Marcel Mauss a general Theory of Magic

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Apart from such preliminary consecration, most materials used qualify for the ritual by their innate qualities-like some sacrificial victim. Some derive these qualities from religion-they are the remains of a sacrifice which should have been consumed or destroyed-the bones of the dead, water used in
lustrations, etc. Others may have features which should, in a manner of speaking, disqualify them-they are left-overs from meals, filth, nail-parings, hair-leavings, excrement, foetuses, household detritus-on the whole anything which is usually thrown away or considered useless. There is also a certain class of objects which appear to be used for their own sakes by virtue of their real or imagined properties, or again because they coincide with the nature of the rite: special animals, plants or stones. Finally, there are other types of substances such as wax, glue, plaster, water, honey, milk, used to bind the mixture or serve as a base for others and constitute, as it were, the plate on which the magic cuisine is served up. These substances themselves have special properties and may be the object of taboos which are sometimes very formal. In India it is usually laid down that the milk used should come from a cow of a particular hue, which also has a calf of identical colour. These are the materials which together comprise our magical pharmacopoeia; in learning magic their enumeration is given the same vital emphasis as the learning of religious dogmas. In the Greco-Roman world the substances used are so innumerable as to appear almost endless, yet we possess no magical ritual or practical codes for the GrecoRoman period which are at all general or complete. We do not doubt that for any single group of magicians, at any one period, the materials must normally have been prescribed in the same way as they are in the Atharvanic texts, in chapters 8 to 11 of the Kaucika Sutra, and even in the Cherokee texts. The list of ingredients, at least to our way of thinking, always had the imperative character of a pharmaceutical codex. We hold that those texts of magical pharmacopoeia which have come down to us complete are-each in its own time-comprehensive and limitative handbooks for a magician or a circle of magicians.
Apart from the materials, we also have the tools of the magician, which themselves always ended up having their own magical qualities. The simplest of these instruments is the magic
wand, while the Chinese divining compass was perhaps one of the more complex. Greco-Latin magicians had a veritable arsenal of bowls, rings, knives, ladders, discs, rattles, bobbins, keys, mirrors, etc. The medicine bag of an Iroquois or a Sioux Indian, with its dolls, feathers, pebbles, woven beads, bones, praying sticks, knives and arrows, is as full of heterogeneous bits and pieces as the cabinet of Dr Faustus.
When we come to the roles of the magician and his client, in relation to magical ritual, we find they play the same role as the priest and the worshipper in relation to sacrifice. They also undergo preliminary rites which involve the individuals alone, their whole families or even the entire community. Among many prescriptions, they must remain chaste and pure, washing and anointing their bodies prior to the rite; they may have to fast or abstain from certain foods; they are told to wear special clothes, either brand-new or worn, pure white or with purple bands, etc; they wear make-up, masks, disguise themselves, put on special headgear, etc: sometimes they are naked, either in order to remove all barriers between them and magical forces or perhaps in order to act through ritual impropriety like the good lady of the fables. Finally special mental states are also demanded-you must have faith, the whole thing must be treated with the utmost seriousness.
All these observations concerning the time, place, materials, tools and the agents of magical ceremonies are none other than entry rites for the magical performance, which we also find in sacrifice and which we have described elsewhere. These preliminary rites are of such importance that they constitute separate ceremonies in relation to the ritual they precede. According to the Atharvanic texts, a sacrifice always precedes the rite and supererogatory rites are often performed to prepare the way for each later rite. For Greece, we have long descriptions of special scrolls, spoken and written prayers, diverse talismans which were made to protect the magician against the powers he
employed, against inadvertent mistakes and against the machinations of his enemies. While on this subject, we might also include other ceremonies as entry rites, ceremonies which can play a role out of all proportion to the importance of the central rite, designed to achieve the ritual objective. These include ritual dances, continuous music, drumming, fumigation and drug-taking. All these practices aim at inducing special states in the officiants and their clients, not only morally and psychologically, but also physically in some cases. These transformations are realized to perfection in shamanistic trances, voluntary and induced reveries, which also are considered to be part of the ritual. The frequency and importance of such practices show that magical rites take place in a differentiated magical milieu. Preparatory rites performed before the main ceremony mark off and circumscribe this magical milieu from the normal outside world. If the worst comes to the worst a simple action, such as a whisper, a word, a gesture or a look, may suffice to indicate this difference.
