The Evolution of Supernatural Phenomena

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By jwblackwell



9 Questions

What was the main principle of heka, the Egyptian god of magic?

What was the Roman view of magic?

What were Katadesmoi in ancient Greece?

What was the concept of magia naturalis in the early modern period?

What was the main contribution of Giovanni Pico della Mirandola to Western esotericism?

What was the role of Paracelsus in the development of Renaissance occultism?

What was the contribution of Nostradamus to the field of astrology?

What was the main belief of Johann Weyer regarding witchcraft?

What was the main contribution of John Dee to the field of occultism?


History of Supernatural Phenomena

  • Magic has been performed throughout history and includes supernatural, ritual, illusion, and dark magic.

  • Ancient Mesopotamians believed in magic as the only viable defense against demons, ghosts, and evil sorcerers.

  • Mesopotamians used magic to protect themselves from evil sorcerers who might place curses on them.

  • Ancient Egyptians believed that magic was an integral part of religion and culture.

  • The main principle of heka, the Egyptian god of magic, is centered on the power of words to bring things into being.

  • The Book of the Dead was a series of texts written in Ancient Egypt with various spells to help guide the Egyptians in the afterlife.

  • The spells of the Book of the Dead made use of several magical techniques which can also be seen in other areas of Egyptian life.

  • Practical Kabbalah in historical Judaism is a branch of the Jewish mystical tradition that concerns the use of magic.

  • Jewish law views the practice of witchcraft as being laden with idolatry and/or necromancy.

  • Although magic was forbidden by Levitical law in the Hebrew Bible, it was widely practiced in the late Second Temple period.

  • The English word magic has its origins in ancient Greece.

  • During the late sixth and early fifth centuries BCE, the Persian maguš was Graecicized and introduced into the ancient Greek language as μάγος and μαγεία.A Brief History of Magic: From Ancient Greece to the Middle Ages and Beyond

  • The ancient Greeks and Romans viewed magic as an improper expression of religion, often referring to it as a form of insult.

  • The meaning of magic changed due to the military conflicts between the Greek city-states and the Persian Empire, and the term began to appear in surviving texts with derogatory connotations.

  • The concept of magos was adopted by the Romans and placed greater emphasis on the judicial application of it, with laws being introduced criminalizing things regarded as magic.

  • Magic was associated with societies to the east of the Roman Empire, and Pliny the Elder claimed that magic had been created by the Iranian philosopher Zoroaster.

  • Ancient Greek scholarship of the 20th century developed a theory of ancient Greek magic as primitive and insignificant, but scholars have since abandoned this viewpoint.

  • Katadesmoi, or curses inscribed on wax or lead tablets and buried underground, were frequently executed by all strata of Greek society, sometimes to protect the entire polis.

  • Early Christian authors absorbed the Greco-Roman concept of magic and incorporated it into their developing Christian theology, viewing magic as the opposite of religion and relying on cooperation from demons.

  • Magic was viewed as a means of tampering with the natural world, and the Christian Church rejected it as a whole.

  • Medieval magic included various amulets, talismans, potions, chants, dances, and prayers, along with demonic participation.

  • The concept of magia naturalis (natural magic) was introduced in the early modern period and viewed as an elemental force pervading many natural processes, fundamentally distinct from the mainstream Christian idea of demonic magic.

  • Despite the attempt to reclaim the term magia for use in a positive sense, traditional attitudes toward magic in the West remained largely negative.

  • Witch trials in the Middle Ages started becoming more accepted if the accusations of witchcraft were related to heresy or political reasons, with Joan of Arc's trial being the most famous one.

  • Magic has been associated with healing and viewed in a divine or holy light in some contexts throughout history.Renaissance Magic and Its Practitioners

  • Renaissance magic refers to practices described in various Medieval and Renaissance grimoires and collections such as Johannes Hartlieb's, with Georg Pictor using the term synonymously with goetia.

  • Ceremonial magic, which included necromancy and witchcraft, was denounced by Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa in its entirety as impious disobedience towards God.

  • The seven artes magicae exerted an exotic charm by their ascription to Arabic, Jewish, Romani, and Egyptian sources in the 15th and 16th centuries, leading to confusion in distinguishing practices of vain superstition, blasphemous occultism, and scholarly knowledge or pious ritual.

