Magic Topic 1 Definitions
What is magic? • Frazer, The Golden Bough, 1900 • Magic is a technique that aims to manipulate impersonal forces
According to Frazer, Magical thought … depends on a belief that • objects and individuals • act on each other at a distance, • through a secret ‘fellow-feeling’ (‘sympathy’)
LAW OF SYMPATHY (SYMPATHETIC MAGIC) Law of Similarity Law of Contact (Homeopathic Magic) (Contagious Magic)
Magic (acc. to Frazer) Theoretical Practical “Science”“Art” Positive Magic Negative Magic Sorcery Taboo
How does magic differ from religion? • Tylor (1871), Primitive Culture: • Magic does not entail belief in spiritual beings • Durkheim, Elementary Forms of Religious life (1951) • Religions involve communities, magic concerns individuals
How does magic differ from religion? • Malinowski, Magic, Science, and Religion (1948) • Religions have intangible, long term goals, magic concrete and practical
Magic and Greek thought The sources of knowledge
Knowledge is based on • Intuition — Sensory perception • BCE BCE • Heraclitus (7th-6th) • Parmenides (5th) • Philolaus (5th BCE) Empedocles (5th) • Plato (5th - 4th BCE) Aristotle (4th)
Magic 2: THE SOURCES
Sources • 1. Literary Descriptions • 2. Inscriptions • 3. Visual Material (rare) • 4. Papyri • 5. Curse Tablets
1. Literary Descriptions • Theocritus, Vergil, Apuleius
4. Papyri • Small pieces of papyrus transmitting the formulae for charms and spells, including binding spells, defixiones, which correspond to the lead curse tablets • Long texts including collections of recipes for healing, exorcism, and divination rituals.
Magic 3 NAMING THE SORCERER
Greek words for ‘sorcerer’ • GOES • AGURTES • MAGUS • MANTIS
GOES • Linked to ‘goos’ (funeral lament) • Associated with ecstasy, divination and healing rites • Used to describe ritual in Homer • Denotes a man who can resuscitate the dead in Aeschylus.
Apuleius of Madaurus (2nd C.E.) • Platonic philosopher, defended himself in a formal trial against the accusation of magic • The outline of his speech comes down to us in his Apologia sive de magia
Line of defense General: • Apuleius is as a good citizen. • Appeals to the proconsul’s knowledge of Plato and quotes the definition of magi as specialists in religious matters.
specimens of poisonous sea-slug • Accusers: the name of the creature was similar to that of female genitalia and therefore would have been used in erotic magic • Apuleius: I was writing a book on fish.
Divination • Accusers: Apuleius performed incantations over a young boy in a secret place at a small altar, with only a few friends present. • Apuleius: the details his accusers provide were so inaccurate that they cannot be true.
Exorcism • Accusers: he performed exorcism = he is a magician • Apuleius: I acted as a physician
Possession of ritual objects • Accusers: the objects prove that his is a magician • Apuleius: the objects ate linked to mystery cults he had been initiated in.
He performed exorcism. (He acted as a physician). • He possessed ritual objects (linked, he claims, to mystery cults he had been initiated in). • Nocturna sacra were performed in his house. • He worshipped an ebony statuette representing a superhuman power linked with the world of the dead, which he referred to as the king (basileus). (well, he commissioned one to be made of boxwood but a friend decided to surprise him and paid the craftsman for ebony.)
in Hesiod (7th BCE) • Originally goddess of fertility and prosperity • A daughter of the Titans, independent from the Olympian gods • Nurse of young creatures (like Artemis)
Classical period and later • Linked to the Underworld depicted with a blazing torch • Accompanied by fierce hounds • Goddess of the crossroads • Skilled in the arts of black magic
Cross-roads • To the Romans Hecate was “Trivia” of the crossroads • Received offerings of food called Hecate's suppers
MYTHICAL SORCERERS often have divine ancestry
Circe in theOdyssey • turns Odysseus’ crew into animals
Medea • Who new how to resuscitate the dead was a grand-daughter ofHelios.
Others obtain magic objects from gods • For example, Jason according to Pindar (5th BCE) • obtained the jynx from Aphrodite herself, in order to face Medea
Others obtain magic objects from gods • Odysseus received moly from Hermes.
In practice… • magical powers were sought through quasi religious ceremonies, strongly reminiscent of mystery cults
MAGIC & MYSTERY CULTS • used the same vocabulary: • ‘mysterion’ = religious and magical ceremony • ‘synmystai’ = ‘the initiates’
MAGIC & MYSTERY CULTS • shared at least three important features: • 1) Secrecy • 2) Direct contact with the divine • 3) Complex rituals and initiation
Mysticism • = ‘direct contact with the divine’ • Plato: the sorcerer = ‘spiritual man’daimonios
Ecstasy • = ‘being put out of one’s place’ joy of having transgressed the boundaries of the human condition • was sought both by followers of Bacchus and by the magi (Lucius in Apuleius’Metamorphoses)
Difference • In his contact with the divine, the magus more often seeks a solitary experience
PART 1 PREPARE TO MEET YOUR PARHEDROS
Keep the rites secret and abstain from sexual intercourse for seven days. • Purity will distinguish you from ordinary human beings.
Drown a falcon (symbol of the Sun) in the milk of a black cow mixed with honey. • The murder of a sacred animal will place you outside the law.