The word magic is common in our age; for me it’s more common than for others. But it means different things to different people. Most view it as fantasy or fraud, only to be ridiculed. Others hold to the tradition that it is the heart of all esoteric traditions and is found in religious teaching. Here are some of the ancient traditions that gave Western magic its roots.
Assyrian/Babylonian Magic: So this is close to where it all began. Humans began with offering prayers up to spirits or gods for protections. Incense, whispers and chants were often used in conjunction to this. When they began to get results the practice became more refined. They expressed the power in the natural word such as stones and in the stars themselves. Gods were attributed to celestial bodies and used in forms of magic. To them, magic was complete order, there were no accidental happenings. Numbers played an important part in their magic. In fact the tower of Babylon was built with specific specifications. You traveled through seven steps, of stages of wisdom and knowledge. One you finished the final stage you could obtain the eighth stage, which was the eternal and divine.
|Egyptian Wand showing the procession of gods|
Egyptian Magic: This was a major development in most Western Traditions. It was practiced by priests and included the arts of spell casting, divination, necromancy, making talismans and amulets, and magic in medicine. The Egyptians believed that illness was the cause of demons and thus the cures involved exorcisms. One of the most important parts of Egyptian magic was the proper use of words and names of power. Most incantation involved a string of names, not all of them in the same language.
Greek and Roman Magic: In a culture that thrived on gods, daimones (spirits), celestial intelligences, and the dead, magic was rich in Greece and Rome. Their magic was of sympathetic bonds that enabled magic at a distance. It was the Hermetic principle “As above, so below” which means that the microcosm reflects the macrocosm. Though all magic arts were practiced, the Greeks devoted great attention to destiny, the prophecy of oracles, and astrology. Both Greeks and Romans practiced divination and Oneiromancy, the magic of dreams. Thurgia was an exalted form of magic that that had religious overtones and was akin to ritual magic. Many practitioners believed that through Thurgia, they could bring divine powers to earth and ascend their souls to heaven.
Jewish Magic: Most of the magic was borrowed and adapted from other cultures such as the Canaanites, Babylonians, and Egyptians .Most of it was concerned with protection from demons and gaining blessings. Most of the magic was attributed to the wisdom of King Solomon which was the basis for the Key of Solomon, one of the most important handbooks for Western Magic. Angels were belived to be the ones who taught humans magic, mainly the Watchers. The magic was organized into systems to conform to Old Testament laws forbidding sorcery. The names of God and angels were incorporated into the incantations. This later became the Kabbalah or Qabalah.
|Symbol from the Key of Solomon|
There are many, many more magical traditions out there. Many borrow and build on the others until we have what is Western magic today. You can say that Wicca practices a mix between high magic (ritual or ceremonial magic) and natural magic (magic using herbs, metals, stones and such), while, from what I understand, orders such as the Golden Dawn stick more to high magic.
Do you have a favorite magic tradition?