  • Renaissance humanism saw a resurgence in hermeticism and Neo-Platonic varieties of ceremonial magic, while science also rose with the dethronement of the Ptolemaic theory of the universe, and the distinction of astronomy from astrology, and of chemistry from alchemy.

  • Hasidism internalized Kabbalah through the psychology of deveikut and cleaving to the Tzadik, with the tzaddik channeling divine spiritual and physical bounty to his followers by altering the Will of God through his own deveikut and self-nullification.

  • European colonialists applied European concepts of magic and witchcraft to practices found among the peoples they encountered, regarding them as diabolical and needing to be eradicated and replaced by Christianity.

  • Giovanni Pico della Mirandola was the founder of the tradition of Christian Kabbalah, a key element of early modern Western esotericism, and aimed to reconcile the schools of Plato and Aristotle.

  • Johann Georg Faust was a German itinerant alchemist, astrologer, and magician of the German Renaissance, accused of fraud and denounced by the church as a blasphemer in league with the devil.

  • Faust became the subject of folk legend in the decades after his death, transmitted in chapbooks beginning in the 1580s, and notably adapted by Christopher Marlowe in his play The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus (1604).

  • The Faustbuch tradition survived throughout the early modern period, and the legend was again adapted in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's closet drama Faust (1808), Hector Berlioz's musical composition La damnation de Faust (premiered 1846), and Franz Liszt's Faust Symphony of 1857.

  • Marsilio Ficino's medical works exerted considerable influence on Renaissance physicians such as Paracelsus, with whom he shared the perception of the unity of the micro- and macrocosmos, and their interactions, through somatic and psychological manifestations, with the aim to investigate their signatures to cure diseases.

  • Ficino's approach to different philosophies was one of extreme syncretism, placing them in parallel rather than attempting to describe a developmental history, and believed that an educated person should study Hebrew and Talmudic sources, and the Hermetics, because he thought they represented the same concept of God that is seen in the Old Testament, but in different words.

  • Plethon rejected Christianity in favour of a return to the worship of the classical Hellenic Gods, mixed with ancient wisdom based on Zoroaster and the Magi, and may have been the source for Ficino's OrRenaissance Occultism: Key Figures and Beliefs

  • Occultism was a popular pursuit during the Renaissance, with many notable figures contributing to its development.

  • The legend of Faust was a popular subject of grimoires or magical texts, with some falsely attributed to his lifetime.

  • C.S. Lewis differentiated medieval magic from Renaissance magic, noting a change in character and purpose.

  • Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa popularized Cabalistic and Hermetic magic in northern Europe, with revolutionary ideas about magical theory and procedure.

  • Paracelsus was a Swiss physician, alchemist, theologian, and philosopher who rejected traditional medical theories and incorporated astrology and elemental beings into his work.

  • Nostradamus was a French astrologer and physician known for allegedly predicting future events, although his predictions are often vague and subject to misinterpretation.

  • Johann Weyer was a Dutch physician, occultist, and demonologist who criticized the persecution of witches and argued that the crime of witchcraft was impossible.

  • John Dee was an English mathematician, astrologer, and alchemist who believed that numbers were the basis of all things and sought to bring forth a unified world religion.

  • Dee turned to the supernatural in his later years and employed the services of Edward Kelley, who claimed to have the ability to contact spirits.

  • Kelley and Dee had many spiritual conferences, during which Kelley claimed to receive messages from angels and dictated several books in a special angelic language.

  • Dee and Kelley's nomadic lifestyle eventually led to a falling out, with Kelley telling Dee that the angel Uriel had ordered them to share their possessions, including their wives.

  • Occultism during the Renaissance was a complex and diverse topic, with many conflicting beliefs and practices.


Think you know the history of supernatural phenomena? Test your knowledge with this quiz! From ancient Mesopotamia to the Renaissance, this quiz covers the evolution of magic, witchcraft, and other supernatural beliefs and practices throughout history. Keywords include magic, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, medieval, Renaissance, occultism, and key figures such as Agrippa, Paracelsus, Nostradamus, and John Dee. See how much you know about the mysterious and

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