Marcel Mauss a general Theory of Magic

Download 467.84 Kb.
Size467.84 Kb.
1   ...   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14
What, then, operates this synthesis? Can it be done by the individual? There has never been, in fact, any need to operate it. Magical judgments arise in the form of prejudice and prescription, and they appear in this way in the minds of individuals. However, let us leave aside this question of fact for a moment. We cannot conceive of any magical judgment which is not the object of a collective confirmation. It must always be supported by at least two persons-the magician performing the rite and the individual who believes in it-or else, as in the case of folk magic, practised by single individuals, the person who teaches the remedy and the one who practises it. This theoretically irreducible pair of individuals in fact forms a society. More usually, however, magic has the support of more extensive groups, whole societies and cultures. If we have magical judgments we also have a collective synthesis, a unanimous belief-at any given moment-in the truth of a certain idea, the effectiveness of a certain gesture. We obviously do not hold that ideas associated with such syntheses cannot also be associated-or, indeed, are not associated-with an individual consciousness. The idea of dropsy, for example, naturally suggested to Hindu magicians the idea of water. It would be absurd to suppose that all magical thinking avoided the laws of association of ideas. The ideas which form these magical circuits have names and are certainly not contradictory. However, the natural association of ideas
simply serves to render magical judgments possible. Magical judgments are far from being a mere collection of images. They are real, imperative precepts, which imply a positive belief in the objectivity of the chain of ideas which they form. As far as the mind of an individual is concerned, there is nothing which requires it to associate-in the categorical way magic does-words, actions or instruments with the desired effects, unless it be experience, and it is precisely this experience which we have just shown to be impotent. A magical judgment is imposed by a kind of convention which establishes, prejudicially, that a symbol will create an object, and a part will create the whole, a word, the event and so on. Actually the essential fact is that the same associations should necessarily be reproduced in the minds of several individuals or rather of a mass of individuals. The universality and the a priori nature of magical judgments appear to us to be the sign of their collective origin.
It follows, therefore, that it is only those collective needs, experienced by a whole community, which can persuade all the individuals of this group to operate the same synthesis at the same time. A group's beliefs and faith are the result of everyone's needs and unanimous desires. Magical judgments are the subject of a social consensus, the translation of a social need under the pressure of which an entire series of collective psychological phenomena are let loose. This universal need suggests the objective to the whole group. Between these two terms, we have an infinity of possible middle terms (that is why we have found such an extreme variety of rites employed for the same purpose). Between the two terms we are allowed a degree of choice and we choose what is permitted by tradition or what a famous magician suggests, or we are swept along by the unanimous and sudden decision of the whole community. It is because the result desired by everyone is expressed by everyone, that the means are considered apt to produce the effect. It is because they desired the healing of feverish patients that cold water douches and
sympathetic contact with a frog seemed-to those Hindus who sought the help of the Brahmans of the Atharaveda-sufficiently powerful remedies against thirdor fourth-degree fever. The whole society suffers from the false images of its dream. The synthesis between cause and effect occurs only in public opinion. If magic is not conceived in this way it will be seen only as a chain of absurdities and errors. We would find it extremely hard to understand its invention, and possibly harder to grasp its diffusion.
Magic should be considered as a system of a priori inductions, operating under the pressure of the needs of groups of individuals. Furthermore, we may wonder whether or not a large number of hasty generalizations made by humanity did not derive from similar circumstances, or whether, indeed, magic was not responsible for them. It is even possible that inductive reasoning was first learnt in the school of magic. This is because, if we may hazard a somewhat radical hypothesis concerning individual psychology, it does not appear to us that isolated individuals, or even the human race as a whole, can really reason inductively. They can merely acquire instincts and habits which, in fact, lead to the abolition of all reflection on actions.
However, stripped of all simplistic hypotheses, our arguments will appear even more acute if we remember that all magical affirmations, even the most spiritual of them, depend on a completely universal affirmation of magical power, which is itself contained in that of mana. As we have clearly seen this is an idea-both in matter and form-which is collective. There is nothing intellectual or experimental about it except the feeling of society's existence and society's prejudices. This is the idea, or rather the category, which explains logical possibility of magical judgments and avoids condemning them as absurdities. It is a remarkable fact that this obscure idea, which we have had such difficulty in separating from the vague nature of affective states, an idea which is almost untranslatable into abstract terms and
which is inconceivable to us, should be precisely that idea which provides believers in magic with clear, rational and, occasionally, scientific support. The idea of mana, in so far as it is implied in all kinds of magical propositions, becomes, as a result, an analytical concept. Consider the following proposition: the smoke given off by aquatic plants brings clouds. If we were to insert, after the subject of the sentence, the word mana, we should immediately have the equation-smoke with mana = clouds. This idea not only transforms magical judgments into analytical judgments but converts them from a priori to a posteriori arguments, since the idea dominates and conditions all experience. Thanks to the idea of mana, magical dreams not only become rational but they also become confused with reality. It is the faith of the patient in the power of the magician which makes him actually feel the drawing of his illness out of his body.
