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For thousands of generations, from the earliest days of the cave dweller to Star Wars technology, a belief in magick has served the human race. And its practitioners maintain that it will be as powerful and as meaningful in the New Age. Magick, spelled with a "k," is the use of rituals, chants, ceremonies, and affirmations designed to give the individual control of the supernatural forces that manipulate the universe. Magic spelled minus the "k" denotes trickery, sleight-of-hand, misdirection, the rabbit-out-of-the-hat stage magician.

According to those who practice magick, the supernatural forces could not care less by what names they are called. It does not matter to them if the magician or sorcerer ascribes to them the catch phrases of contemporary science or evokes the ancient names of the old gods and goddesses. What is important to these forces is that the magician acknowledges that they do existthat they are there to be called upon and to act as powerful servants for those who have learned to control them.

Those who seriously practice the ancient rites and rituals of magick truly believe that they can master the ability to control unseen forces that can be made to produce whatever it is that they seek in lifepeace, happiness, the secret of love, the pursuit of wealthall these things can come easily to those who understand the power of true magick.

The practitioners devoted to the various belief systems have few problems weaving their particular school of magick into the fabric of contemporary living, no matter how complex a schedule they might have. Moments can be culled from the day's work and assembled before bedtime for ritual work. For the more complex ceremonies a greater amount of time is needed, but for certain elementary rituals they claim that 15 minutes to a half hour are all that is required. Absolute quiet is preferable, but the magician can acquire the ability to blot out extraneous sounds and perform the necessary rituals regardless of environmental distractions. The serious magicians keep a record of what works, what does not work, and what factors they think contributed to the success of a particular ritual.

It may be that true magick lies in the unlimited reach of the psyche: mind contacting mind through other than sensory means; mind influencing matter and other minds; mind elevating itself to a level of consciousness where past, present, and future become an Eternal Now. Although humans may clothe these experiences according to the cultural context in which they are most functional, these evidences of the non-physical capabilities of human beings are universal.

Prestidigitation, the-hand-is-quicker-thanthe-eye kind of magic, may have been born when certain clever individuals began to use their brains in an attempt to mimic the transcendental qualities of their mind. Perhaps long ago, a canny young man, jealous of a master shaman's ability to move an object through psychokinesis, mind influencing matter, cleverly duplicated the feat by attaching one end of a long black hair to a pebble and the other to a finger. The shaman might have spent years acquiring the discipline necessary to a semi-controlled functioning of his psychic ability, but the crafty young magician with his trickery could guarantee results on every attempt.

Throughout all of history, there have been sorcerers, magi, and magicians. Perhaps some were truly able to produce the genuine manifestation of some extraordinary psychic ability, but it is likely that the far greater numbers of wizards and miracle workers had only mastered an imitative exploitation based on the essence of the idea of supernatural powers.

Delving Deeper

De Givry, Emile Grillot. Illustrated Anthology of Sorcery, Magic and Alchemy. Trans. by J. Courtenay Locke. New York: Causeway Books, 1973.

Heer, Friedrich. The Medieval World: Europe 1100 to 1350. Trans. by Janet Sondheimer. Cleveland, Ohio: World Books, 1961.

Seligmann, Kurt. The History of Magic. New York: Meridian Books, 1960.

Spence, Lewis. An Encyclopedia of Occultism. New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1960.

Abramelin Magick

The essence of Abramelin magick can be found in The Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage, which was translated by MacGregor Mathers from a manuscript written in French in the eighteenth century. The work purports to be much older, however. It was dated 1458 and claims to be translated originally from Hebrew. The text reveals to the adept that the universe is teeming with hordes of angels and demons that interact with human beings on many levels. All the vast array of phenomena on Earth are produced by the demonic entities, who are under the control of the angels. Humans are somewhere midway between the angelic and the demonic intelligences on the spiritual scale, and each human entity has both a guardian angel and a malevolent demon that hover near him or her from birth until death.

