~Magic in Ancient Greece

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~Magic in Ancient Greece
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Post # 1
We all love Magic(k). Some of us practice it on a regular basis. Some of us study it with passion and many of us do both. It does not matter if you are someone who is now starting out with magic(k) or someone who has been practicing it for many, many years.We all have something in common, we are interested in Magick. Each and every one of us walks their own unique path, a path that is constantlygrowing and changing , the exact same way as we are. We all have our goals in terms of magick, goals that keep us motivated and probably quite passionate. But is magick a new concept? What did our ancestors think about Magick? How did they practice it? Let us take a moment now to reflect on these questions.

~First of all, let us begin with the very term: Magic (k). The ancient Greeks came up with the term Magos (magician, witch [rough translation] ) and its derivative Mageia (magick).

But when did this happen approximately?

Roughly at the turn from the 6th to the 5th century BCE. The first author to

have allegedly used this terminology was actually Heraclitus, who was a philosopher from

Ephesos. Specifically, he described some ecstatic rites that he rejected as those of "magoi",

" Persian priests " (Remember this).

~So... what about these Persian Priests now? What's the deal with them?~

During Heraclitus' lifetime, the Persians had conquered Western Asia Minor, and he could see Persian priests officiating for the Persian governor and his court and functionaries: to describe Greek rites as belonging to the religious apparatus of the imperialist oppressor was pretty tough stuff.

~But what do we actually know about these bizarre, mysterious rites?~

In reality, it is not quite clear what those rites were; Clement does not give much context and has his own agenda, but it looks as if Heraclitus was censuring and rejecting the practitioners of private Dionysiac mystery rites and not of what we would call magic.

Plato and magic

Now, more than a century later, Plato will not hesitate to actually return to the topic and he wrote aboutitinerant priests ('agyrtai) andseers, private religious entrepreneurs who "come to the doors of the rich" and sell their art (that is how he viewed these practitioners) - initiation rituals that look Dionysiac even in Plato's hostile description, and potent binding spells whose powers have been granted by the gods.

What kind of initiation rituals were these and what was their purpose?

The initiation rituals freed from the consequences of evil deeds that the client or one of his ancestors had performed. The binding spells damaged any enemy or rival. These spells were actually quite popular back then (does that ring any bells?) In a society where psychological troubles were not easily treated and even less often cured, and where rivalry and competition was a major form of existence (after all, we deal with Jacob Burckhardt's "agonistic Greeks"), these were no small gains to be had from private rituals.

How does Plato see these itinerary priests?

Plato does not like these specialists and attitude underlying their rituals any more than Heraclitus did: their assumption - that powerful rituals are able evento sway the gods to help and condone unethical behavior (to forgive evil deeds and to damage a fellow human being) seemed repulsive to Plato the theologian of an ethically purified concept of divinity. And at least the binding spells had undesirable social consequences as well: they spread irrational fear

among their victims.

What about Classical Greece? You may be wondering. I mean, philosophy was at its peak, people were supposed to be more open-minded. Is that really true though?

In classical Greece then, the "magoi" cover a much wider area of ritual action with their art, mageia , than any modern notion would allow them. The components of this wide area ( ecstatic rituals, private initiation rites, binding spells, cathartic rituals against mental disorders ) all have in common that they are rejected by philosophers and doctors. This rejection has mostly theological reasons; These opponents of the magoi in their turn share not only a theology that is based on ethical standards, but they also share the social position in the Greek city: philosophers and doctors alike are almost as itinerant and marginal professionals in their cities as their opponents, the magicians and begging priests. Thus, it is in a discourse among marginals that the term magic for the first time appears - marginals with a very firm claim to higher and better knowledge about the divine than the average citizen of any Greek city.

Sources used for this post:

"Magick in Ancient Greece" - Fritz Graf, 2008

"Magick in the Ancient Greek and Roman world" - Fritz Graf, 2006

University Notes: Papyrology I (EEAEF148 - 2014, DPT)

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Re: ~Magic in Ancient Greece
Post # 2

This is where I wish there was a "like" button for SoM posts. I really enjoyed the read.

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Re: ~Magic in Ancient Greece
Post # 3
Very informative thank you for the read!
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