Black magic

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John Dee and Edward Kelley using a magic circle ritual to invoke a spirit in a church graveyard John Dee and Edward Keeley.jpg
John Dee and Edward Kelley using a magic circle ritual to invoke a spirit in a church graveyard

Black magic has traditionally referred to the use of supernatural powers or magic for evil and selfish purposes; [1] or magic associated with the devil or other evil spirits. [2] It is also sometimes referred to as the "left-hand path", (its right-hand path counterpart being benevolent white magic). In modern times, some find that the definition of black magic has been convoluted by people who define magic or ritualistic practices that they disapprove of as black magic. [3]

Contents

History

Like its counterpart white magic, the origins of black magic can be traced to the primitive, ritualistic worship of spirits as outlined in Robert M. Place's 2009 book, Magic and Alchemy. [4] Unlike white magic, in which Place sees parallels with primitive shamanistic efforts to achieve closeness with spiritual beings, the rituals that developed into modern black magic were designed to invoke those same spirits to produce beneficial outcomes for the practitioner. Place also provides a broad modern definition of both black and white magic, preferring instead to refer to them as "high magic" (white) and "low magic" (black) based primarily on intentions of the practitioner employing them. He acknowledges, though, that this broader definition (of "high" and "low") suffers from prejudices because good-intentioned folk magic may be considered "low" while ceremonial magic involving expensive or exclusive components may be considered by some as "high magic", regardless of intent. [4] [5]

Malleus Maleficarum, 1669 edition Sprenger - Malleus maleficarum, 1669 - BEIC 9477645.tiff
Malleus Maleficarum , 1669 edition

During the Renaissance, many magical practices and rituals were considered evil or irreligious and by extension, black magic in the broad sense. Witchcraft and non-mainstream esoteric study were prohibited and targeted by the Inquisition. [6] As a result, natural magic developed as a way for thinkers and intellectuals, like Marsilio Ficino, abbot Johannes Trithemius and Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, to advance esoteric and ritualistic study (though still often in secret) without significant persecution. [6]

While "natural magic" became popular among the educated and upper classes of the 16th and 17th century, ritualistic magic and folk magic remained subject to persecution. 20th century author Montague Summers generally rejects the definitions of "white" and "black" magic as "contradictory", though he highlights the extent to which magic in general, regardless of intent, was considered "black" and cites William Perkins posthumous 1608 instructions in that regard: [7]

All witches "convicted by the Magistrate" should be executed. He allows no exception and under this condemnation fall "all Diviners, Charmers, Jugglers, all Wizards, commonly called wise men or wise women". All those purported "good Witches which do not hurt but good, which do not spoil and destroy, but save and deliver" should come under the extreme sentence.

In particular, though, the term was most commonly reserved for those accused of invoking demons and other evil spirits, those hexing or cursing their neighbours, those using magic to destroy crops, and those capable of leaving their earthly bodies and travelling great distances in spirit (to which the Malleus Maleficarum "devotes one long and important chapter"), usually to engage in devil-worship. Summers also highlights the etymological development of the term nigromancer, in common use from 1200 to approximately 1500, (Latin : niger, black; Greek : μαντεία, divination), broadly "one skilled in the black arts". [7]

In a modern context, the line between white magic and black magic is somewhat clearer and most modern definitions focus on intent rather than practice. [4] There is also an extent to which many modern Wicca and witchcraft practitioners have sought to distance themselves from those intent on practising black magic. Those who seek to do harm or evil are less likely to be accepted into mainstream Wiccan circles or covens in an era where benevolent magic is increasingly associated with new-age beliefs and practices, and self-help spiritualism. [8]

In the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russian state media claimed that Ukraine was using black magic to fend off the Russian military, specifically accusing Oleksiy Arestovych of enlisting socrerers and witches as well as Ukrainian soldiers of consecrating "weapons with blood magick". [9] [10]

Black shamanism

Black shamanism is a kind of shamanism practiced in Mongolia and Siberia. It is specifically opposed to yellow shamanism, which incorporates rituals and traditions from Buddhism. [11] [12] Black Shamans are usually perceived as working with evil spirits, while white Shamans with spirits of the upper world. [13]

In some areas, there are purported malevolent sorcerers who masquerade as real shamans and who entice tourists to drink ayahuasca in their presence. Shamans believe one of the purposes for this is to steal one's energy and/or power, of which they believe every person has a limited stockpile. [14]