Abramelin magick provides instruction to the initiates of the "Magic of Light" that will enable them to achieve mastery over the demons and place them under their control. Abramelin the great magus learned how to accomplish such a difficult task by undergoing a process of spiritual cleansing and the development of a powerful will. In addition to spiritual and mental exercises, Abramelin discovered words of power that can be arranged in magic squares and written on parchment. With the proper application of these magical squares, the magus can command the demons and order them to assist him in the acquisition of earthly knowledge and power. By applying such magic words as "abracadabra," Abramelin magicians claim they can gain the love of anyone they desire, discover hidden treasures, become invisible, invoke spirits to appear, fly through the air and travel great distances in a matter of minutes, and animate corpses to create zombies to serve them. Abramelin magicians believe they can heal illnesses or cause diseases, bring about peace or war, create prosperity or poverty. They claim to shapeshift into different animal or human forms.

The difficulty that most practitioners of Abramelin magick encounter is that there are few words in any language that are able to fulfill the requirements of such productive squares. The basic concept of the Abramelin school of magick as determined by MacGregor Mathers in his translation of the French manuscript dictates that the letters in the squares must form the word that represents the desired object and must read the same in all directions. Mathers achieved little success in translating the words provided by Abramelin or in forming others that were little more than collections of meaningless letters.

Delving Deeper

Cavendish, Richard. The Black Arts. New York: Capricorn Books, 1968.

Meyer, Marvin, and Richard Smith, eds. Ancient Christian Magic. San Francisco: HarperSanFran cisco, 1994.

Seligmann, Kurt. The History of Magic. New York: Meridian Books, 1960.

Spence, Lewis. An Encyclopedia of Occultism. New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1960.

Williams, Charles. Witchcraft. New York: Meridian Books, 1960.

Black Magick

Black magick is the use of supernatural knowledge and powers for the purpose of doing evil or for working evil upon another human being. Practitioners of black magick deliberately seek to invoke demonic entities in order to control their powers and to force them to obey their will. Black magick is, therefore, a perversion of the mystical sciences. Rather than attempting to be of service to one's fellow humans as do the practitioners of white magick, the black magicians seek to gain control over supernatural forces for the sole purpose of personal aggrandizement, the glorification of their baser appetites, and the sowing of discord, discontent, and disease.

The desire to use supernatural entities to wreak havoc upon one's enemy or to acquire material wealth and power was in play during the time of the ancient Egyptians and Persians. The Greeks and Hebrews adapted many of the rituals and incantations, transforming the gods of the earlier cultures into the demons of their own time. This process of deity transmutation was continued into medieval times when the earlier gods of the Middle East became devils, the ancient mysteries and fertility rites became orgies, and the orders of worship for the old hierarchy of gods and goddesses became patterns for sorcery. By the Middle Ages, belief in black magick and the powers of evil became so intense that the world had become a dark and shadowy place of dread ruled by Satan.

The sorcerers of the Middle Ages who practiced black magick followed to the letter the instructions recorded in the Great Grimoires, books filled with rites, rituals, incantations, conjurations, and evocations of demonic entities. The deity most often invoked by the dark sorcerer of medieval times to the present day is Satanas, a direct descendant of the Egyptian Set and an alias for the Persians' Ahriman, the Muslims' Iblis, the Hebrews' Asmodeus and Beelzebub, and Pan, the goat-footed nature god of the Greeks, who became the image of Satan in the common mind. In addition to Satan, the master creator of evil, there were many other ancient gods who had been transformed into demons and personified as vices who could be ordered to do the bidding of the black magicians of the Middle Ages: Moloch, who devours children; Belial, who forments rebellion; Astarte and Astaroth, who seduce men and women into debauchery; Baphomet, who plots murders, and so on.

Delving Deeper

Cavendish, Richard. The Black Arts. New York: Capricorn Books, 1968.

LaVey, Anton Szandor. The Satanic Bible. New York: Avon Books, 1969.

Rhodes, H. T. F. The Satanic Mass. London: Arrow Books, 1965.

Seligmann, Kurt. The History of Magic. New York: Meridian Books, 1960.

