remedies and prescriptions are handed down in oral traditions and in small handbooks.Natural magicNatural magic is based on nature, such as herbs, stones, crystals, the commanding of the elements and the influences of planets and stars. Natural magic draws on the inherent magical properties of things. Philters, potions, powders, ointments, and so forth, are based on natural magic recipes, combined with folk magic incantations and CHARMs.Sympathetic magicSympathetic magic is spell casting through associations that establish a sympathetic connection for the flow of power. One of the best-known sympathetic magic tools is the poppet, a doll that substitutes for a person. The connection is strengthened by attaching photographs, hair, or personal objects of the victim to the doll. Whatever is done to the doll happens to the person. Anything can be used to establish a sympathetic connection. The best items are from a person’s body, such as hair and nail clippings. Personal possessions or any object handled by a person can be used. A gift can be magically charged and enter into a home or place as a magical Trojan horse.Australian aborigines put sharp pebbles or ground glass in the footprints of enemies as sympathetic magic to weaken and destroy them. The Ojibwa use a straw effigy to drive evil spirits away from their communities. If a member has a dream of disaster, a straw man is erected that substitutes for the trouble. The people eat, smoke tobacco, and ask for blessings. They attack the straw effigy, shooting it and clubbing it until it is in pieces. The remains are burned.Ceremonial magicCeremonial magic, also called high magic and ritual magic, involves systems of spiritual development. Practitioners learn to access and travel in otherdimensional realities, including the astral plane, and to experience spirits and otherworldly beings. The emphasis is on self-mastery and union with the godhead. The initiate must develop inner plane contacts with gods, angels, and other entities. Some modern branches of ceremonial magic incorporate scientific principles and elements, such as chaos theory, which attempts to identify the system or pattern behind seemingly random occurrences.Composite magicComposite magic, also called practical magic, combines various religious influences, for example, Christian and Jewish elements, with folk magic. Composite magic is found in grimoires. Composite magic has practical purposes, such as conjuring and spell casting for information, healing, attainment of goals and objectives, and even hexes and CURSES.Black magicBlack magic is used for malevolent purposes, to harm or kill. According to tradition, black magic is accomplished with the aid of demonic entities. Another term for it is goetic magic, or goetia. Levi said in The History of Magic, “Black Magic may be defined as the art of inducing artificial mania in ourselves and in others; but it is also above all the science of poisoning.”Arthur Edward Waite termed black magic as the utterance of words and names of power for “unlawful purposes” and “the realm of delusion and nightmare, though phenomenal enough in its results.” It involves communing with demons and evil spirits for material gain or harmful purpose.Black magic is associated with sorcery and witchcraft. The Christian Church associated all pagan and folk magic with “black magic.”White magicWhite magic is used for positive goals: healing, blessings, good luck, abundance, and so forth. White magic can involve any form of magic when used for beneficence.FURTHER READING:- Bardon, Franz. Initiation into Hermetics: A Course of Instruction of Magic Theory and Practice. Wuppertal, Germany: Dieter Ruggeberg, 1971.- Butler, E. M. Ritual Magic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1949.- Flint, Valerie I. J. The Rise of Magic in Medieval Europe. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1991.- Gray, William G. Western Inner Workings. York Beach, Me.: Samuel Weiser, 1983.- Hall, Manly P. The Secret Teachings of All Ages. Los Angeles: Philosophic Research Society, 1977. First published 1928.- Hansen, George. The Trickster and the Paranormal. New York: Xlibris, 2001.- Knight, Gareth. The Practice of Ritual Magic. Albuquerque: Sun Chalice Books, 1996.- Kraig, Donald Michael. Modern Magick: Eleven Lessons in the High Magickal Arts. 2nd ed. St. Paul, Minn.: Llewellyn, 2004.- Levi, Eliphas. The History of Magic. 1860. Reprint, York Beach, Me.: Samuel Weiser, 2001.- Luck, Georg. Arcana Mundi: Magic and the Occult in the Greek and Roman Worlds. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985.- Malinowski, Bronislaw. Magic, Science and Religion. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1948.- Regardie, Israel. The Golden Dawn. 6th ed. St. Paul, Minn.: Llewellyn, 1989.- Thomas, Keith. Religion and the Decline of Magic. New York: Scribners, 1971.
Encyclopedia of Demons and Demonology. Rosemary Ellen Guiley. 2009.