1. Discuss the importance and actions of the magico-religious function as it is seen within the context of general Indo-European culture. (minimum 100 words)
Georges Dumezil used the term “trifunctional hypothesis” to explain a theory on the tripartite division of ancient Indo-European cultures. Tripartition is defined as “the act of dividing or the state of being divided into three parts”
(Merriam-Webster). Dumezil used the term to describe societies
that he believed were divided into three separate functions: priests, warriors,
and farmers (Momigliano 312).
In this theory, priests were the group of people who were responsible
for the magico-religious actions of the society. They would have been responsible for
performing celebratory rituals, rites of passage, and making sacrifices on
behalf of the group and individuals. The
rulers and philosophers of many societies feared the magicians because they
were viewed as a danger because they “threaten the just relationship that
normally unites humans and the gods” (Graf 25).
However, despite their fear, the people would go to the priests or magicians
when they felt the world was uncertain and needed guidance, which made the
magicians a very important part of ancient Indo-European life. The Hittites
viewed magic as a gift created by the gods and the practitioners of magic
belonged to a privileged caste of their own.
The priests were also entrusted with secrets they intended to be passed
down from generation to generation (Luck 13).
While some cultures viewed magicians as outcasts, the importance of them in
Indo-European cultures is apparent.
2. Discuss your understanding of the evolution of the magician from early to late periods within one Indo-European culture. (minimum 300 words)
Magicians in ancient Greece culture were called “magos” which is a term that was adopted from the religion of the Persians, where the magos was the priest
(Graf 20). This term shows that religion and magic at
this time were closely related, if not merged completely. In Persia, the magos were viewed as priests
who were very pious in their practices.
By the fifth century B.C. the term “magi” began to have a negative connotation. Heraclitus grouped them with what he called “false religions” including bacchantes and maenads. This negative reputation lead to the magi living as outsiders. They were often feared and ridiculed by other members of society
Sophocles later discusses the magos in Oedipus Rex. He describes the magos as being similar to the beggar priests, working for money, as opposed to the diviners of society who held an official status within the community. He says the beggar priest “ has sight only when it comes to profit, but in his art is blind”
(Graf 22). From this description, Sophocles viewed the
magos as people who were looking for a profit instead of doing legitimate
magical work for the people. It also
shows that the magos still had no official place within society and that they
continued to live as outsiders, while the diviners were viewed as an integral
part of the polis, or cultural structure. This was problematic in the eyes of many
people because the magos were viewed as a way to connect with the gods outside
of the public rituals presented by the polis.
At the end of the fourth century, the term is once again presented in a different manner. A scroll was found in a grave in Derveni, which contained prescriptions about rituals, including incantations to be performed by magoi. In these rites the magi, in collaboration with initiates, would make a sacrifice to make amends for a misdeed. While this rite again ties the magi to the ecstatic cults, it also shows them as “invokers of infernal powers.”
Overall, it appears that as the polis began to increase the presence of public rituals and the use of priests and diviners to connect with the gods, the reputation of the magicians devolved. In my opinion, this was done as a way to dissuade people from using these private magos and encourage them to rely on the polis for their magical needs.
3. Compare and contrast the culturally institutionalized position of the magician within at least two Indo-European cultures. (minimum 300 words)
As described above, the magicians of Greece were known as “magos,” which is a term that derives from the religion of the Persians, where magos meant priest
(Graf 20). However, in Greece, “magi” held a negative
connotation. Philosophers, such as
Heraclitus described the magi as being a part of “false religions” similar to
the bacchantes and maenads. This
description meant that the magi lived outside of society and were often feared
by other members of the community (Graf 21).