From all this we hope to have shown that we are far from wishing to replace psychological mysticism with sociological mysticism. First of all, collective needs do not lead to the formulation of instincts, of which we have but one example in sociology-the instinct of sociability, the initial condition of all others. Moreover, we do not recognize one pure collective sentiment. Those collective forces which we are trying to uncover produce manifestations which are always, at least in part, rational and intellectual in nature. Thanks to the idea of mana, magic-the domain of wish-fulfilment-is shown to have plenty of rationalism.
Thus, if magic is to exist, society has to be present. We shall now try to show that this is so and to what extent it is so.
It is generally held that prescription and coercion are the sure signs of direct action in society. Magic is not made up of obligatory beliefs and rites; it has shared ideas and voluntary rites. Nor have we found any example of coercion as such. Nevertheless, this does not mean that we have not come across the existence of prescriptions, or at least avoidances, with regard to certain
objects and actions, which are observed by the whole society. They do, in fact, exist in magic and probably originated there. They include certain sympathetic taboos and others we might call 'mixed' taboos. For example, a pregnant woman should not see a murderer or a house where someone has died. The Cherokee are continually prey to taboos-not only the patient, but the magician himself, the whole family and all neighbours. As we have seen, these prescriptions constitute genuine negative rites-while they may not be absolutely obligatory they are, at least, observations which have been imposed upon the group. In truth, it is not really society which punishes any infringements. The magical taboos we are dealing with have automatic punishments and are sanctioned by the inevitable consequences which follow their violation. Nevertheless, it is, of course, society which really imposes a belief in these automatic sanctions and which supports them.
Individual negative rites, popular taboos, are not the only prohibition set up by magic. Sometimes, as we have seen, a positive rite is also accompanied by a whole farrago of negative rituals. They include, in particular, the kind of rites performed prior to a ritual ceremony. The magician, or the magician and his patient, refrain from food and sex, and undergo purificatory rites before taking part in the ceremony, showing thereby the incompatibility they feel between the things they have to touch or do and the circumstances of everyday life. They are aware of a kind of resistance; magic is not an easily opened door. Further prescriptions and fears accompany the rites of exit, reflecting the fact that they are leaving the abnormal world they had entered. Moreover, they do not emerge unscathed. Magic, like sacrifice, requires and produces an alteration, a modification in one's state of mind. This is expressed by the gravity of the actions, the changed nature of the voice and even by the use of a special language, the language of spirits and gods. In magic, therefore, negative ritual forms a kind of threshold,
where a person is stripped of his individuality and becomes an actor.
In magic, as well as in religion, we find a close correlation between negative rites and positive rites. We hold it reasonable to believe, without having any satisfactory proof, that all positive rites and all positive properties correspond to certain negative rites and negative properties. A taboo on iron, for example, reflects the magical qualities of the blacksmith. No matter how voluntary the positive rite, it is more or less directly connected with a negative rite which is either obligatory or at least believed to be sanctioned by automatic, ineluctable effects. Beings and actions, agents and myths, in magic as well as religion, are all subject to these effects, almost tabooed. The most common magical objects, the more familiar magical beings-the village bone-mender or a horseshoe-all inspire some kind of respect. The simplest magical rite, the most innocent spirit seance, all invoke a sense of awe. There is always a degree of hesitation or inhibition, sometimes produced by the same feeling of repugnance which religion induces. Magic attracts and at the same time repels. At this point, we return to the idea of secrecy and mystery with which magic is imbued and which provides its distinctive features. These are the features we noted when we were seeking to define magic and which now betray those collective forces which create it. Magic has a system of ritual prescriptions which is peculiar to magic itself, a system which, so far from being haphazard, contributes to the characterization of its very nature. Moreover, magic is closely bound up with the whole system of collective taboos, including religious prescriptions, to such an extent that we are never quite sure whether the magical character of an object derives from the taboo or the taboo derives from its magical character. Left-over food is taboo, but it is taboo because people fear the magical use to which it may be put. Magic has a veritable predilection for forbidden things. The curing of illness and misfortune, which are caused
by breaking taboos, is one of magic's specialities and in this field it competes with religion as an expiatory agent. Magic uses the violation of these taboos to its own advantage. It makes use of all the detritus which religion taboos-sacrificial remains which ought to be consumed or destroyed, menstrual blood, etc. It is because of this that magic-as we saw in its negative aspects, at least, and there are many of them-is the very creation of the collectivity. Only society can legislate in this way, imposing those prohibitions and sustaining attitudes of repugnance behind which magic shelters.
