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RELIG274 Study Guide - Final Guide: Lacnunga, Cernunnos, Medicine Man


Department
Religious Studies
Course Code
RELIG274
Professor
Glen Fairen
Study Guide
Final

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Study Guide: Notes Part 1
Magic in the Greco-Roman World:
Within this Hellenistic context, people were attempting to distinguish between high and low
magic, but also good and bad magic (which was more legitimate in their practices)
very much up to branding, how one seems to perceive as high and low magic (ex. Mad Men clip
of toasted vs. poisonous)
theourgia seen as priests, and lower classes seen as witches
The finding of the Greek Magical Papyri posed a dilemma of sorts. First, the bias against
anything labelled magical was quite evident in scholarly circles studying religion and the ancient
world. The texts themselves included spells and charms to heal illness using Jesus as a healing
entity. The significance is that it wasn’t understood to weird or irrational to mix alleged magical
practices such as charms and curses with the religious figure of Jesus. The question then
becomes, why are some texts considered religious while others are seen as magic (as is the
modern interpretation)
How did the Greco-Roman culture perceive magic and its related context?
Mageia was seen in a positive way, engaging in magic did not oppose religion, and they
didn't see it as negative.
tends to be in sophisticated texts, more educated
express uncertainty as to whether what they are doing is legitimate or not (those who write the
texts)
daimons- spirits used to help with the spells (bind the spirit to make them do magic, perhaps
using the recently deceased)
though magi is used in a positive sense, there is the idea that there are good ways and perhaps
lesser (more evil ways) of using such magic
However, starting in the Hellenistic period, mageia and their practitioners started to
develop negative connotations. It was seen as foreign, outside proper greco-roman
practice, and in order to avoid conflict, magicians would cast away members from within
their groups to ease tensions, and attributed to the developing sense of good and bad
magic
Neoplatonism:
saw themselves as following the teachings of the philosopher Plato
saw all of creation, begin, existence, created by something called The One- like a super
impersonal being/force beyond our comprehension
we cannot know or understand it through reason, (usually described in negative terms- it is not
this, it is not that etc.)
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our souls or essence is part of this super divine presence yet distinct
special techniques to return to The One (magical rituals, but they wouldn't have called it magic
themselves)
theurgoria- rites to call upon many gods to help access the one
these rituals were similar to what was seen in hymns, papyri
however to them, it was seen as highest form of educational, philosophical purpose
relationship to the one is what made the ritual effective (proper philosophical training)
Simon Magus:
figure prominent in Christian narrative
first arch villain of Christian narrative, seen as heretical man
seen as corrupting Christian followers
Philips power is seen was real coming from Christ, whereas Simons power is seen as false, or
trickery (despite the fact that both are successful)
***it is the source that matters not the success
Jonathan Z. Smith:
Is a well known and distinguished writer among religious studies and other disciplines.
Discusses the issue of defining magic, finding it od to define magic in contrast to religion and
science (religion and magic are opposed to one another, so if magic is opposite to one it should
be similar to the other, however this doesn’t make much sense)
Smith also disagrees with defining something in terms of what it is not ( it is not logical
according to Smith) and notes that scholars are inconsistent about what magic is actually like. He
rejects the term magic to be used to classify the people who use it and would then rather look at
magic and religion from the outside as to not indulge biases that exist.
*** He wants to get rid of the term magic all together as it harms the academic process as soon
as one classifies something as magic it is pushed aside, and biases become largely apparent.
Calling something magical muddles perspectives and scholars views/classifications.
He proposes that rather than classifying something as magic, why not refer to it in other terms
that could be used universally, across cultures and time periods (like rituals or divination for
example)
***remember the practice of "othering" (good vs. bad magic, miracles vs. magicians)
Magic in the Middle Ages: (5th-15th century CE)
There were three periods in the study of magic in the Middle Ages
Conversion Period:
three influences that will pop up:
paganism (anything that was not part of Christianity)
Christianity; the distinction between what was magical and what was a miracle
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find more resources at oneclass.com
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