Enochian Magick

The apocryphal book of Enoch told of the order of angels called "Watchers," or "The Sleepless Ones." The leader of the Watchers was called Semjaza (in other places, Azazel, the name of one of the Hebrews' principal demons), who led 200 Watchers down to Earth to take wives from among the daughters of men. It was from such a union that the Nephilim, the giants, the heroes of old, as well as the ancient practitioners of sorcery, were born. The fallen angels taught their wives to cast various spells and to practice the arts of enchantment. They imparted to the women the lore of plants and the properties of certain roots. Semjaza did not neglect human men, teaching them how to manufacture weapons and tools of destruction.

In Enochian magick, the practitioner employed words of power that allegedly had been passed down in an oral tradition from the times of Enoch. The actual evocation began with the chanting of the appropriate words, which varied from spirit to spirit. These words of power were said, by their very sounds, to exert a strong emotional effect. A famous example is: Eca zodocare iad goho Torzodu odo kilale qaa! Zodacare od sodameranul Zodorje lape zodiredo ol noco mada dae iadapiel! These words are supposedly from the Enochian language, believed by magicians and other occultists to pre-date Sanskrit. They were addressed to the angelic beings that the magi believed would assist them in their magick and they translate as follows: "Move, therefore, and show yourselves! Open the mysteries of your creation! Be friendly unto me, for I am servant of the same, your God, and I am a true worshipper of the Highest."

In all chanting, recitations, and litanies, the impact of a group is far more impressive than that of a single voice, and the Enochian practitioners always thought a group must be composed of individual seekers of like dedication. When properly performed, such rituals have a powerful impact on the emotions. This is heightened by a measured walking around the inside of a magic circle, and dancing.

Delving Deeper

Meyer, Marvin, and Richard Smith, eds. Ancient Christian Magic. San Francisco: HarperSanFran cisco, 1994.

Seligmann, Kurt. The History of Magic. New York: Meridian Books, 1960.

Spence, Lewis. An Encyclopedia of Occultism. New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1960.

Williams, Charles. Witchcraft. New York: Meridian Books, 1960.


Vodun, voudoun, or, more popularly, voodoo, means "spirit" in the language of the West African Yoruba people. Vodun as a religion is a mixture of African beliefs and rites that may go back as many as 6,000 years with the teachings, saints, and rituals of Roman Catholicism. Early slaves, who were snatched from their homes and families on Africa's West Coast, brought their gods and religious practices with them to Haiti and other West Indian islands. Plantation owners, who purchased the slaves for rigorous labor, were compelled by order of the lieutenant-general to baptize their slaves in the Catholic religion. The slave suffered no conflict of theology. They accepted the white man's "water" and quickly adopted Catholic saints into their family of nature gods and goddesses.

The connotations of evil and fear that are associated with vodun originated primarily from the white plantation owners' obsession with the threat of slave revolts, for they and their overseers were outnumbered 16 to 1 by the field hands whom they worked unmercifully in the broiling Haitian sun. As the black population increased and the white demand for slave labor remained unceasing, vodun began to take on an anti-white liturgy. Several "messiahs" emerged among the slaves, who were subsequently put to death by the whites in the "big houses." A number of laws began to be passed forbidding any plantation owner to allow "night dances" among his Negroes.

In 1791, a slave revolt took place under the leadership of Toussaint L'Ouverture (17431803) which was to lead to Haiti's independence from France in 1804. Although L'Ouverture died in a Napoleonic prison, his generals had become sufficiently inspired by his example to continue the struggle for freedom until the myth of white supremacy was banished from the island.

After the Concordat of 1860, when relations were once again reestablished with France, the priests who came to Haiti found the vestiges of Catholicism kept alive in vodun. The clergy fulminated against vodun from the pulpits but did not actively campaign against their rival priesthood until 1896 when an impatient monseigneur tried to organize an anti-vodun league without success. It wasn't until 1940 that the Catholic Church launched a violent campaign of renunciation directed at the adherents of vodun. The priests went about their methodic attack with such zeal that the government was forced to intercede and command them to temper the fires of their campaign.