Although these factors are observable socially, one is led to ask what there is in that theoretical being we call the individual which creates and nourishes such apprehensions. A repeated experience of things which are harmful to the species will only result in providing him with instincts to protect him against these real dangers. However, it is not a question of this: the mind is crowded with chimerical fears which derive solely from the mutual exaltation of individuals as members of a group. In fact, while magical chimeras are universal, the objects of people's fears vary from group to group. The fears themselves are produced by collective agitation, through a kind of involuntary convention, and are transmitted by tradition. They are unique within a given society. One superstition, for example, and one of the most widespread of all, the evil eye, does not occur in Australia nor in Melanesia, and it appears only in the vaguest form in ancient and non-Muslim modern India.
We have now arrived at the conclusion that there are affective states, generators of illusions, to be found at the root of magic, and that these states are not individual, but derive from a mixture of sentiments appertaining to both individuals and society as a whole. Here we find ourselves in close agreement with a theory advanced by W. Lehmann. Arguing from the point of view of individual psychology, he explains, as we all know, that magic derives from errors of perception, illusions and
hallucinations, as well as acute, emotive and subconscious states of expectation, prepossession and excitability: all range from psychological automatism to hypnosis.
We also agree with this writer that the expectations and illusions which are produced are the primary phenomena of magic. Even the most run-of-the-mill rites, which work automatically, are never devoid of emotions, apprehensions and, above all, hope. The magical power of merely desiring something to happen is so clear that a good deal of magic consists of these desires: the evil eye, eulogia, euphemisms, wishes, almost all incanta-tions in fact. On the other hand, we have shown that direction of intent and arbitrary choice play a preponderant role in determining particular rites and magical beliefs and that they derive from exclusive attentiveness and states of monoideism. We see this in the example of an object used in two totally different rites: burning coals of arka wood are put out in order to halt a storm (arka = lightning), or a branch is spread on the ground to bring sunshine (arka). A single idea, at will, may be sent off in two directions without any sense of contradiction. The attention of the magical agents and spectators is usually so intense, and they feel, on the other hand, that the idea is so precious to them that they could not admit that it could be deflected for an instant without causing harm. Any interruption to the rite means a break and spoils its effect. Spirit seances will admit no distraction. One of the most frequent themes in tales of popular witchcraft, and a good example of the value attached to the constant attention required during a rite, is the case of a person who comes to borrow something during a ceremony, particularly during a rite of counter-magic against a witch. An old woman arrives-the witch, of course-begs to borrow some everyday object, and because they listen to her the spell is broken.
We agree with Lehmann, then, that magic produces mental excitation in individuals. Among water diviners, for example, it may develop into a kind of hyperaesthesia. What we deny is that
a magician can reach this state of his own free will or that he feels himself to be an isolated being. Behind Moses, who touched the bare rock, stood the whole nation of Israel, and while Moses may have felt some doubts, Israel certainly did not. Behind the village water diviner and his wand we find the anxiety of a whole village, desperate for water. The state of the individual, we consider, is always conditioned by the state of society. An explanation for Lehmann's theory is that the part played by society in modern magic today is almost entirely subconscious. It can exist without being observed, therefore it can be neglected. We should also point out that it is rare, in our own culture, for the remnants of our magical system to be practised by whole groups. However, there is no need to consider these moribund, poorly developed systems as fundamental ones. It is primitive society where we find the most complex and rich phenomena and where we must go in search of facts to explain the origins of magic, facts which are collective in nature. Furthermore, the psychologists' arguments do not invalidate our own, since each time they observe newly formed magical behaviour, they ought to be aware that it always occurs in a sympathetic milieu, in the bosom of a cult group of spiritualists or followers of the occult.
