MAGIC: Definitions and Theory


defining magic

emic and etic definitions

substantivist and functionalist definitions

scientific and rhetorical definitions

polythetic and monothetic definitions

emic definitions

self-definition - active magic

other definition - accusations and acclamations

positive and negative definitions of magic

etic definitions

intuitive - magic and pornography


substantivist - what, where/when

functionalist - who, how, why

Grand Dichotomies - Magic vs. Science and Magic vs. Religion

Magic vs. Religion

Intention - concrete individual goals vs. intangible long-term goals

Attitude - manipulative/coercive vs. submissive

Action - impersonal action vs. personal interaction

Social Evaluation - anti-social vs. cohesive

Weberian criteria of legitimacy


political-social location



Magic vs. Science

Performative Language - Tambiah

metaphor and metonym

instrumental vs. symbolic action

persuasive vs. predictive analogy

empirical vs. non-empirical ends

verification vs. validity

What — what is the magical ritual or object

Who — who is performing the ritual, using the magical thing?

Where — where or when does the ritual take place? where is the object used?

Why — what is the motivation for the use of magic? what does the practitioner hope to achieve?

How — how does the effect work? what is the source of the power? by what means does it operate? difference between perspective of practitioner and modern analyst?

Forasmuch as N. and N. have consented together in holy wedlock, and have witnessed the same before God and this company, and thereto have given and pledged their troth, each to the other, and have declared the same by giving and receiving a Ring, and by joining hands; I pronounce that they are Man and Wife, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Inscribed on a lead tablet: Let Pherenikos be bound before Hermes of the underworld and Hekate of the underworld. I bind Pherenikos' girl Galene to Hermes of the underworld and to Hekate of the underworld I bind her. And just as this lead is worthless and cold, so let that man and his property be worthless and cold, and those who are with him who have spoken and counseled concerning me.

Inscribed on a publicly displayed marble stele on Delos: I call upon and beseech the highest god, Lord of the spirits and of all flesh, against those who by deceit murdered or cast a spell on/poisoned miserable Heraklea, untimely dead, causing her to spill her innocent blood in unjust fashion, so that the same happen to those who murdered or cast a spell on/poisoned her and also to their children. Lord who oversees all things and angels of God, before whom on this day every soul humbles itself, may you avenge this innocent blood and seek justice speedily.

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Excellent rite for driving out daimons:

Formula to be spoken over his head: Place olive branches before him, and stand behind him and say: "Hail, God of Abraham; hail, God of Isaac; hail, God of Jacob; Jesus Chrestos, the Holy Spirit, the Son of the Father, who is above the Seven, who is within the Seven. Bring Iao Sabaoth; may your power issue forth from him, NN, until you drive away this unclean daimon Satan, who is in him. I conjure you, daimon, whosoever you are, by this god, SABARBARBATHIOTH SABARBARBATHIOUTH SABARBARBATHIONETH SABARBARBAPHAI. Come out, daimon, whoever you are, and stay away from him, NN, now, now, immediately, immediately. Come out, daimon, since I bind you with unbreakable adamantine fetters, and I deliver you into the black chaos in perdition.

Preparation: take seven olive branches; for six of them tie together the two ends of each one, but for the remaining one use it like a whip as you utter the conjuration. Keep it secret; it is proven.

43.=88. Preparation of smaragdos

Mix and put together in a small jar a drachma of copper green [malachite or verdigris], a drachma of Armenian blue [Dioskourides 5.90: probably azurite], a cup of the urine of a virgin youth, and two-thirds of the fluid of a steer’s gall. Insert stones each weighing about an obol. Lay the cover upon the pot, lute the cover all around with clay, and heat it for six hours with a gentle fire of olive wood. But if this sign appears, that the cover becomes green, then heat no more, but cool off and take the stones out. Thus you will find that they have become emeralds. (The stones are of crystal; all crystal, however, changes its color by boiling.)