As in sacrifice, there are regularly, if not invariably, exit rites-ceremonies designed to limit the effects of a ritual and assure the immunity of the actors. Unused ritual materials are thrown away or destroyed; the people are bathed; participants leave the magical spot without looking behind them. These are not simply individual precautions but are prescribed actions. In Cherokee and Atharvanic ritual, rules of this type are expressly mentioned, and they must also have played a part in the magical rites of the Greco-Romans. Virgil remembers to mention them at the end of the eighth eclogue (v, 102):
Fer cineres, Amarylli, foras, rivoque fluenti

Transque caput jace; nec respexeris …

In the there is a rite of divination and the liturgy has been preserved in the great magical Papyrus of Paris; here again we find a final prayer which is a true exit rite. As a
general rule, it seems that magic tends to multiply the elements involved in ritual, to such an extent that it seems to be providing itself with loop-holes, and often successfully. Literary traditions concerning magic, far from reducing the apparently complex nature of these practices, seem to have embroidered on them at will. This is perfectly in accord with our notion of magic. It is natural for a magician to take refuge behind questions of procedure and technicalities, to protect himself in case of failure in magical prowess. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to try and prove that magic simply involves artifice. If this were so the magician would have fallen the victim first and his profession would have become an impossible one. The importance and wide diffusion of these rites point directly at the essential characteristics of magic itself. It is a noteworthy fact that most of the conditions which must be observed are abnormal ones. However commonplace, the magical rite has to be thought of as unique. It is not pure chance that herbs are plucked on the days of St John or St Martin, at Christmas or on Good Friday or at the time of the new moon. These are times which are in themselves extraordinary, and all magical rites generally aim at endowing the ceremonies with an abnormal character. All movements are the opposite of normal ones, particularly those performed at religious ceremonies. Conditions, including those of time, are apparently unrealizable: materials are preferably unclean and the practices obscene. The whole thing is bizarre, involving artifice and unnatural features-very far removed from that simplicity to which recent theorists have wished to reduce magic.
2 The nature of the rites We now come to the central rites, those which are directly effective. They usually comprise two types of rite-verbal and non-verbal. Apart from this very broad division, we do not wish to make any further classification of magical ritual. For the benefit of our exposition we shall simply
present groups of rites, remembering that between each of these groups there is no well-marked distinction.
Non-verbal rites In the present state of the science of religion, the first group of rites which is given a particularly magical character is that known as sympathetic or symbolic magic. Theoretical contributions to this type of magic have been so extensive and the repertoire of evidence so considerable that we need not dwell long on it ourselves. Reading the evidence, one may well believe that the number of symbolic rites is theoretically endless and also that all symbolic actions, by their nature, are effective. We, on the contrary, postulate, without actually having the proof, that in any system of magic the number of symbolic rites which are prescribed and performed is always limited. We also hold that they are performed, not because they are logically realizable, but because they are prescribed. Compared with the infinity of possible symbolic actions, or even those actually found throughout the world, the number used in a single magical system is singularly limited. We would be able to assert that symbolic systems are always limited by codes if we could find genuine catalogues of sympathetic rites. Naturally enough, however, these catalogues do not exist, since magicians have only ever felt the need to classify their rites according to their aims, not according to their procedures.
We should like to add that, while sympathetic procedures are employed generally in all magical systems throughout the world, and while genuine sympathetic ritual does exist, magicians on the whole have shown no inclination to speculate on the nature of this sympathy. They are less occupied with the mechanics of the rites than with the lore which has come down to them and their formal or exceptional character.
This is why these practices appear to us more like holy actions and genuine ritual, rather than gestures which are mechanically effective. Of all the rituals we know-Hindu, American or
Greek-it would be very difficult to pinpoint those which are purely sympathetic. The variations played on the sympathetic theme are so great that the whole subject has become obscure.
Of course, magic does not consist entirely of sympathetic rites. First we have a whole class of rites which can be equated with those rituals of consecration and deconsecration which we find in religion. Purificatory systems are so important that the Hindu shânti (expiation) seems to have been a speciality of the Brahmans of the Atharva Veda. In Greek the word finally came to be used to mean magical ritual in general. Such purifications are carried out by fumigations, steam-baths, passing through fire or water. Many curative rites and ritual to ward off evil are performed by similar practices.
We next come to sacrificial ritual. We have some in the which we mentioned earlier and also in Hindu magic. In the Atharvaric texts, apart from the obligatory entry rites, the greater part of the ritual involves sacrifice either actually or implicitly. Thus the medicating of arrows is done on a fire of wood used for making arrows; in this kind of ritual a part of everything which is consumed is perforce sacrificial. In the Greek texts hints of sacrifice are fairly frequent. The image of sacrifice has been imposed on magic to such an extent that it has become a kind of guideline, by which the whole procedure is ordered in the mind. In the Greek texts on alchemy, for example, we find over and over again that the transmutation of copper into gold is explained by a sacrificial allegory. The theme of sacrifice, particularly of children, is common enough in our knowledge of the magic of the ancient world and also the Middle Ages, and we have examples of the same kind of thing almost everywhere, although they may be preserved in myths rather than in actual magical practices. We consider all such rites to be sacrifices simply because they are said by the performers to be such. They are not verbally distinguished from religious sacrifice any more than purificatory magic is to be distinguished from purification in
religion. Moreover, their effects are the same as those of religious sacrifice, in so far as they release forces and powers and they are a means of communicating with these powers. In the the god is even present at the ceremony. The text also explains that, in magical rites, the materials involved are really transformed, assuming a sacred nature. We read in one spell, which seems to have avoided Christian influence:
(Papyrus, 121, B.M., 710.)