There are societies where participation in magic is the normal thing. Throughout those regions of Malayan-Polynesian languages and culture, there are whole series of very important magical rites-dealing with hunting, fishing, war-which are performed by the whole community. These rituals are normally accompanied by negative rites observed by society as a whole. Among these observances, the most remarkable and the most elaborate involve purity taboos. The strictest chastity is required of a woman while her husband is away hunting, fishing or fighting. Anything which may disturb domestic harmony or village peace, compromises the lives and the success of the absent men. There is a very close solidarity tie between the men and those
who remain at home. The fact of this solidarity is borne out by jural institutions, particularly in Madagascar, where we find a special adultery code: in times of peace this domestic crime carries only civil sanctions, but is punishable by death during times of war. Such collective practices, moreover, are not found exclusively in the Malayan-Polynesian world, although they are best preserved there. In many cases their absence in other magical systems should not surprise us since these things are poorly defined, unstable and subject to sudden change. In other places they become sanctioned and eventually absorbed by religion, or they may simply have degenerated haphazardly into popular folk practices performed by single individuals and with no apparent origins. A host of negative sympathetic rites, which are bound up with pastoral and agricultural life and which are of the most intriguingly arbitrary nature, must be relics of similar systems of collective ritual.
These negative observances we have been dealing with show that the rites with which they are involved affect not only the principal actors, but also all their natural associates. They are public activities, supported by mental states which are shared by the community as a whole. A whole social milieu may be affected by the mere fact that a magical act is being performed in one part of it. A circle of impassioned spectators collects around the action being performed. They are brought to a halt, absorbed, hypnotized by the spectacle. They become as much actors as spectators in the magical performance-rather like the chorus in Greek drama. The society as a whole becomes expectant and obsessed by the rite-we find the same feeling in our own culture, particularly among huntsmen, fishermen or gamblers, all well known for their superstitions. The collecting together of this kind of committed group provides a mental atmosphere where erroneous perceptions may flourish and illusions spread like wildfire; miracles occur in this milieu as a matter of course. The members of such communities are
experimenters, who have accumulated a myriad opportunities for error. They are in a state of perpetual aberration, where at any moment a chance event will be proclaimed law, a coincidence a rule.
Magical collaboration is not confined to immobility and non-participation. The whole group is sometimes set in motion. The chorus of onlookers is not always content to play a passive role. Beside the negative rites which occur in public magic, we also find public rites of positive magic in Malayan-Polynesian societies. The whole group, unanimously, pursues a single, preconceived aim. Old Madagascar texts tell us that when the men were away on an expedition women had to maintain a constant vigil, keeping the fires going and dancing continually. These positive rites, even less stable than negative ones, have disappeared among the Hovas, although they have lasted in other places. Among the Dayaks, for example, when the men are off head-hunting, women carry around sabres, which they are not allowed to put down and the whole village, including old people and children, must rise at dawn, at the same time as the warriors absent in the jungle. Among the maritime tribes of New Guinea, when the men go hunting, fishing or fighting, the women spend the whole night dancing. Perhaps these facts demonstrate a kind of 'savage telepathy', as Frazer says. But it is an active telepathy. The whole social body comes alive with the same movement. They all become, in a manner of speaking, parts of a machine or, better, spokes of a wheel: the magical round dance, performed and sung, becomes the ideal image of the situation. This image is probably primitive, but certainly still occurs in our own times in the cases here quoted and elsewhere. The rhythmic movement, uniform and continuous, is the immediate expression of a mental state, in which the consciousness of each individual is overwhelmed by a single sentiment, a single hallucinatory idea, a common objective. Each body shares the same passion, each face wears the same mask, each voice utters the same cry. In addition,
we have the terrific impression produced by the rhythm of the music and singing. To see all these figures masked with the image of the same desire, to hear all mouths uttering proof of their certainty-everyone is carried away, there is no possibility of resistance, by the convictions of the whole group. All the people are merged in the excitement of the dance. In their feverish agitation they become but one body, one soul. It is then that the corporate social group genuinely manifests itself, because each different cell, each individual is closely merged with that of the next, like the cells which make up an individual organism. In such circumstances-circumstances which in our society can never be realized, even by the most overexcited crowd, though elsewhere they have been found-a feeling of universal consensus may create a reality. All those Dayak women, dancing and carrying sabres, are really at war. Acting in this way, they actually believe in the success of their ritual. Here the laws of group psychology have more meaning than laws of individual psychology. A whole series of normally sequential phenomena-volition, idea, muscular movement, satisfaction of needs-becomes completely simultaneous in this case. It is because society becomes activated that magic works, and it is because of magical beliefs that society becomes activated. We are no longer dealing with isolated individuals each of which, singly, believes in his own magic, but with a whole group which has faith in the group's magic.