Satanism and devil-worship

Illustration by Martin van Maele, of a Witches' Sabbath, in the 1911 edition of La Sorciere, by Jules Michelet Martin van Maele - La Sorciere 06.jpg
Illustration by Martin van Maële, of a Witches' Sabbath , in the 1911 edition of La Sorciere , by Jules Michelet

The influence of popular culture has allowed other practices to be drawn in under the broad banner of black magic, including the concept of Satanism. While the invocation of demons or spirits is an accepted part of black magic, this practice is distinct from the worship or deification of such spiritual beings. [8] The two are usually combined in medieval beliefs about witchcraft.

Those lines, though, continue to be blurred by the inclusion of spirit rituals from otherwise white magicians in compilations of work related to Satanism. John Dee's sixteenth century rituals, for example, were included in Anton LaVey's The Satanic Bible (1969) and so some of his practises, otherwise considered white magic, have since been associated with black magic. Dee's rituals themselves were designed to contact spirits in general and angels in particular, which he claimed to have been able to do with the assistance of colleague Edward Kelley. LaVey's Bible, however, is a "complete contradiction" of Dee's intentions but offers the same rituals as a means of contact with evil spirits and demons. [15] LaVey's Church of Satan (with LaVey's Bible at its centre), "officially denies the efficacy of occult ritual" but "affirms the subjective, psychological value of ritual practice", drawing a clear distinction between. [15] LaVey himself was more specific:

White magic is supposedly utilised only for good or unselfish purposes, and black magic, we are told, is used only for selfish or "evil" reasons. Satanism draws no such dividing line. Magic is magic, be it used to help or hinder. The Satanist, being the magician, should have the ability to decide what is just, and then apply the powers of magic to attain his goals.

Satanism is not a white light religion; it is a religion of the flesh, the mundane, the carnal - all of which are ruled by Satan, the personification of the Left Hand Path.

The latter quote, though, seems to have been directed toward the growing trends of Wicca and neo-paganism at the time. [15]

Voodoo

A Voodoo doll. Vudu.jpg
A Voodoo doll.

Voodoo has been associated with modern black magic; drawn together in popular culture and fiction. However, while hexing or cursing may be accepted black magic practices, Voodoo has its own distinct history and traditions that have little to do with the traditions of modern witchcraft that developed with European practitioners like Gerald Gardner and Aleister Crowley. [8] [16] [17]

Voodoo tradition makes its own distinction between black and white magic, with sorcerers like the Bokor known for using magic and rituals of both. But their penchant for magic associated with curses, poisons and zombies means they, and Voodoo in general, are regularly associated with black magic in particular. [18]

Black magic and religion

The links and interaction between black magic and religion are many and varied. Beyond black magic's links to organised Satanism or its historical persecution by Christianity and its inquisitions, there are links between religious and black magic rituals. The Black Mass, for example, is a sacrilegious parody of the Catholic Mass. Likewise, a saining, though primarily a practice of white magic, is a Wiccan ritual analogous to a christening or baptism for an infant. [19] [20] In Islam, the Quran contains Surahs that are recited to protect against black magic.

Seventeenth century priest, Étienne Guibourg, is said to have performed a series of black mass rituals with alleged witch Catherine Monvoisin for Madame de Montespan. [21]

Practices and rituals

The lowest depths of black mysticism are well-nigh
as difficult to plumb as it is arduous to scale
the heights of sanctity. The Grand Masters of
the witch covens are men of genius – a foul genius,
crooked, distorted, disturbed, and diseased.

Montague Summers
Witchcraft and Black Magic

During his period of scholarship, A. E. Waite provided a comprehensive account of black magic practices, rituals and traditions in The Book of Black Magic and Ceremonial Magic. [22] Other practitioners have expanded on these ideas and offered their own comprehensive lists of rituals and concepts. Black magic practices and rituals include:

Concepts related to black magic or described, even inaccurately, as black magic are a regular feature of books, films and other popular culture. Examples include:

See also

Related Research Articles

Satanism Ideological and philosophical beliefs based on Satan

Satanism is a group of ideological and philosophical beliefs based on Satan. Contemporary religious practice of Satanism began with the founding of the atheistic Church of Satan by Anton LaVey in the United States in 1966, although a few historical precedents exist. Prior to the public practice, Satanism existed primarily as an accusation by various Christian groups toward perceived ideological opponents, rather than a self-identity. Satanism, and the concept of Satan, has also been used by artists and entertainers for symbolic expression.