We therefore find that magic and sacrifice may be associated together but this does not apply everywhere. Among the Cherokee Indians and the Australian Aborigines sacrifice is completely lacking, and in Malaysia the relationship is tenuous. We have the offering of incense and flowers, which is probably of Buddhist or Hindu origin, and the very rare sacrifice of goats and cocks, which often seems to be of Muslim origin. On the whole, if there is no sacrifice in religion it is also lacking in magic. In any case, a special study of sacrifice in magic is not so relevant to the study of magic as sympathetic ritual and we prefer to reserve this to another work which is to be devoted to a comparison of magical and religious rites. Meanwhile we may merely suggest, as a general thesis, that sacrifice does not form in magic, as it does in religion, a tightly knit class of highly specialized rites. On the one hand, as we saw in the example of the sacrifice of the arrow, by definition, in all cases of expiatory magical sacrifice, sacrifice only dresses up sympathetic rites; it provides, so to speak, the framework of the ritual. On the other hand, it is part of the magical cuisine. It is no more than one way, among a thousand others, of performing it. Thus in Greek magic, the confection of the is not distinguished from sacrifice.
The papyri call these magical mixtures which are used in fumigations and all kinds of other things by the name of.
We are now confronted with a large category of poorly defined practices which occupy an important place in magic and its dogmas. They cover the use of substances whose virtues are transmitted through contact; in other words they provide the means of utilizing objects sympathetically. Because they are as curious as they are widespread, they affect the whole of magic by their bizarre nature and provide one of the essential features of its popular image. The magician's shrine is a magic cauldron. Magic is the art of preparing and mixing concoctions, fermentations, dishes. Ingredients are chopped up, pounded, kneaded, diluted with liquids, made into scents, drinks, infusions, pastes, cakes, pressed into special shapes, formed into images: they are drunk, eaten, kept as amulets, used in fumigations. This cuisine, pharmacy, chemistry, what you like to call it, not only causes magical materials to be utilizable, but serves to provide them with a ritual character which contributes in no small way to the efficacy of magic. It is a ritual itself, formalized and hidebound by tradition, and the actions involved are rites. These rites should not be lumped along with those entry rites or concomitant rites involved in a magical ceremony. The preparation of the ingredients and the confection of the products is the main-the central-object of the whole ceremony and has its own entry and exit rites. In sacrifice the preparation of the animal corresponds to this aspect of a magical rite. It is a moment in the ritual.
The art of preparing the materials involves other activities. Magicians prepare images from paste, clay, wax, honey, plaster, metal or papier mâché, from papyrus or parchment, from sand or wood. The magician sculpts, models, paints, draws, embroiders, knits, weaves, engraves. He makes jewellery, marquetry and heaven knows what else. These various activities provide him with representations of gods and demons, dolls for black magic; they are all his symbols. He makes gree-grees,
scapulars, talismans, amulets, all of which should be seen as continuing rites.
Verbal rites Normally verbal rites in magic are called spells and we see no reason for not continuing this custom. However we do not wish to imply by this that it is the only kind of verbal ritual in magic. This is far from being the case and the system of verbal magic plays such an important role in magic as a whole that in certain systems it is extremely differentiated. Up till now it has never been given its real due. From many modern descriptions one could easily be led to believe that magic involved only nonverbal actions. Verbal ritual is mentioned only in passing terms and is neglected in favour of lengthy enumerations of the other aspects of the rite. On the other hand, there are texts, such as the Lönnrot on Finnish magic, which contain nothing but incantations or spells. Only rarely are we provided with a sufficiently balanced idea of these two vital features of ritual. W. W. Skeat did it for Malaysian magic and J. Mooney for the Cherokee. In magician's manuals we find that rites are normally interdependent. They are so closely associated that in order to provide a correct notion of a magical ceremony we must study the two concurrently. If one or other of these aspects tends to predominate, it is usually the spells. While it is doubtful whether entirely wordless rituals ever existed there is evidence of a large number of rites which were exclusively oral.
In magic we find almost all the same forms of spoken rite which we found in religion: oaths, wishes, prayers, hymns, interjections, simple formulas. However, for the same reason that we made no attempt to classify non-verbal rites, we shall not place these rites in categories. They do not in fact correspond to well-defined classes of fact. Magic is chaotic and there is hardly ever an exact correlation between the form of the ceremony and its professed object. We find the strangest anomalies: hymns of great holiness used for the most evil purposes.