Despite this fear, the talents of the magi were appreciated and often used by many different members of society. However, Greek religion made a very clear distinction between the work of the magos, and the role of the priests in their religious practices. In fact, the magical work performed outside of the state was a punishable crime because of the belief that the magos “constitutes danger, just like the man who does not believe in the gods”
In the Celtic society, we see a very different perception of the magician. In ancient Ireland, the Druids filled the role of magician. Pliny makes this connection clear when, while referring to the Druids, he says ‘as they call their magi’
(Ellis 247). The Druids performed the same magical rites
as the magi of ancient Greece, practicing incantations, spells, charms, and
other rituals. However, while the magi of Greece were seen as outcasts to
society, the Druids held a position of respect and importance within the Celtic
society, acting as the pillar of wisdom within their culture. The Druids played numerous roles within the
community, acting as philosophers, judges, historians, bards, seers, and
astronomers as well as being responsible for magical and religious rites (Ellis 167-250). The Druids were seen as the top of the Celtic
hierarchy, holding a position of great status and importance.
Within the Greek and Celtic cultures, the role of the magician appears to be very similar. They performed similar rites and had parallel responsibilities. The major difference between these two cultures is the perception the community had of the magicians. In Greek culture, the magicians were feared and seen as outcasts, while in Celtic culture the magicians were viewed with respect and given a position of power and responsibility.
4. Identify the terms used within one Indo-European language to identify 'magic' and 'magician' examining what these terms indicate about the position of the magician in that society and the practice of his or her art. (minimum 100 words)
Georg Luck defines magic as “a technique grounded in a belief in powers located in the human soul and in the universe outside ourselves, a technique that aims at imposing the humans will on nature or on human beings by using supersensual powers”
(Luck 33). In many Indo-European cultures, magicians
were seen as having a direct link to the divine. In some societies they were honored and
respected, while in others they were feared and viewed as outcasts. In ancient
Greece, the term “magos” was used to describe the art of magic or “mageia.” The
magos in Persian society were those people responsible for making sacrifices, holding
funeral rites, and performing divination.
In Persia, this group of people was highly respected.
In Greece, the magos was treated very differently. The magos were grouped together with “ecstatic cults” such as the Bacchic cults like those seen in book 2 of Plato’s Republic
(Graf 21). While their talents were appreciated and used
frequently by many different members of society, they were definitely seen as
There are a few other terms used to define magicians in ancient Greece as well. Agurtes was a term that meant “beggar priest.” These were the people who did private magical workings for a cost. These people were seen as outsiders, and ultimately the practice of the agurtes became banned in many city-states. Another division of magicians was the mantis, which were the diviners. Contrary to the beggar priests, divination played an important role within the Greek city-states, and the mantis held an official place in the polis
5. In Norse culture we see magic divided into to primary methodologies known as Galdr and Seidhr. Galdr is very much the formal magic of sound, word and poetry meaning literally to intone while Seidhr is the magic of the spirits and is used by the folk in their everyday lives to assist in their crafts and arts. Compare the methodologies of spoken word magic and spirit magic and discuss their cultural significance within at least one Indo-European culture. (minimum 300 words)
In ancient Greece, both spoken word and spirit magic are present throughout the culture and mythology. One example that describes spoken word magic as a methodology is included in the tale of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice as written by Lucian. In this tale, Pancrates had the ability to use intoned words to empower inanimate objects to do tasks for him. He would take the object, dress it in clothes, and speak an incantation to bring it to life. The item would then do as he asked, fetching water, cooking, and doing other useful tasks. “When we had no further occasion for its services, there was another incantation, after which the broom was a broom once more, or the pestle a pestle”
(Lucian of Samosata). This is just one example of
spoken word magic in Greek culture, but I believe the intensity of this story
shows the emphasis that ancient Greeks put on the power of words.
Spirit magic can also be found in ancient Greek culture. The most obvious examples of this type of magic are defixiones, or curse tablets. These tablets had inscriptions “intended to influence, by supernatural means, the actions or welfare of persons or animals against their will”
(Jordan). Over 1000 examples of these tablets have been
found and they give a glimpse into the ancient magical practices of
One tablet from Stao of Attalos contained an inscription invoking Typhon to “bring general misery to an intended victim named Eros”
(Jordan). Typhon was an immortal storm giant and son of
Gaia who was known as a destructive force.