However, those phenomena where, in a manner of speaking, social facts are consciously fabricated, are necessarily rare occurrences. Nevertheless, analogous mental states can be produced without society undergoing such a commotion. This is clearly shown in the descriptions we have of rain-making rites among the Pitta-Pitta of central Queensland. In times of drought, the society of sorcerers, together with the head man, perform rites which include the splashing of certain sticks with water. Society is not content to watch this passively, and once the ceremony is
over everyone sings in chorus along with the main actors around the edges of a pool. On the warriors' return to camp, each group tries to outdo the other, carrying on throughout the entire day to the accompaniment of a continuous, monotonous chanting. In this kind of rite, society is only partly playing its role. We have a kind of mental and physical division of labour between the actors and spectators: those influencing and those being influenced in the rite. The two groups are completely and naturally interdependent. Although they may get divided and contact cease, a sympathetic connexion continues and produces mental actions and reactions which, despite the separation, are no less intense. Among actors and spectator-participants alike, we find shared ideas, shared illusions, shared wishes, all of which constitute their communal magic.
We may here generalize on these observations. When the people gather round a magician and then he withdraws into his private world, it may seem at this moment that their participation is also withdrawn, but in fact it is more real than ever at this point because it is society's presence which gives him the confidence to become possessed and permits him to come out of this state in order that he may perform his magic. It is the people's impatience that causes the magician to become excited and which at the same time commits him to the group. Society is willing to be hypnotized by any kind of simulation performed by the magician, and he may himself fall the first victim. This kind of feverish attention and the anticipation which results from it are found among all agricultural and pastoral tribes, even hunting tribes, indeed all people who share large continental environments. One only has to consider the terribly urgent economic pressure involved. Mrs Langloh Parker collected a story in central Australia, which admirably describes the spiritual state of a whole tribe, desperately in need of water. It describes how, because of the tribe's anxiety, the sorcerer was forced to perform and how his influence was recognized to the
extent that he brought forth a deluge, which he finally had to stop.
While rain-making is a magical act performed partly in public, medical magic is carried out in the family, though it, too, reveals very clearly defined social conditions. Here we have a minimal social group, it is true, but it is an organized social group with a chief member holding both authority and power-the magician-and an embryonic crowd all attentive, imbued with fear and hope, credulity and illusion. The suggestive power of this milieu, as with the others, is unmistakable. In our own times we still find similar states occurring in Malay medical magic in elementary groups of Hindu or Muslim culture. In Borneo, around the Straits, among the Shams of Indo-China, we find today the family, the sorcerer or sorceress and the patient forming a kind of spirit congress during the consultation. Here the application of the remedy is a secondary factor in the operation. In general, it is clear that medical rites are eminently suggestive, not only as far as the patient is concerned (and we are well informed on his state of mind), but also for the other participants who feel the strain and for whom the magician's gestures, sometimes his trances, provide a fascination which moves them to the core of their beings.
From the facts we have just quoted, it is evident that medical ritual has a magical character which would be hard to dispute. It corresponds sufficiently to the definition of a magical rite which we have given. Nevertheless, some of the other rites, particularly those where we found an almost perfect manifestation of social states, have an obligatory and public character which fits poorly with this definition. Does our explanation of magic then no longer hold? Social phenomena, which were going to provide us with an explanation of magic, may be produced during the performance of a rite which is very definitely public, not because they are magical, but because they meet public needs. As a result, they would seem to bear the mark of religiosity and cult. In so
doing, we would appear to have explained the collective character of religion and no magic, fallen prey to the logical error of claiming that we can explain one by the other. Having been so careful to separate magic from religion and having stayed constantly within the field of magic, we now find ourselves surreptitiously drawn into religion. However, we can tackle this problem by emphasizing that the facts involved are not exclusively religious. They have certainly not been taken as such by historians and theorists who preceded us when they dealt with the subject, since they have generally categorized them as magical. One thing is certain, and that is that they are basic to magic, and that when performed they actually become, at any rate partially, magic. Indeed, while we may admit that the ritual of the rainmakers is quasi-religious, this does not deny the fact that the principal role is played by an actor, who most certainly generally practises black magic as well.