Today there are more than 60 million people who practice vodun worldwide, largely where Haitian emigrants have settled in Benin, Dominican Republic, Ghana, Togo, various cities in the United States, and, of course, in Haiti. In South America, there are many religions similar to vodun, such as Umbanda, Quimbanda, or Candomble. A male priest of vodun is called a houngan or hungan; his female counterpart, a mambo. The place where one practices vodun is a series of buildings called a humfort or hounfou. A "congregation" is called a hunsi or hounsis, and the hungan cures, divines, and cares for them through the good graces of a loa, his guiding spirit.

The worship of the supernatural loa is the central purpose of vodun. They are the old gods of Africa, the local spirits of Haiti, who occupy a position to the fore of God, Christ, the Virgin, and the saints. From the beginning, the Haitians adamantly refused to accept the church's position that the loa are the "fallen angels" who rebelled against God. The loa do good and guide and protect humankind, the hungans argue. They, like the saints of Roman Catholicism, were once men and women who lived exemplary lives and who now are given a specific responsibility to assist human spirituality. Certainly there are those priests, the bokors, who perform acts of evil sorcery, the left-hand path of vodun, but rarely will a hungan resort to such practices.

The loa communicates with its faithful ones by possessing their bodies during a trance or by appearing to them in dreams. The possession usually takes place during ritual dancing in the humfort. Each participant eventually undergoes a personality change and adapts a trait of his or her particular loa. The adherents of vodun refer to this phenomenon of the invasion of the body by a supernatural agency as that of the loa mounting its "horse."

There is a great difference, the hungan maintains, between possession by a loa and possession by an evil spirit. An evil spirit would bring chaos to the dancing and perhaps great harm to the one possessed. The traditional dances of vodun are conducted on a serious plane with rhythm and suppleness but not with the orgiastic sensuality depicted in motion pictures about voodoo or in the displays performed for the tourist trade.

All vodun ceremonies must be climaxed with sacrifice to the loa. Chickens are most commonly offered to the loa, although the wealthy may offer a goat or a bull. The possessed usually drinks of the blood that is collected in a vessel, thereby satisfying the hunger of the loa. Other dancers may also partake of the blood, sometimes adding spices to the vital fluid. After the ceremony, the sacrificed animal is usually cooked and eaten.

The traditional belief structure of the Yoruba envisioned a chief god named Olorun, who remains aloof and unknowable to humankind, but who permitted a lesser deity, Obatala, to create the earth and all its life forms. There are hundreds of minor spirits whose influence may be invoked by humankind, such as Ayza, the protector; Baron Samedi, guardian of the grave; Dambala, the serpent; Ezli, the female spirit of love; Ogou Balanjo, spirit of healing; and Mawu Lisa, spirit of creation. Each follower of vodun has his or her own "met tet," a guardian spirit that corresponds to a Catholic's special saint.

Vodun has a supernatural entity that is unique among the practitioners of sorcerythe zombi, those dread creatures of the undead who prowl about at night doing the bidding of those magicians who follow the left-hand path. Vodun lore actually has two types of zombi: the undead and those who died by violence. A Haitian is most cautious in his or her approach to a cemetery for it is there that one is most likely to meet one of the unfortunate wraiths who died without time for proper ritual. For the Haitian peasant, zombies, the living dead, are to be feared as real instruments of hungan who have succumbed to the influence of evil and become sorcerers. The people of the villages believe that the sorcerer unearths a corpse and wafts under its nose a bottle containing its soul. Then, as if he were fanning a tiny spark of life in dry tinder, the sorcerer nurtures the spark of life in the corpse until he has fashioned a zombi. The deceased are often buried face downward by considerate relatives so the corpse cannot hear the call of the sorcerer. Some villagers take the precaution of providing their departed with a weapon, such as a machete, with which to ward off the evil hungan.

Haiti is filled with terrible tales of the zombi. There are eyewitness accounts from those who have allegedly discovered friends or relatives, supposedly long-dead, laboring in the field of some native sorcerer. Upon investigation, such zombi usually turn out to be mentally defective individuals who bear a strong resemblance to the deceased. Unfortunately, some unscrupulous hungan have been known to take advantage of mentally handicapped individuals and turn them into virtual beasts of burden. Then, too, it is quite likely that certain hungan have discovered the secret and utilization of many powerful jungle drugs. Modern science owes a heavy debt to native sorcery for some of its most effective painkillers and tranquilizers. It seems possible that a hungan who follows the left-hand path, seeking his own vengeance or that of another, could mix a powerful drug into the victim's food and induce a deep state of hypnotic lethargy in the person, transforming him or her into a blank-eyed, shuffling, obedient zombi.