Wicca is a modern Pagan religion. Scholars of religion categorise it as both a new religious movement and as part of the occultist stream of Western esotericism. It was developed in England during the first half of the 20th century and was introduced to the public in 1954 by Gerald Gardner, a retired British civil servant. Wicca draws upon a diverse set of ancient pagan and 20th-century hermetic motifs for its theological structure and ritual practices.

Witchcraft Practice of magic, usually to cause harm

Witchcraft traditionally means the use of magic or supernatural powers to harm others. A practitioner is a witch. In medieval and early modern Europe, where the term originated, accused witches were usually women who were believed to have attacked their own community, and often to have communed with evil beings. It was thought witchcraft could be thwarted by protective magic or counter-magic, which could be provided by cunning folk or folk healers. Suspected witches were also intimidated, banished, attacked or killed. Often they would be formally prosecuted and punished, if found guilty or simply believed to be guilty. European witch-hunts and witch trials in the early modern period led to tens of thousands of executions. Although some folk healers were accused of witchcraft, they made up a minority of those accused. European belief in witchcraft gradually dwindled during and after the Age of Enlightenment.

Magic (supernatural) Rituals or actions employed to manipulate natural or supernatural beings and forces

Magic, sometimes spelled magick, is the application of beliefs, rituals or actions employed in the belief that they can manipulate natural or supernatural beings and forces. It is a category into which have been placed various beliefs and practices sometimes considered separate from both religion and science.

Christian views on magic vary widely among denominations and among individuals. Many Christians actively condemn magic as satanic, holding that it opens the way for demonic possession. Some Christians simply view it as entertainment. Conversely, some branches of esoteric Christianity actively engage in magical practices.

Familiar Spiritual entity in European folklore

In European folklore of the medieval and early modern periods, familiars were believed to be supernatural entities that would assist witches and cunning folk in their practice of magic. According to records of the time, those alleging to have had contact with familiar spirits reported that they could manifest as numerous forms, usually as an animal, but sometimes as a human or humanoid figure, and were described as "clearly defined, three-dimensional... forms, vivid with colour and animated with movement and sound", as opposed to descriptions of ghosts with their "smoky, undefined form[s]".

Cunning folk in Britain

The cunning folk in Britain were professional or semi-professional practitioners of magic in Britain, active from the Medieval period through the early twentieth century. As cunning folk, they practised folk magic – also known as "low magic" – although often combined with elements of "high" or ceremonial magic, which they learned through the study of grimoires. Primarily using spells and charms as a part of their profession, they were most commonly employed to use their magic in order to combat malevolent witchcraft, to locate criminals, missing persons or stolen property, for fortune telling, for healing, for treasure hunting and to influence people to fall in love. Belonging "to the world of popular belief and custom", the cunning folk's magic has been defined as being "concerned not with the mysteries of the universe and the empowerment of the magus [as ceremonial magic usually is], so much as with practical remedies for specific problems." However, other historians have noted that in some cases, there was apparently an "experimental or 'spiritual' dimension" to their magical practices, something which was possibly shamanic in nature.

LaVeyan Satanism Atheistic religion founded by Anton LaVey

LaVeyan Satanism is a nontheistic religion founded in 1966 by the American occultist and author Anton Szandor LaVey. Scholars of religion have classified it as a new religious movement and a form of Western esotericism. It is one of several different movements that describe themselves as forms of Satanism and unlike some other forms is based on materialism and amorality rather than worship of Satan.

Filipino witches Users of black magic in Philippine folklore

Filipino witches are the users of black magic and related practices from the Philippines. They include a variety of different kinds of people with differing occupations and cultural connotations which depend on the ethnic group they are associated with. They are completely different from the Western notion of what a witch is, as each ethnic group has their own definition and practices attributed to witches. The curses and other magics of witches are often blocked, countered, cured, or lifted by Filipino shamans associated with the indigenous Philippine folk religions.

Asian witchcraft refers to any or all types of witchcraft practiced in Asia.