Let us now turn to those kinds of rites which do not involve a magician but which are performed by all members of a group as a whole. These kinds of rites are only partly religious. While they may have given rise to cults elsewhere, we do not regard them as an organized form of cult in those places we have observed. We find only a kind of religious tone. It is a milieu in which religion may certainly flourish, even if it has not already done so. Moreover, in these rites we find at least two features of magic, secondary though they may be: constraint and direct, automatic efficacy, without the presence of differentiated, spiritual intermediaries. We believe we are justified in claiming that we are really dealing with facts which perpetuate ideas involved in the concept of mana. Dayak women, with their war dances, bring into play this synthesis, which constitutes a magical understanding, implying the notion of mana. By their dancing, they are joining in the war, and it is a collaboration which is felt, and believed, to be highly effective. As far as these women are concerned, time and space no longer exist; they are on the field of
battle. Experimental forms of causal ideas play no role for them; there is only magical causality. Their entire consciousness is absorbed by a feeling of their power, a feeling of the impotence of things, to such an extent that disappointment in the experience can be explained by them only as the work of contrary forces which have the same nature as their own. Their sensibilities are overwhelmed by the awareness of their existence as a group of women and the social role they are playing in relation to the warriors, an awareness which is translated into sentiments about their own power and the relation of this power with that of their menfolk. All we know about their way of thinking fits in perfectly well with our enumeration of the characteristics of mana. We could say that the women were prey to a monotheism (which revolves around a similar idea), or that their ideas, intention and action were all functioning according to the mana category. Quite the contrary, there is no hint that the spirit of their actions involves any clear notion of the sacred, which is a sure sign of the religious state.
It is true that, in our opinion, mana seems no more magical in concept than does religion. However, since it provides for us the matrix for magical facts, since those facts we have described concerning it correspond so well, we feel certain that we are face to face with the rudimentary data of magic. Yet at the same time we are also convinced that they form the rudimentary data of religion. We shall demonstrate elsewhere how both derive from a common source. If, through the study of these facts, we have been able to show that magic springs from affective social states, we are not displeased if we have, at the same time, verified a hypothesis we have already proffered regarding religion.
Facts similar to those we have just interpreted are to be found elsewhere in the world besides the Malayan-Polynesian and Oceanian countries. They are universal. Collective observances providing proof of the magical solidarity of families and groups are also found in Europe. We have observed such phenomena
ourselves. For example, in various parts of France, when a man takes a purge his wife takes one too. These facts, however, are merely survivals of forgotten states. They are weak expressions of the existence of real solidarity feelings and thoughts between persons practising these types of rites communally. As for magical groups, they are also universal. There is probably no place in the world where the general public remains unaffected. The kinds of assemblies and the feelings engendered there are perpetuated in the impatient curiosity of people who stand gaping and crowd round charlatans selling quack medicines at fairs. The little we do know of these facts seems to justify the universal application of our conclusions, and we hope that detailed research into a single magical system will one day prove us right. We are ourselves firmly convinced that group sentiments will always be found at the origin of all magical manifestations, whether the magic was borrowed from an earlier religion or an outside religion, or whether they sprang from the world of magic itself.
Throughout the course of history magic has provoked states of collective sentiment, from which it derives stimulus and fresh vigour. The witchcraft epidemics of the Middle Ages provide one of the best examples of the extent to which fantastic social passion can be excited. While the Inquisition certainly burned more innocent people than real witches, it also served to generate them. On everyone's mind was imprinted the idea of magic and this exercised a terrible fascination. With startling swiftness it brought about mass conversions. Moreover, during witch trials, witches sought each other out, brought together and recruited proselytes and acolytes. Such initiative comes only with a sense of group feeling. There must be at least two persons before risking suspect experiments. United, they become aware of a sense of mystery which affords them protection. In an account of the life of the witch Marie-Anne de la Ville-tried and condemned in 1711-we can read how men specialized in
the unearthing of buried treasure grouped themselves around her and refurbished their faith through their mutual activities. However, no magical group, however large, is sufficient unto itself. Each time the members are deceived they need to have their optimism rekindled through the faith of new recruits. In this way the magician of Moulins, whom we have already mentioned as the carpenter Jean Michel, found his faith renewed by contact with his judge's belief, and out came his confessions-from the sheer pleasure of speaking magic.
In this way, the magician receives continual encouragement from outside. Magical beliefs which are active in certain corners of our society and which were quite general a century ago, are the most alive, the most real indications of a state of social unrest and social consciousness, in which there floats a whole crowd of vague ideas, hopes and vain fears, giving form to the remnants of the former category of mana. In society there is an inexhaustible source of diffuse magic which the magician uses to his own advantage. Everything happens as though society, from a distance, formed a kind of huge magical conclave around him. This is the reason why the magician lives in a kind of specialized atmosphere which follows him everywhere-if we can express ourselves like this. However cut off from the real world he may seem to others, it does not appear the same to him. His individual consciousness is deeply affected by this social sentiment. As a magician he is no longer himself. If he thinks about his condition, he may come to the conclusion that his magical powers are quite separate from him. He merely has access to them or acts as a kind of depository for them. And if he lacks power, his individual knowledge is useless. Prospero is not Ariel's master. He took over his magical power, when he freed him from the tree where he had been imprisoned by the sorceress Sycorax, on certain conditions and for a certain time. When he gives him back to the elements, to nature and the world, he is nothing but an ordinary mortal and may as well burn his books.
