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Nov 14, 2008

Magic and study of occult arts successfully survived Renaissance and entered the Baroque era. And even more. ”study of the occult arts remained intellectually respectable well into the seventeenth century”. It only gradually divides into the modern categories of natural science versus occultism or superstition. My web research shows, that brilliant Age of Reason was on the rise in the seventeenth century, while belief in witchcraft and sorcery, and consequently the irrational surge of Early Modern witch trials, receded. This process only completed at the end of the Baroque period, somewhere around 1730s.

Contemporary scientists still met resistance, though. Christian Thomasius encountered fierce opposition as he argued in his 1701 Dissertatio de crimine magiae that it was meaningless to make dealing with the devil a criminal offence, since it was impossible to really commit the crime in the first place. In Britain, the Witchcraft Act of 1735 established that people could not be punished for consorting with spirits, while would-be magicians pretending to be able to invoke spirits could still be fined as con artists.

Several decades later, from 1756 to 1781, Jacob Philadelphia performed feats of magic, sometimes under the guise of scientific exhibitions, throughout Europe and Russia. Baron Carl Reichenbach’s experiments with his Odic force appeared to be an attempt to bridge the gap between magic and science.

Nov 14, 2008

Seneca’s nephew Lucan in his work surpassed his uncle in portraying the horrors and powers of witchcraft. In his play, just before the decisive battle of Pharsalus, in which Julius Caesar defeats the forces of Pompey, the two armies are moving through Thessaly, the country of witchcraft in Lucan’s work. Here one of Pompey’s sons consults a famous witch called Erictho about the outcome of the future battle. In archives of web analytics company I found something else.

Erictho is the most powerful of witches, and because she is so powerful she is presented as being quite loathsome and disgusting. Such are her powers that she can even compel some of the lesser gods to serve her and even cause them to shudder at her spells. As exaggerated as these plays are they demonstrate knowledge of magical practices found in the Greek magical texts. These works also shows that Roman audience must have easily understood the concept of magic in a negative sense but also in the sense of being a practice aimed at influencing or controlling the forces of the cosmos, even the gods themselves.


 

 
 
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Ekaterina G.
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Delray Beach, FL, USA
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