Magic? David Blaine http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3S0UJHMf0E Gob – Arrested Development http://www.hulu.com/watch/1208/arrested-development-office-magic and… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76Fk6Y7T_YU
Illusion vs. Magic vs. Sorcery • Illusion: • Acts that rely on some sort of trickery and deception • Ex: Chris Angel, David Blaine • May also be used by Religious Specialists to add to the ambience of ritual, to bring the audience in on the experience of the specialist. • Magic: • Methods that somehow interface with the supernatural and by which people bring about particular outcomes • Early Anthropologists (Edward Tylor, James Frazer, Èmile Durkheim) saw magic as separate from religion because it did not involve spirits, only manipulation of supernatural forces. • Evolutionary school: magicreligionscience • Arguments still remain as to whether Magic should continue to be defined within the realm of religion. • Sorcery: • Compelling the supernatural to behave in certain ways, usually with evil intent. Done in secret and can be severely anti-social. • Ex: Kuru and Sorcery among the Fore
Ways of understanding the worldScience vs. Magic • Science • A methodology for coming to an understanding of reality through • Objective observations • Experimentation • Hypotheses • Tentative statements based upon experimental and observational data that is subject to further study. • Theories • A framework for understanding that is supported by a large amount of consistent scientific data. • Deals only with empiricalobservations (observations made through the senses) • Scientific conclusions must be testable • And have the capacity to be proven false • Methods similar to the above are practiced the world-over for those trying to gain control over their surroundings (ex: planning for a good harvest, building the right boat to sail on a long journey), but what about the intangibles, the swerves thrown by nature? • Magic • What if an infestation of an unknown pest eats the planter’s crops? Rain does not come? Fire burns down materials needed to make a boat? • Magic as an attempt to control unpredictability through the manipulation of supernatural forces. • Ex: Magic in sports
Rules of Magic • James Frazer, The Golden Bough (1890) • The Law of Sympathy • Magic depends on the apparent association or agreement between things • Law of Similarity • Things that are alike are the same • Ex: The Azande: root of fruit w/ milky sap given to women who have troubles lactating • Ex: Ancient Egypt & Rome: Bes Jars • Law of Contagion • Objects that were once in contact continue to be connected after that connection is severed. A “psychic connection/footprint.” • Ex: The Fore, Sorcery & Kuru. Food remnants, hair, nail clippings, excrement of victim mixed with leaves/stones bundle placed into the cold, muddy ground, symbolizing deep chill of Kuru. Bundle beaten with a stick, symbolizing breaking/weakening of bones.
Law of Sympathy cont. • Law of Similarity • Homeopathic Magic • Based on the Law of Similarity. There is a causal relationship between things that appear to be similar. • Image Magic • Create an image to represent an animal/person, who then can be killed/injured by doing something to the image • Ex: “Voodoo doll” • Increase Rite among Australian Aborigines: fertility rituals that function to facilitate the successful reproduction of the Totem animal. Seen as essential to an animal’s life cycle. Involve dance and painting of the body • Doctrine of Signatures labeled “alternative medicine” in the U.S.: The belief that signs telling of a plant’s medical use are somehow embedded within the structure and nature of the plant itself. • Ex: Red Cloverhead & sap of the Bloodroot used to treat problems of the blood. • Ex: Boneset plant used to set broken bones and cure fever/cough/cold • Law of Contagion • Contagious Magic • Based on the Law of Contagion, utilizing things that once were in physical contact with an individual • Ex: Rabbit’s foot • Ex: New Guinea. A wound caused by an arrow is medicated by a salve. This salve is also spread over the arrow which caused the wound. • Ex: Particular type of clothing worn to exams?
Logic/Science: The juxtaposition of two events does not necessarily imply causality. Ex: Breaking a mirror or a black cat crossing one’s path does not necessarily equate with bad luck. If believe bad luck will occur, will be hypersensitive to even the most minute manifestation. “Bad luck” is then easily recognized and attributed to the offending initial event/object. Magic appears to work, because the actions requested will often occur naturally Ex: Magic to bring rain after the dry season, to enable crops to grow. Aztec practice of feeding the sun so it won’t expire. Magic works because of a human psychological disposition towards a positive result. Ex: Bone Pointing among the Australian Aborigines. (relatives also do not feed/care for the afflicted) Ex: The Secret, “mind over matter” Why does Magic work?
Ethnographic Example • Trobriand Islands (Malinowski) • Highest level of knowledge includes rain and garden magic • Only a few have this knowledge and are highly revered in the community • Magic is learned through family members, but is not “free”. • The inquirer must present gifts over time to gain this knowledge. The giver will generally not pass on all the info at once and may die before all magical knowledge is passed on. In this case, other religious specialists from nearby islands to the South may be monetarily persuaded to teach. • Garden magic and ritual • A Spell is used: an oral text that is transmitted without change from generation to generation • The spell must be recited exactly, with the correct phrasing, wording, pausing, etc. One slip-up could invalidate the magic. • The magic compels the supernatural to bend to the person’s wishes, and success is seen as inevitable