Now my charms are all o'erthrown,

And what strength I have's mine own;

Which is most faint…

Throughout its existence, magic has never forgotten its social origins. Each of its elements, agents, rites and representations not only perpetuate the memory of this original collective state, but even help in their reproduction in an attenuated form. Every day society, in a manner of speaking, ordains new magicians, experiences rites, listens to fresh tales, which are always the same. In spite of the fact that there are constant interruptions, society's creation of magic is no less continuous. In communal life, these emotions, impressions, impulses are ceaselessly produced and give rise to the idea of mana. People's habits are continually disturbed by things which trouble the calm ordering of life: drought, wealth, illness, war, meteors, stones with special shapes, abnormal individuals, etc. At each shock, at each perception of the unusual, society hesitates, searches, waits. Ambroise Paré himself believed in the universal virtues of the Bezoar stone, which the Emperor Rudolph received from the King of Portugal. These are attitudes which turn the abnormal into mana, that is, magic or things produced from magic. Moreover, everything magical is effective, because the expectations engender and pursue a hallucinatory reality. We have seen how, in some societies, a patient who is deserted by the magician dies. We have seen him cured through trust and confidence. It is a kind of comfort which a collective, traditional power of suggestion can provide. The world of magic is full of the expectations of successive generations, their tenacious illusions, their hopes in the form of magical formulas. Basically it is nothing more than this, but it is this which give it an objectivity far superior to that which it would have if it were nothing more than a tissue of false individual ideas, an aberrant and primitive science.

However, while we have this basis of social phenomena, it is a
remarkable fact that as soon as magic becomes separated from religion, only individual phenomena arise. Having found social phenomena at the basis of magic, which we earlier defined by its individualistic features, it will be convenient to return to this latter aspect now. While it is impossible to understand magic without taking into consideration the magical group, we can, on the other hand, easily grasp how the magical group resolves itself into individuals. In the same way, it is easy to understand how the public and collective needs of a small primitive group ceded later to very general individual needs. It is also easy to grasp the fact that, once definitive suggestions like education and tradition existed, magic was able to live on as an individual phenomenon.
Magical knowledge seems to have been passed on from individual to individual, just as in the teaching of science and techniques. The means of transmitting magical rites among the Cherokee are instructive on this score. There existed a whole body of magical scholarship and schools of magicians. In order to pass on magical knowledge to individuals, magic had to make it intelligible to individuals. Then there developed experimental or dialectical theory which naturally enough neglected the unconscious collective facts. The Greek alchemists and their successors, our modern magicians, tried to deduce it from philosophical principles. Moreover, all magical systems, even the most primitive or popular, justify their remedies by reference to past experience. And magical systems have developed through objective researches and genuine experiences. They have progressively benefited from discoveries which have been both true and false. In this way, the relative role of the collectivity in magic has been whittled down. It diminished because the collectivity banished everything of an irrational or an a priori nature. In this way, magic began to approximate to the sciences and finally came to resemble them in so far as it claimed to result from experimental researches and logical deductions made by individuals. In this as
well, magic more and more came to resemble technology, which itself responds to the same positive and individual needs. Except for its traditional character, magic has tried to cast off all collective aspects. Everything involving theoretical and practical achievements now becomes the work of individuals, and it is exploited only by individuals.
Magic is, therefore, a social phenomenon. It only remains for us to show what place it holds among the other social phenomena, religion excepted, since we shall return to that later. Its relationships with law and custom, with economy and aesthetics, and also with language, however fascinating they may be, do not concern us here. Between these types of facts and magic we have a mere exchange of influences. Magic has no genuine kinship with anything apart from religion on the one hand and science and technology on the other.
We have said that magic tends to resemble technology, as it becomes more individualistic and specialized in the pursuit of its varied aims. Nevertheless, these two series of facts contain more than an external similarity: there is a functional identity, since, as we pointed out in our definition, both have the same aims. While religion is directed towards more metaphysical ends and is involved in the creation of idealistic images, magic has found a thousand fissures in the mystical world from whence it draws its forces, and is continually leaving it in order to take part
in everyday life and play a practical role there. It has a taste for the concrete. Religion, on the other hand, tends to be abstract. Magic works in the same way as do our techniques, crafts, medicine, chemistry, industry, etc. Magic is essentially the art of doing things, and magicians have always taken advantage of their know-how, their dexterity, their manual skill. Magic is the domain of pure production, ex nihilo. With words and gestures it does what techniques achieve by labour. Fortunately, the magical art has not always been characterized by gesticulations into thin air. It has dealt with material things, carried out real experiments and even made its own discoveries.
