Magic is practiced in many cultures, and utilizes ways of understanding, experiencing and influencing the world somewhat akin to those offered by religion. The concept of magic as a separate category to that of religion first appeared in Judaism, which derided as magic the practices of pagan worship designed to appease and receive benefits from gods other than Jehovah. Hanegraaff further argues that magic is in fact "...a largely polemical concept that has been used by various religious interest groups either to describe their own religious beliefs and practices or - more frequently - to descredit those of others". Magic is often viewed with suspicion by the wider community, and is sometimes practiced in isolation and secrecy.
The belief in and the practise of magic has been present since the earliest human cultures and continues to have an important religious and medicinal role in many cultures today. "Magic is central not only in 'primitive' societies but in 'high cultural' societies as well..." Modern Western magicians generally state magic's primary purpose to be personal spiritual growth Modern perspectives on the theory of magic broadly follow two major views. The first sees magic as a result of a universal sympathy within the universe, where if something is done here a result happens somewhere else. The other view sees magic as a collaboration with spirits who cause the effect.
Through late 14th century Old French magique, the word "magic" derives via Latin magicus' Powers' from the Greek adjective magikos (μαγικός) used in reference to the "magical" arts of the Persian Magicians (Greek: magoi, singular mágos, μάγος), the Zoroastrian astrologer priests of the ancient Persian Empire.
Common features of magical practice
Magical rituals are the precisely defined actions (including speech) used to work magic. Bronisław Malinowski describes ritual language as possessing a high "coefficient of weirdness", by which he means that the language used in ritual is archaic and out of the ordinary, which helps foster the proper mindset to believe in the ritual. S. J. Tambiah notes, however, that even if the power of the ritual is said to reside in the words, "the words only become effective if uttered in a very special context of other action." These other actions typically consist of gestures, possibly performed with special objects at a particular place or time. Object, location, and performer may require purification beforehand. This caveat draws a parallel to the felicity conditions J. L. Austin requires of performative utterances. By "performativity" Austin means that the ritual act itself achieves the stated goal. For example, a wedding ceremony can be understood as a ritual, and only by properly performing the ritual does the marriage occur. Émile Durkheim stresses the importance of rituals as a tool to achieve "collective effervesence", which serves to help unify society. On the other hand, some psychologists compare such rituals to obsessive-compulsive rituals, noting that attentional focus falls on the lower level representation of simple gestures. This results in goal demotion, as the ritual places more emphasis on performing the ritual just right than on the connection between the ritual and the goal.
Magic often utilizes symbols that are thought to be intrinsically efficacious. Anthropologists, such as Sir James Frazer (1854–1938), have characterized the implementation of symbols into two primary categories: the "principle of similarity", and the "principle of contagion." Frazer further categorized these principles as falling under "sympathetic magic", and "contagious magic." Frazer asserted that these concepts were "general or generic laws of thought, which were misapplied in magic."
Principle of similarity
The principle of similarity, also known as the "association of ideas", which falls under the category of sympathetic magic, is the thought that if a certain result follows a certain action, then that action must be responsible for the result. Therefore, if one is to perform this action again, the same result can again be expected. One classic example of this mode of thought is that of the rooster and the sunrise. When a rooster crows, it is a response to the rising of the sun. Based on sympathetic magic, one might interpret these series of events differently. The law of similarity would suggest that since the sunrise follows the crowing of the rooster, the rooster must have caused the sun to rise. Casuality is inferred where it might not otherwise have been. Therefore, a practitioner might believe that if he is able to cause the rooster to crow, he will be able to control the timing of the sunrise. Another use of the principle of similarity is the construction and manipulation of representations of some target to be affected (e.g. voodoo dolls), believed to bring about a corresponding effect on the target (e.g. breaking a limb of a doll will bring about an injury in the corresponding limb of someone depicted by the doll).