Magicology (I): Daemonic magic and Magia naturalis


The concept for magicology or magic studies is used in a very limited way not only because of that in fact is less used than other terms but because many people think about if it is really plausible to make a scientific study of magic. This means, a study about that power and those supernatural forces in which people believe; however there was not so much questioning about theology but for other reasons.

The very definition of magic, as happens with religion, depends on the cultural interpretation. There are many definitions for it which are preferred by people but magicology remains being acceptable as "studies" to distinguish between practicants from researchers. Considering it as the art of discovering secret virtues of the world and the capability to control natural or supernatural forces, magic can be divided in two great groups:

According to those who carry it out. There are people with inherent powers and others who achieve this ability by studying specific techniques. The first type are warlocks or witches (lat. Sag) and the second, sorcerers (lat. Mag). Wizards have been always wanted to be different from warlocks due to bad reputation and their relation to the evil, they would belong to the first group buy nowadays "wizard" is a term lightly used for the rest.

According to their origin. Magia naturalis is the one which comes from nature, by genetic predisposition, this means, inherent abilities, or those which can be produced using natural elements. Magia daemonica also called goetia is related to that magic in which evil forces give the power. The main differences between one and the other apart from their goals -which can be positive and negative respectively-, is that the first is an open one and the second is full of secretism and spiritualism.

The Latin term daemon is a transcription of the ancient Greek term dáimon which refers to a natural spirit, an existing force but unexplainable, sometimes even a minor god. The rise of Christianity and the almost voluntary lack of knowledge about pagan practices took the concept to become misinterpreted and linked to Hebrew evil entities, most of them were eastern deities from abandoned or adjacent cultures. The idea of demons changed through time from their deity or demigod definition, they acquired a progressive humanization which made them more unstable to the worst feelings and actions and transforming them not only in mediators of supernatural forces but into traders of those forces among humans. Saint Agustin established that it was possible to communicate with which is spiritually external and Saint Thomas established that it was possible for this forces to make changes in our physical world. When Renaissance arrived, a new interesting approach started in which the wizard knew the technique to control these beings. But should the true guilt of those actions fall on the one who carries out the action, not on the one who asks for it?

There were not distinctions between the different types of magic most part of the time, focusing all of it in a negative and diabolical pagan practice, and while during the Middle Ages prayers and psalms compendium were growing and growing as well as particular prayers to saints, virgins and angels, magical texts were taken apart and eliminated and exorcisms and sacred purifications were not questioned at all.

There is more, and the modern researcher has to know about witch-hunt, a question already resolved inside magic elitism, which was hidden in high or low classes and avoided a real analyze of their practices and their origin, as well as happened with demonology which worked enumerating and recreating hellish kingdoms and promoted a fusion of any magical practice with daemoniaca in its most negative version. There were used by theologists for executions, and the circumstances of that moment, which in social, economic and cultural crisis activated an accusation process for marginal people or people out of their roles. In addition, during a dark age full of lack of knowledge, any fact considered as unnatural or strange as an unknown illness, epidemic or an atmospheric event out of time was quickly associated with a spell. Nevertheless many people of different social classes, even the clergy with saints, used "alternative remedies" inside the religious superstition limits to obtain positive blessings. Then, why turn on some candles for a pagan god having a saint with their same functions and characteristics?

Some people see a counter-culture in magic, originated in rural groups as a response to normative impositions made by religion and power, which means we can consider that secretism was part of a voluntary secrecy full of traditional symbolism which was lost on the memory of time. It would explain the lack of textual proof of traditional magical practices, since they was communicated orally among few people who could not read or write. This lack of texts would be present later in demonic magic texts since thanks to the arrival of Enlightenment the flames of reason changed the study of magic.

In fact, the studies about magic started in that period. Magic was questioned about its real existence, the symbolic or historical bases of certain practices and even Satan's, angels and God existence, this last one kept with caution but also keeping great interest on the Roman and Greek philosophers' point of view. If magic was really a harmless or trivial practice from a scientific point of view, a small manual or a grimoire with some healing texts or texts that could bring love or fortune written for any folklorists ahead of his age could perfectly be found on certain houses of literate people as courtiers and middle-class people. These texts were used as a hobby or a true dormant belief, reduced by society.

There were people who practiced sorcery -considered as inferior magic-, they tried to acknowledge the proper techniques to carry out certain divinatory or magic arts, but they apparently did not obtained true communication with the mana, a modern term used to identify energy or unknown powers. In the other hand those practices could not use a spell word by word, either from a Greek papyrus or a poem from the nearest town, so at the end they were considered as a superstition, a word which comes from Latin, superstitio: overlapped. It focuses on the almost obsessive fear to supernatural forces, which existed since the Ancient Age, and also focused on trying to protect from them and soothe them. It was a natural behavior since scientific knowledge was not there for everyone. Superstition, as J. Grimm established in Deutsche Mythologie did not contradict directly religious guidelines and where religion had empty places, the existent symbolism and the memories appeared on the people. He divided superstition in active (or positive) and passive (or negative). The first one was caused by human being when he made a mistake or unfortunate event and it was necessary to carry out an apparently innocent act which repaired the situation. This was also called "spell" or "omen". The second one referred to those forces which human being could never control and he interpreted them as signs of God or supernatural signs. Grimm considered superstition a kind of inferior religion with easier rituals but no simple, all inside a concept of magic mastering.

 Pietro Viktor Carracedo Ahumada -

Translated by: Rachel Black -

- Daxelmüller, C. Historia social de la magia. Herder, 2009
- Flores Arroyuelo, F. Diccionario de supersticiones y creencias populares, Alianza Editorial, Madrid, 2000
- Larner, C. Witchcraft and Religion: The politics of popular Belief, B. Blackwell, Oxford, 1984
- Stewart P. J.; Strathern, A. Brujería, hechicería, rumores y habladurías, Akal, Madrid, 2008
- Thomas, K. Religion and the Decline of Magic, Penguin Books, Londres, 1973

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