The inscription presents Eros to Typhon, and the inscriber asks that
Typhon “ruin him and what he has in mind, even in your dark air, and those with
him. Bind into the unilluminated aion of
oblivion and chill and destroy whatever deeds he is about to do” (Jordan). The inscription ends by asking that Eros be
deaf, dumb, without mind or heart, and hearing nothing magical. This
tablet was found in an excavated well along with 44 other tablets and fragments
of many others, presumably all written by the same person.
6. Discuss the existence and relative function of trance-journey magic within at least one Indo-European culture. (minimum 100 words)
Trance was something that was practices in many different aspects of Indo-European cultures. Within the Greek culture, the most well-known trance usage was that of the Oracle of Delphi. In Delphi, divination was practices by priestess who sat on top of a deep crevice in the ground. The priestess would enter a trance state, which included extreme bouts of ecstasy and divinations that were spoken in an intelligible language
(Luck 37-38). No one knows exactly how these women entered
their trance state, but there are many theories including a simple ritual of
wearing special vestments, touching holy water, and intoxication from fumes
that were escaping from the crevice they were sitting upon.
The oracles of Delphi used trance as a way to connect to the otherworld in order to perform their divinations. Trance allowed them to change their state of mind to receive the messages they needed to pass on. I believe this type of trance can be useful in focusing energy and intent in order to achieve the results you desire. Trance also made the divinations seem more theatrical and interesting for those witnessing the event, which also helped to draw people to them.
7. Discuss the place of alphabetic symbolism (runes, Ogham, Greek letters, etc) as part of the symbolism of magical practice within one Indo-European culture. Examine how this alphabet may or may not relate to the earlier sound, word and poetic magical methodologies. (minimum 300 words)
The Greek Alphabet Oracle is a method of divination that was used by oracles and seers. The information we have comes from inscriptions that were found in different areas of Greece. This method of divination is a type of lot casting where 24 stones are marked with a letter of the Greek alphabet
Each letter has its own correlations and meanings, which can be interpreted by
the seer. This method of divination is very popular in Indo-European cultures
and is quite similar to the Runes of the Norse and the Ogham of the Celts.
There are multiple ways to use the Greek Alphabet Oracle for divination including the drawing of a single stone, using a type of knuckle bone numerology to determine which letter is your answer, or using 5 dice to determine a number and choosing the letter associated with that number
(Sophistes). In each of these methods described, the
letter selected has a specific meaning.
That meaning is tied directly to the mythology and deities of the
By tying the divination to the cultural mythology it allows people to memorize the information more easily, but also gives them a much larger pool from which to draw information about the message that is being received. This could lead to diverse interpretations of omens and also made the system more flexible, which allowed for it to be used by a wider group of people.
The letters of the Greek alphabet were also used in the creation of spells and amulets like those found in the Greek Magical Papyri. For example, PGM VII. 197-98 is a description of an amulet created “for discharge of the eyes.” This papyrus gives instructions to write a specific phrase on a piece of papyrus and attach it as an amulet
The Greek alphabet directly relates to the sounds that were spoken by the people and each letter has a specific sound assigned to it. With the Greek Magical Papyri, there is a “Magical Handbook,” PGM V 1-53, that includes an explanation of the sounds that were to be made to pronounce the phrase AOIAO EOEY. The pronunciation is described as follows:
the "A" with an open mouth, undulating like a wave;
the "O" succinctly, as a breathed threa:,
the "IAO" to earth, to air, and to heaven;
the "E" like a baboon;
the "O” in the same way as above;
the "E" with enjoyment, aspirating it,
the "Y" like a shepherd, drawing out the pronunciation
The specificity of this explanation implies that the pronunciation of the letters was incredibly important for effective communication. It also gives us evidence that each letter does have a sound assigned to it directly.
8. Discuss three key magical techniques or symbols from one Indo-European culture. (minimum 100 words each)
Ancient Greece had a very large magical system that was used by priests, oracles, and magicians. Three specific types of magic in ancient Greece were katadeisthai, divination, and coercion.