Theistic Satanism Religion which worships Satan as an actual deity, supernatural entity, or spiritual being

Theistic Satanism, otherwise referred to as religious Satanism, spiritual Satanism, or traditional Satanism, is an umbrella term for religious groups that consider Satan to be an objectively existing deity, supernatural entity, or spiritual being which is worthy of worship and supplication whom individuals may contact, convene with, and even praise, rather than just an archetype, a metaphor, a symbol, or an idea as in LaVeyan Satanism. The individuals and organizations which uphold this belief system and/or identify as theistic Satanists are most often very small, loosely affiliated, or independent groups and cabals, which have largely self-marginalized. Another prominent characteristic of theistic Satanism is the use of various types of magic. Most actual theistic Satanist groups exist in relatively new models and ideologies, many of which are independent of the Abrahamic religions.

Various types of witchcraft and occult religious practices exist in Latin American and Afro-Caribbean cultures, known in Spanish as brujería. Influenced by indigenous religion, Catholicism, and European witchcraft, the purpose may range from white magic to black magic.

European witchcraft Belief in witchcraft in Europe

Belief in witchcraft in Europe can be traced to classical antiquity and has continuous history during the Middle Ages, culminating in the Early Modern witch trials and giving rise to the fairy tale and popular culture "witch" stock character of modern times, as well as to the concept of the "modern witch" in Wicca and related movements of contemporary witchcraft.

Dukun Indonesian term for shaman

A dukun is an Indonesian term for shaman. Their societal role is that of a traditional healer, spirit medium, custom and tradition experts and on occasion sorcerers and masters of black magic. In common usage the dukun is often confused with another type of shaman, the pawang. It is often mistranslated into English as "witch doctor" or "medicine man". Many self-styled dukun in Indonesia are simply scammers and criminals, preying on gullible and superstitious people who were raised to believe in the supernatural.

Greater and lesser magic, within LaVeyan Satanism, designate types of beliefs with the term greater magic applying to ritual practice meant as psychodramatic catharsis to focus one's emotions for a specific purpose and lesser magic applied to the practice of manipulation by means of applied psychology and glamour to bend an individual or situation to one's will.

Joseph Bearwalker Wilson (1942–2004) was a shaman and witch, founder of the 1734 Tradition of witchcraft, the Toteg Tribe, Metista, and a founding member of the Covenant of the Goddess.

Maleficium as a Latin term, "An act of witchcraft performed with the intention of causing damage or injury; the resultant harm." In general, the term applies to any magical act intended to cause harm or death to people or property. Its modern spelling comes from "Early 17th century; earliest use found in George Abbot (1562–1633), archbishop of Canterbury. From classical Latin maleficium evil deed, injury, sorcery from maleficus + -ium". In general, the term applies to any magical act intended to cause harm or death to people or property.

White magic Magic for selfless purposes

White magic has traditionally referred to the use of supernatural powers or magic for selfless purposes. Practitioners of white magic have been given titles such as wise men or women, healers, white witches or wizards. Many of these people claimed to have the ability to do such things because of knowledge or power that was passed on to them through hereditary lines, or by some event later in their lives. White magic was practiced through healing, blessing, charms, incantations, prayers, and songs. With respect to the philosophy of left-hand path and right-hand path, white magic is the benevolent counterpart of malicious black magic.

Seiðr Old Norse term for a type of shamanistic sorcery

In Old Norse, seiðr was a type of magic which was practised in Norse society during the Late Scandinavian Iron Age. The practice of seiðr is believed to be a form of magic which is related to both the telling and the shaping of the future. Connected to the Old Norse religion, its origins are largely unknown, and the practice of it gradually declined after the Christianization of Scandinavia. Accounts of seiðr later made it into sagas and other literary sources, while further evidence of it has been unearthed by archaeologists. Various scholars have debated the nature of seiðr, some of them have argued that it was shamanic in context, involving visionary journeys by its practitioners.

Cunning folk Practitioner of folk magic in Europe

Cunning folk, also known as folk healers or wise folk, were practitioners of folk medicine, helpful folk magic and divination in Europe from the Middle Ages until the 20th century. Their practices were known as the cunning craft. Their services also included thwarting witchcraft. Although some cunning folk were denounced as witches themselves, they made up a minority of those accused, and the common people generally made a distinction between the two. The name 'cunning folk' originally referred to folk-healers and magic-workers in Britain, but the name is now applied as an umbrella term for similar people in other parts of Europe.

References

Citations

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  11. Pegg 2001 , p. 141
  12. Shimamura 2004 , pp. 649–650
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