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Flashcards in MIDTERM 1 Deck (30):

What is witchcraft?

- The use of sorcery or magic
- Communication with the devil


What is the occult?

- Supernatural, mystical or magical beliefs, practices or phenomena
- "The Other"


What is magic?

- Influencing events by the use of supernatural forces



- 19th C
- Not an organized system of thought
- Any modern claim to revive ancient Pagan practices



- Villager, rustic, civilian
- An insult
- Someone who wasn't a Christian
- Synonymous with magic


Law of Sympathy

- Sir James George Frazer
- Law of Similarity - things that are alike are the same
- Law of Contagion - things that were once connected will always be connected, even if the connection is severed



- Highest class of magical practices
- Dealing with Gods in a beneficial way
- Doing rituals in public to have the Gods bless the city
- Magicians made sure the Gods were happy to get their feedback
- Respected practice



- Magic that used ritual experts to help themselves or clients that would come to them
- Respected practice



- Lowest form of magic
- Crude, ignorant and widely feared
- Wasn't the practice, it was the person doing the accusing



Songs that were sung involving a God's name plus a petition



- Used for protection/empowerment
- Sometimes worn on the body or in the home
- Uses: counter a spell, cure illness, seduce, contraceptive
- Ex - the magic contraceptive bean with an insect in it
- Made from stone/metal


Curse Tablets
* long answer

- "Binding Spells"
- found in areas ranging from Egypt to Greece, oldest around 500 BCE
- used in competitive context for: business, love, sports, court cases, justice/revenge
- contained requests for what they wanted to happen to whom
- rich people could find fill in the blank curse tablets
- invocation of God's name, associated with darkness and the underworld
- folded or pierced with a nail and buried in a place associated with the spirits of the dead


Greek Magical Papyri

- mageia
- magical handbook that contained hymns, spells, rituals
- examples of syncretism = mixing of different beliefs



- theurgy
- all being is created by The One
- followed Plato
- humans were not able to know The One through reason, they had to use rituals


Simon Magus

- first villain, bad guy
- Sin of Simony (buying influence in the church)
- seen as the source of heresies


Jonathan Z. Smith

- researches Hellenistic religion, ritual and theory
- looks bad ass
- "Religion is not a native term; it is a term created by scholars for their intellectual purposes"


Three Periods of Magic in the Middle Ages

1. Conversion Period 5th-12th C
2. 12th C Renaissance
3. Late Middle Ages 14th-15th C



an academic catchphrase used to say the mixing of different groups - but nothing is pure!
ex) pagans converting to christianity


Conversion Period
* long answer

- 5-12th C
Two major sources of "magic" at this time
1. laws, sermons and other texts condemning what the authors thought to be magic
- most common targets were those whose practices countered the church
- magic was seen as illusionary, deceptive and evil. Christianity was seen as good.

2. Hagiographies (bios of Saints), medical texts etc that would describe practices that modern scholars would consider magic
- eg, Saints who healed by touch or amulet
- magic = manipulation of nature in a way that modern science does not allow
- BUT these things were considered legitimate and good (therefore not magic) by people at this time
- strong binary of Christianity being good and magic being evil at this time

basically hypocrisy


Pliny the Elder's Natural History

- discussed how plants and animals could be used to heal illnesses and the powers of stones
- today we might think of this as magic, but back then it was seen as science
- this text also attacked magicians as imposters
- aimed at the people who practiced goeatia because magic was problematic



"Right belief". The one "right" version of Christianity as enforced by the government and Creeds



the many "wrong" Christian groups that were defined in Creed and suppressed by the government


12th C Renaissance

- context of witchcraft and cultural changes
- leaps in economics, politics and coming out of the Dark Ages
- beginning of the Crusades - Christian Europe decided they needed to conquer the Holy Land. This was a failure. But they did bring back a lot of information in the form of Greek and Arabic texts!
- growing distinction between high and low magic


Astrology and Alchemy

the idea that planetary movements were related to human affairs
used in medicine to plan surgeries and to associate with body parts
used in planning marriages, treaties, battles

the origins of chemistry
pursuit of an elixir that would turn base metals into gold
also used in medicine

both were considered occult science
astrologists and alchemists were secretive about knowledge, which made people skeptical


Late Middle Ages
** long answer

- 14th-15th C
- increased literacy and spreading of texts and ideas
- people began discussing magic and how terrifying it could be
- this is when the church started to see magic as something that had to be stopped
- went from dissimilar practices to organized systems of magic
- pagan --> heretical, diabolical
- "a magician is someone who knowingly tries to achieve something by diabolical means"
- went from ignorance to deliberateness
- there was a sense that magic was real and its effects were hard to combate
- "high" magic still seen as science, not diabolical


Common themes in popular representations of witches

- those accused weren't guilty
- witches look a certain way - pointy nose, hat, warts, etc
- those doing the accusing were stupid, ignorant, fearful; unusual logic used to determine witchcraft


Two competing views on how many witches were executed in 1450-1750

1st estimate
- 9 million - no
- Gottfried Christian Voigt
- this number was wrong because he got it from a time when the number of executions was disproportionately high in Germany

- scholars estimate around 100 000 trials and 40 000 - 60 000 executions


The two components of Diabolism
** long answer

1. Pact with Satan
- people who opposed christianity were associated with Satan
- person would renounce christianity and be re-baptized by satan which would come with a reward (money, power sex)
- pact would conclude with a backwards bow and kissing Satan's anus

2. Sabbath
- collective, organized worship of satan
- witches were thought to fly there, this is why we associate witches with flying
- oppositions to normal christian behaviour (nighttime ritual, nudity, rampant sex, inversion of prayers while on one's head, incest, sacrifice of children)


Who were witches?

- 75% women
- women were more susceptible to diabolism (morally weaker, physically weaker, less intelligent than men)
- sexual elements of diabolism more appealing to them
- women's social positions could make them targets for witchcraft accusations - midwives around unbaptized children, cooks able to poison people
- usually of lower social classes
- most accused witches over 50 (senility, widowed, sexually experienced yet sexually available)
- men accused of witchcraft tended to be in positions of authority and abusing that position


Trading Places by Smith
* long answer

- odd to define magic in contrast to science and religion
- religion and science are opposed to one another, so if magic is opposite, it should be like the other
- it doesnt work to see either science or religion developing out of magic either - magic is defined in term of it lacking something that religion or science has
- you dont define something in terms that it is not - scholars are inconsistent about what magic lacks
- why is there a need to distinguish magic from religion in the first place? because magic is a common sense term, it allows scholars to mark certain behaviours as deviant. the term magic is a wastebasket where you put all the stuff you cant figure out.
- smith suggests rejecting magic as a second-order category altogether
- healing, divining, execrating more useful terms
- smith also rejects the idea that focuses on magic in terms of how particular groups use it ---- shifts the focus from the content of the magic to those who accuse people of doing it
---- focus on accusation, not what the alleged magician is doing
--- fails to consider those with power who might practice magic, or those societies where it is a legit profession
---- does not explain why the term exists, hpw it works, how the practices associated with the group work