EXPLOREMY LIBRARY
Culture & Literature
History of Magic

History of Magic

History of Magic

Learn about magic's roots in the ancient world, its relationship to pagan religions, its key figures and the debt that modern-day science owes to many of its theories. Discover the ancient Persian roots of the word and what it described, its role in classical civilisations and medieval society, the secrets of the alchemists and the court magicians of the Renaissance, the early modern witchcraft panic, the Occult Revival, and the New Age of magical practice. Plus, discover key figures, including: • Hermes Trismegistus • John Dee • Éliphas Lévi • Aleister Crowley • Dion Fortune • Margaret Murray • Gerald Gardner • Alex Sanders • And many more!

Country:
United Kingdom
Language:
English
Publisher:
Future Publishing Ltd
Frequency:
One-off
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in this issue

1 min.
welcome to history of magic

Do you believe in magic? People have done so for thousands of years, sometimes embracing it, sometimes reviling it. History of Magic tells the story of those centuries of belief, from the mysterious ancient Persian priests who gave their name to the concept, to the tenets of modern magic as practiced by today’s chaos magicians. Along the way, you’ll learn about the complex role of magic in the ancient and medieval eras, explore the seven forbidden arts and other magical practices, discover the secrets of the alchemists, witness the decline of magic and the Occult Revival, and meet the modern practitioners who have revolutionised magic throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. You’ll encounter witches, wizards, legendary figures and contemporary magicians, learn about some of the most influential theorists, historians and…

2 min.
magical thinking

Many people don’t believe in magic. But many people have in the past, and many people do now. Those who don’t might dismiss this as silly, pointing out that there is no secret Harry Potter world hidden behind the mundane realities of everyday life. But in fact the theory and practice of magic has a long and venerable history, and whether you choose to believe in it or not, without some of its philosophical ideas and technological advances, the rational, scientific world of the 21st century would not be what it is today. Sociologists often think of magic in relation to two other key ideas that we use to understand the world around us: religion and science. Religion attempts to explain the mysteries of existence through the prism of gods and…

4 min.
magic through the ages

Primal rites Paleolithic peoples create artwork based around the acknowledgement of prey animals and the ritual propitiation of their ancestors. Some paintings include strange, human-animal hybrids that are later theorised to be shamanistic figures. Paleolithic era Defining moment Pyramid scheme c. 2686–2181 BCE The Pyramid Texts, dating from the ancient Egyptian Old Kingdom, are the oldest still-extant magical texts. Primarily related to the ancient Egyptian religion, particularly the cult of Osiris, the god of the afterlife and rebirth, they describe magical processes by which the dead can transform their spirit into an akh, an aspect of the soul that was believed to allow them to assume any form and visit the world of the living. Achieving the state of an akh required certain things: the soul had to be worthy according to the judgement of…

5 min.
rites of the ancient mages

Some of the earliest examples of magical thinking can be seen in the art and artefacts left behind by our Paleolithic ancestors. While we don’t have written records that explain to us what these ancient people meant thousands of years ago when they created these items, we can infer something of their use and meaning from context. We know that in the Middle to Upper Paleolithic eras (between 80,000-40,000 years ago), hunter-gatherers improved many of their existing technologies and created new ones. They also began to create art, and this gives us a clue as to what they might have been thinking. Cave paintings of prey animals may show a simple record of what to kill and when, which older hunters would have narrated to younger ones. Or they may show…

1 min.
the math magician

Mathematics is, to us, the most rational and reasonable of subjects. So it may surprise you to learn that one of its most important figures, Pythagoras, was in fact considered capable of performing magic. The Ionian Greek mathematician and philosopher was a follower of the Orphic Mysteries, a cult dedicated to Orpheus, the legendary poet and musician thought to be the son of the Muse Calliope. Pythagoras forbade his own followers from eating beans due to their supposed magical connection with the shades of the dead in the underworld, and was alleged to have performed a range of wizardly feats. These included being seen during the same hour in two separate cities, charming a wild white eagle that let him stroke it, being greeted by a river that said “Hail,…

5 min.
fear of a black magic

The time between the classical era and the Age of Reason was a golden age for magic. It seems strange to say this when for much of the medieval and early modern periods it was feared, to the extent that tens of thousands of people were persecuted in Europe and the New World because they were suspected of practicing it. But that fear itself points to a strong and widespread belief in the reality and utility of magic. The West’s fear of magic and its practitioners was the legacy of the half-remembered Graeco-Roman thought that it based some of its philosophical ideology on, and of the Christian dogma that it had begun to embrace wholeheartedly. Practitioners of magic, then, were seen as not only the charlatans that the Greeks and Romans…