Katadeisthai is a word, which translates to mean “binding”
(Graf 121). This type of magic is used in many different
types of spells, including judicial prosecution, erotic couplings, and many
other purposes. Judicial binding was done to make it so adversaries could not
appear in court, or so they could not speak. In some of these practices, dolls were created
to bind people together instead of keeping them away. For instance, a doll would be created to help
attract the “the object of one’s desire” with the help of a demon or other
spirit. This type of magic was frequently
used to overcome a feeling of uncertainty increased by that of a certain sense
of powerlessness (Graf 153-157).
Divination is the ability to obtain information about the future without one’s thinking of manipulating the unfolding of events
(Graf 158). It was often seen as a way of making contact
with a superhuman being in order to profit from the being’s knowledge. This type of magic was done in several
different ways. The first was direct
contact with the divinity without the use of meditation, which was called
direct vision. The second was divinatory
possession, which was using a medium that was in a trance to receive a
message. The third was divinatory
dreams. The final form was the use of
objects, such as a container filled with water or a lamp to interpret a message
from (Graf 197).
Coercion was a different type of magic, which used the coercion of a divine being in order to obtain an oracle or request from them. For example, a rite was done to call to Persephone. When she approaches a charm was used to extinguish her torches. A promise would then be made to relight the torches if she would grant the request of the practitioner. Another type of coercion that was used was “epanankoi” or verbal coercion
(Graf 224). Words were spoken, along with a special
ritual in order to try to coerce a change in the world or another person. The magician would draws a picture and wrap
it in cloth. It would then be either
placed in an over or above a lamp in order to enforce the message of the
Each of these types of magic had their own specific use within the Greek society, while having vastly different intents and methods. The diversity of the magico-religious practices within the Greek culture gives us a glimpse into the many different cultures that influenced them.
9. Discuss the relative place and methodologies of magic within your personal religious/spiritual practice. (minimum 100 words)
Magic is something that I never considered as an important or strong point within my own spiritual practices. However, the more I begin to work through these courses, the more my understanding of magic evolves. I know that magic can be a useful tool, which can be used to influence and connect the world around me, and have used it to do both in the past, even when I was unaware of it. I have used divination to interpret messages both during ritual and when asking for advice. I have used prayers for healing and to connect with deities. I’ve also used trance work to explore the Enochian tablets. However, while I have done magical workings in the past, I view them as a method of exploration of the universe and myself and less as a tool for changing the world around me.
10. Into which basic categories would you divide magical arts and how do you see those categories functioning within the context of ADF? (minimum 300 words)
I think that the magical arts, at least from my perspective, would be divided into three separate, intertwined categories: divination, working magic, and ritual magic. While each of these categories is separate, I can’t say that there isn’t a large amount of overlap that would happen between them all.
Divination is defined as “the practice of using signs (such as an arrangement of tea leaves or cards) or special powers to predict the future”
(Merriam-Webster). Divination can be done through
several mediums includes the use of tarot cards, runes, ogham, scrying, and
numerous other methods. Within ADF,
divination is used within rituals to ask for a response from the Kindreds as to
whether or not the offerings have been accepted and to give any blessings or
wisdom they have to offer in return. Divination can also be used outside of ritual
for personal guidance or a point of focus.
In my practice, working magic is the most challenging to define. It is the type of magic done when we use our skills to try to affect ourselves and/or world around us. For me, working magic includes healing work, weather magic, and creating talismans, as well as many other types of magical working. This type of magic can easily be incorporated with either of the other two categories, or done independently.
Ritual is defined as “of or relating to rites or a ritual: ceremonial”
From my perspective, ritual is typically done in an effort to build
relationships with the Kindreds and the community. In the context of ADF, a large portion of our
public religion is based upon ritual magic. We perform public rituals at least
eight times per year where we open the gates, communicate with the Kindreds,
make offerings, and receive blessings. Within these rites we magically open the
gates and re-create the cosmos, and during many other portions of an ADF Core Order
of Ritual rite. However, we can also
include divination and working magic into our rites as well. During the omen
section of our ritual, we use divination to receive messages from the Kindreds,
and during the “workings” section, we can incorporate healing spells or other
magical workings into the ritual.
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