Part one: The Power of Words
Today and tomorrow I will be publishing some witchy-type posts especially for Halloween.
Ever since mankind created language, words have been used to manipulate, enlighten and confuse. So it is little wonder that words should also prove to be powerful weapons in the form of spells, hexes and incantations. Even prayers and hymns have special supernatural powers as they are a way to grab the attention of a god, or gods. Most religions encourage these invocations to create a sense of spiritualisation and ceremony that help the devotee contact their inner soul becoming closer to nature, God, and themselves.
Certain words have become magical, imbibed with a power that if spoken or written down, can be used as a charm to ward off evil, or cause an adversary to come to harm. The most familiar of these is Abracadabra. Although known as a stage magicians phrase, the word dates back to Roman times and is thought to come from the Hebrew words for the Father, son and Holy Spirit – ‘ab, ben, ruach hakodesh’. Which some say is derived from, Abraxas. This word has special powers as according to Greek numerology, it adds up to 365 which is the number of days in a year.
These words become even more potent if written or said repeatedly. As in the case of Abracadabra, when it is in a pyramid shape and used as a Medicinal charm:
When mankind began to write words, such magical incantations could now be stored and used at the discretion of the owner. The earliest ‘spell’ comes from ancient Mesopotamia etched onto cuneiform clay tablets found in the city of Uruk somewhere between the 5th and 4th centuries BC.
Books of magic spells have been around since ancient times and have been used not only for religious purposes but also for science. Alchemists used magic to find The Philosopher’s Stone and turn base metal into gold. Witch doctors and wise women, used words to help heal the sick, and don’t forget early scientists had numerous books for predicting the future through astrology.
In Ancient Egypt, magic and spells were a part of everyday life. The symbolic use of words was very important. Used for protection, to summon gods and demons, and to help loved ones live a happy afterlife. These words are often found etched onto tombs, pillars, and even embalming shrouds, showing just how important magical words were to these superstitious people.
Ancient Egyptian priests used many magic books such as The Book of the Dead, to help those who have died pass on to the next life. The most potent of all was The Book of Dreams. This book allowed people, through incantations, to fall into a dream-like state to travel through time, space, and even to the realm of the dead.
Papyri Graecae Magicae, or The Greek Magical Papyri is the name for scrolls from Graeco-Roman Egypt, that contain magical spells, formulae, hymns, and rituals dating as far back as the 100s BC to the 400s AD. For use by travelling magicians, scholars and medical practitioners, these ‘books’ have detailed descriptions on how to cast spells, invoke spirts, demons, and even how to create love charms.
A similar Jewish papyri dating back to ancient Egyptian times, seems to be rooted in performing religious ceremonies to interact with spirits in order gain advantage over another. Names are also important in Jewish magical traditions. In the creation of man, God summons life after a series of ‘speech acts’. Mentioning one of God’s many names can be a powerful tool to finding love or as with Joshua, demolishing the walls of Jericho.
Later, more textbooks on magic came into existence, such as The Grimoire, or Spell books, which are still used today.
These books give precise instructions on how to cast a spell and how to create magical amulets and talisman. You can read more about them in this article: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2009/apr/08/history
So for authors, using spells as part of their story, is a natural choice when writing in genres such as fantasy and magic realism. The power of such words evokes a sense of otherworldliness and spirituality that helps a reader to become wholly engaged in what they are reading.
Books, therefore, are magic!
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Watch out for part two – Witches and Witchcraft