Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Magic is now a term of very wide import. At first it chiefly consisted of astrology and the interpretation of dreams, as practised by a priestly caste, so that then the magic art was distinctly religious, and openly practised without any rebuke (cf. Dan. iv. 9; v. 11). It could not have been long before magic came to deserve the definition which Grimm gave of it - the illicit or harmful use of supernatural powers, thus marking it off from the faculty of working miracles, which is legitimately exercised. This definition was anticipated by Plato, who denounced sorcery - a particular form of magic - as an illegitimate method of forcing the gods to be helpful to man. Hence magic, at first religious, diverged more and more widely from religion as the ethical side of the latter, rather than the ceremonial, was developed. The term "magical arts" in classic times was synonymous with sorcery. People who yvanted to compass unrighteous ends, or even righteous ends by unrighteous means, went to the magician, believing him to have the power to compel supernatural beings to do his will; and so magic - the illegitimate system of communication with the unseen world and influencing the powers thereof - grew up almost side by side with the legitimate system of religion. As Christianity spread and replaced heathen faiths, the gods of the latter were regarded as demons by the new teachers, and - though, of course, in a less degree by their converts. This gave rise to a curious state of things. The old rites and beliefs lingered on, and, having ceased to be religious, became magical. They had in many cases the same end as those to which they had given place, but they stood on a lower plane, and the end was sought by what the new teachers considered illegitimate means. So even after the spread of the new faith among a people recourse was often had to the priests of the old; and Scott in his Demonoloyy tells how the Scotch Presbyterians would send for a Roman priest to lay a ghost or exorcise an evil spirit that defied the efforts of their own ministers. The principle that underlies nearly all magical rites is that of association; but when the ceremonies are examined the association or connection is seen to be subjective, not objective. It exists only in the mind of the magician and of the person who seeks his aid. One of the commonest ends sought by magic was infliction of injury. To effect this, an image was made representing the person whom it was sought to injure, and the image was dried or melted before the fire, pierced with pins and thorns, shot at with a bow and arrow, or in later times with firearms, in the vain hope that the person represented would suffer thereby. The practice is still widely spread. This form of magic was also known as black magic to distinguish it from white magic, which was used to benefit, not to injure. The term magic is also applied to conjuring tricks performed by sleight of hand or with the aid of apparatus. Natural magic is the art of producing apparently supernatural effects by superior knowledge of the powers of nature. [Demonology, Incantation, Witchceaft.]