There is also the matter of the voodoo doll and voodoo curses. Anthropologist Walter Cannon spent several years collecting examples of "voodoo death," instances in which men and women died as a result of being the recipient of a curse, an alleged supernatural visitation, or the breaking of some tribal or cultural taboo. The question that Cannon sought to answer was, "How can an ominous and persistent state of fear end the life of a human?"

Fear, one of the most powerful and deep-rooted of the emotions, has its effects mediated through the nervous system and the endocrine apparatus, the "sympathetic-adrenal system." Cannon has hypothesized that, "if these powerful emotions prevail and the bodily forces are fully mobilized for action, and if this state of extreme perturbation continues for an uncontrolled possession of the organism for a considerable period . . . dire results may ensue." Cannon has suggested, then, that "vodun death" may result from a state of shock due to a persistent and continuous outpouring of adrenalin and a depletion of the adrenal corticosteroid hormones. Such a constant agitation caused by an abiding sense of fear could consequently induce a fatal reduction in blood pressure. Cannon assessed voodoo death as a real phenomenon set in motion by "shocking emotional stress to obvious or repressed terror." Dr. J. C. Barker, in his collection of case histories of individuals who had willed others, or themselves, to death (Scared to Death [1969]), saw voodoolike death as resulting, "purely from extreme fear and exhaustionessentially a psychosomatic phenomenon."

Delving Deeper

bach, marcus. inside voodoo. new york: signet, 1968.

barker, j. c. scared to death. new york: dell books, 1969.

brean, joseph. "scared to death isn't just an expression." national post with file from agence france-presse, december 21, 2001. [online]'/stories/20011221/931884.html&qs'jos.

huxley, francis. the invisibles: voodoo gods in haiti. new york: mcgraw-hill, 1969.

"vodun." [online]

White Magick

In the earliest of societies, the practitioner of white magick was the shaman, the medicine man, the herbalistthe individual sought out by the village when it was necessary to receive a proper potion to dissolve an illness or a proper charm to drive away an evil spirit. In these same early societies, the roles of priest and magician were often combined into a man or a woman who had the ability to enter a trance state and commune with the entities that dwelt in nature and the spirits who lived in the unseen world. The priest/magican knew how to appease angry entities whose sacred spaces were violated, how to eject an unwelcome possessing spirit from a human body, and where to find the herbs that could banish illness. All of these tasks were accomplished with the good of the tribal members as the priest/magician's primary objective.

By the Middle Ages in Europe, magic and religion remained intertwined for those who would practice white magick. Although black magick certainly existed as a power and claimed those dark magicians who succumbed to personal greed and were paid to use their craft against others, the practitioners of the higher magic attracted such gifted minds as that of Eliphas Levi, Agrippa, and Paracelsus, all of whom considered magic as the true road to communion with God and believed that the fruits of such communion should be expressed in service to their fellow humans. Levi believed that the white magicians who devoted themselves to faith and reason, science and belief would be able to endow themselves with a sovereign power that would make them masters over all spirits and the forces of the material world. Paracelsus proclaimed that the white magician did not need to draw magic circles, chant spells, or practice rituals. In his belief construct nothing was impossible to the human spirit that linked itself with God. All magic was possible to the human mind expressing itself through faith and imagination.

White magicians continue to practice their traditions on a high level of mystical ideals and devote themselves to transcendental magic, rather than the occult. While the darker applications of magic and sorcery receive the greater share of popular attention, those adepts of all traditions who practice white magick continue to do so quietly and secretly, serving humankind by working in the light, rather than the darkness.

Delving Deeper

meyer, marvin, and richard smith, eds. ancient christian magic. san francisco: harpersanfrancisco, 1994.

seligmann, kurt. the history of magic. new york: meridian books, 1960.

spence, lewis. an encyclopedia of occultism. new hyde park, n.y.: university books, 1960.