Nevertheless, we could say that it is still a very simple craft. All efforts are avoided by successfully replacing reality by images. A magician does nothing, or almost nothing, but makes everyone believe that he is doing everything, and all the more so since he puts to work collective forces and ideas to help the individual imagination in its belief. The art of the magician involves suggesting means, enlarging on the virtues of objects, anticipating effects, and by these methods fully satisfying the desires and expectations which have been fostered by entire generations in common. Magic gives form and shape to those poorly coordinated or impotent gestures by which the needs of the individual are expressed, and because it does this through ritual, it renders them effective.
We must admit that these actions are the prefigurations of techniques. Magic is both an opus operatum from the magician's point of view, and an opus inoperans from the technical point of view. Since magic is the most childish of skills, it is possibly also the oldest. In fact, the history of technology proves that there is a genealogical link between techniques and magic. By virtue of its mystical character, magic even contributed to the growth of techniques. Magic protected techniques; behind magic they were able to make progress. Magic lent its clear authority and efficacy to those practical, if timid, efforts of the magician-craftsman.
Without the support of magic, these efforts and tests would have been considered complete failures and stamped out. Certain techniques with complex objectives, unsure steps and delicate methods-such as pharmacy, medicine, surgery, metallurgy, enamel work (the last two are the heirs of alchemy)-could not have survived, unless magic had proffered help and made them last by actually absorbing them. We feel justified in saying that medicine, pharmacy, alchemy and astrology all developed within the discipline of magic, around a kernel of discoveries which were purely technical and as basic as possible. We hazard the suggestion that other more ancient techniques, simpler perhaps and separated at an earlier stage from magic, were also merged into magic at the very beginnings of mankind. Hewitt tells us that the local clan of the Woivorung, apart from owning a flint quarry where tribes in the vicinity come to get their tool supplies, also furnish the bard-magicians. This fact may be a fortuitous one. Nevertheless, it seems to shed some light on the way our first tools were invented and made. We feel that techniques are like seeds which bore fruit in the soil of magic. Later, magic was dispossessed. Techniques gradually discarded everything coloured by mysticism. Procedures which still remain have changed more and more in meaning. Mystical virtues were once attributed to them. They no longer possess anything but an automatic action. Likewise, in our own time, medical massage has taken over from the tricks of the bone-setter.
Magic is linked to science in the same way as it is linked to technology. It is not only a practical art, it is also a storehouse of ideas. It attaches great importance to knowledge-one of its mainsprings. In fact, we have seen over and over again how, as far as magic is concerned, knowledge is power. But while religion, because of its intellectual character, has a tendency toward metaphysics, magic-which we have shown to be more concerned with the concrete-is concerned with understanding nature. It quickly set up a kind of index of plants, metals, phenomena,
beings and life in general, and became an early store of information for the astronomical, physical and natural sciences. It is a fact that certain branches of magic, such as astrology and alchemy, were called applied physics in Greece. That is why magicians received the name of and that the word was a synonym for magic.
Magicians have sometimes even attempted to systematize their knowledge and, by so doing, derive principles. When such theories are elaborated in magician colleges, it is done by rational and individual procedures. In their doctrinal studies magicians tried to discard as many mystical elements as they could, and thus it was that magic took on the character of a genuine science. This is what happened during the last period of Greek magic. 'I wish to give you an idea of the mind of the ancients', said the alchemist, Olympiodore, 'to tell you, as philosophers, they spoke the language of philosophers and applied the tenets of philosophy to their art by means of science.' . (Olympiodore, ii, 4; P. E. M. Berthelot, Coll. des anciens alchimistes grecs, Paris, 1887, i, p. 86.)
It is obvious that a certain section of science has been elaborated by magicians, particularly in primitive societies. Magicians, who were also alchemists, astrologers and doctors in Greece, India and elsewhere, were the founders and exponents of astronomy, physics and natural history. It is possible to suppose, as we did for technology, that other, more simple sciences, had similar genealogical connexions with magic. Mathematicians certainly owed a lot to researches carried out concerning magic squares and the magical properties of numbers and figures. This treasury of ideas, amassed by magic, was a capital store which science for a long time exploited. Magic served science and magicians served scholars. In primitive societies, sorcerers are the only people who have the leisure to make observations on nature, to reflect and dream about these matters. They do so as

Share with your friends:
1   ...   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14

The database is protected by copyright © 2020
send message

    Main page