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Dec 11, 2008

Magical powers were also attributed to the famous mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras, as recorded in the days of Aristotle. The traditions concerning Pythagoras are somewhat complicated due to the fact that the number of survived documents are often contradictory in their interpretation of the figure of Pythagoras.

Some of the magical acts attributed to him included being seen at the same hour in two cities.  Or a white eagle permitting him to stroke it. A river greeting him with the words “Hail, Pythagoras!”  Ancient Greeks also claimed that he could predict, that a dead man would be found on a ship entering a harbor. Another examples of magical powers of Pythagoras are even wilder. He predicted the appearance of a white bear and declaring it was dead before the messenger reached him bearing the news. And once he bit a poisonous snake to death. These stories hint  that Pythagoras was a divine man, and had ability to control animals and to transcend space and time.

Nov 14, 2008

I was interested in the development of magic rituals and traditions in Greco-Roman world. During my research in archives of web analytics company I found some interesting facts about it.

It seems, that a huge interest in magic was on the rise in the Hellenistic period, especially around 3d century b.c. Piles of texts, both literary and some from actual practitioners, in Greek and in Latin came to us from this time. Truly speaking, a lot of existing magical papyri was written in the first centuries after Christ, but the manuscripts’ concepts, formulas and rituals reflect the earlier Hellenistic period. These magical papyri are no doubt only a fraction of the magical literature available in antiquity. The ascendancy of orthodox Christianity by the 5th century CE had much to do with this. This is reflected by the book of Acts where the Apostle Paul convinces many Ephesians to bring out their magical books and burn them.

The language of the magical texts reflects various levels of literary skill. Generally they are standard Greek, and may well be closer to the spoken language of the time than to poetry or artistic prose left to us in literary texts. Many terms are borrowed from the mystery cults. The texts are often written as we might write a recipe. In other words the magic requires certain ingredients. Of course it is not just as simple as knowing how to put a recipe together. Appropriate gestures, at certain points in the magical ritual, are required to accompany the ingredients, different gestures it would seem produce various effects.

Oct 9, 2008

Ancient history tells us a lot about formation of magic. Appearing from aboriginal tribes in Australia and Maori tribes in New Zealand to rainforest tribes in South America, bush tribes in Africa and ancient Pagan tribal groups in Europe and the British Isles, some form of shamanic contact with the spirit world seems to be nearly universal in the early development of human communities. I was observing with excitement at the office of my local web analytics company photos of the ancient cave paintings in France and Germany, that were widely speculated to be early magical formulations, intended to produce successful hunts. While going through other sources I could not help noticing, that much of the Babylonian and Egyptian pictorial writing characters appear derived from the same sources.

Although indigenous magical traditions persist to this day, very early on some communities transitioned from nomadic to agricultural civilizations, and with this shift, the development of spiritual life mirrored that of civic life. Just as tribal elders were consolidated and transformed into kings and bureaucrats, so too were shamans and adepts devolved into priests and a priestly caste. This shift is by no means in nomenclature alone. While the shaman's task was to negotiate between the tribe and the spirit world, on behalf of the tribe, as directed by the collective will of the tribe, the priest's role was to transfer instructions from the deities to the city-state, on behalf of the deities, as directed by the will of those deities. This shift represents the first major usurpation of power by distancing magic from those participating in that magic. It is at this stage of development that highly elaborate rituals, setting the stage for formal religions, began to emerge, such as the funeral rites of the Egyptians and the sacrifice rituals of the Babylonians, Persians, Aztecs and Mayans.


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Ekaterina G.
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Delray Beach, FL, USA
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