There is one group of spells which corresponds to what we have called sympathetic magical rites. Some even act sympathetically. It is only a matter of naming the actions or things in order to bring about the sympathetic reaction. In a medical spell or in a rite of exorcization, play is made on words like 'withdraw', 'reject', words for the illness itself or the demon responsible for the evil. Puns and onomatopoeic phrases are among the many ways of combating sickness verbally through sympathetic magic. Another method, which gives rise to a special class of spells, is the mere description of a corresponding non-verbal rite: (Theocritus, 2, 21). Apparently it was often believed that the description of the rite, or even the mention of its name, was enough to conjure it up and produce effect.
Prayers and hymns as well as sacrifice are involved in magic particularly prayers to gods. Here is a Vedic prayer pronounced, during a simple sympathetic rite aimed at curing dropsy (Kaucika Sutra 25, 37 et seq.):
This Asura rules over the gods; indeed the will of king Varuna is truth (comes to pass automatically); from this (this illness) I, who excel on all sides by my spell, from the fury of the terrible [god] I remove this man. Let honour [be paid] to you, Oh king Varuna, to your fury; because, terrible one, all deceit is known to you. A thousand other men I will abandon unto you; that through your goodness [?] this man should live one hundred autumns….
Varuna, god of the waters, who punishes evil with dropsy, is evoked as a matter of course during this hymn (Atharva Veda 1, 10), or more exactly during the course of this formula (Brahman, line 4). In prayers to Artemis and the sun, which have been found in Greek magic papyri, the beautiful, lyrical tenor of the invocations is perverted and suffocated by the intrusion of the
usual magical hotchpotch. Prayers and hymns, once they are disencumbered from this usual paraphernalia, are very similar to the hymns we are in the habit of calling religious. They are often, in fact, borrowed from religious ritual, especially from prohibited or foreign religions. A. Dieterich has been able to uncover a whole section of Mithraic liturgy in the Great Papyrus of Paris. In the same way sacred texts which are religious in nature may, on occasion, become magical. Holy books, such as the Bible, the Koran, the Vedas, the Tripitakas, have provided spells for a goodly proportion of mankind. We should not be surprised, therefore, if spoken rites of a religious nature are used so extensively in modern magic. This fact is to be correlated with the use of spoken rites in religious practices in the same way as the application of techniques of sacrifice in magic is to be correlated with its use in religion. For any one society there can be only a limited number of conceivable ritual forms.
What the purely non-verbal rites in magic normally do not include is the tracing out of myths. However, there is a third group of verbal rites which comprises mythical spells. Amongst these we have a type of incantation which describes a situation similar to that which the magician is trying to produce. The description usually involves a fairy story or an epic tale, with heroic or divine characters. The actual case is assimilated to one described as if it were a prototype, the reasoning behind it being something like this: if a certain person (a god, saint or hero) was able to do such and such a thing (usually a very difficult task) in such and such a circumstance, perhaps he could perform the same feat in the present case, which is exactly similar. A second type of mythical spell consists of rites which have been called 'original' rites. These describe the genesis and enumerate the names and characteristics of the being, thing or demon concerned in the rite. It is a kind of investigatory process by which the demon involved in the spell is slowly uncovered. The magician institutes magical proceedings, establishes the identity of
the powers involved, catches hold of them and brings them under control by the use of his own power.
All these spells may achieve considerable dimensions. However, it is more common for them to shrink in size: the onomatopoeic muttering of a phrase, the naming of the person involved, may indicate the aim of a rite and be performed as a matter of form after the verbal rite has long since become merely an automatic action. Prayers may be reduced to the name of a god or demon, or a well-nigh meaningless ritual word, such as the trisagion of the godesch, etc. Mythical spells end up by consisting of nothing but a single proper name or a common word. The names themselves become unrecognizable. They may be replaced by letters: trisagion becomes a T, the names of planets become vowels. We even get enigmas like the , or bogus algebraical formulae to which accounts of alchemical procedures are reduced.
All verbal rituals tend to have the same form, because their function tends also to be the same. Their intention is primarily to evoke spiritual forces or to specialize a rite. The magician invokes, conjures up, calls down powers which make rites work; at the very least he feels the need to mention which of the forces he is using. This occurs when exorcizing rites are carried out in the name of such and such a god; the authority is called in evidence, particularly in mythical charms. Other magicians talk about the objectives of the non-verbal rites, mentioning the name of the person for whom it is being performed. They inscribe or pronounce the name of the victim over the figurine. While collecting certain medicinal herbs they must say for what or for whom they are intended. In this way the spoken rite may render the mechanical rite more complete, more precise, and it may on occasion entirely supplant it. Every ritual action, moreover, has a corresponding phrase, since there is always a minimal representation through which the nature and object of the ritual is expressed, even if this is achieved only through an interior

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