Magic is said to be one of the oldest practices in the world. Some people still maintain that magic is a power which exists, potentially, within all of us. Without exception, every culture on Earth has had its own magicians, witches, and magic. This allows us to think that magic may respond to an intrinsic concern of the species, an exercise nearly archetypal in significance. If we could define such practices simply (as Aleister Crowley did so well), we might say that there are those who seek to manipulate the forces of nature and the human interior. This is why it’s commonly said that magicians are the inhabitants of a frontier.
Among the primary tools of magical practice are spells, recipes for the achievement of a specific purpose. These are part of the traditional wisdom of many people and the origins of which are almost always unknown. Still, many of them remain as parts of popular cultures even as they’ve been recorded in ancient books or witchcraft manuals. Spells are therefore as diverse as the sorcerers and witches who’ve existed. And spells can remain as talismans of power, supplications of words, mixtures of ingredients, divinatory acts, and prepared potions,among many other forms. In addition, incantations almost always rely on objects like candles, mirrors, herbs, stones, animals, oils, metals, crystals, and even the stars.
A good number of the spells we know must be performed in specific places, among which, thresholds (places where two worlds meet) or portals are the most common. These include crossroads, cemeteries, ruins, and altars, to name but a few. To cast an enchantment, it’s always necessary to perform a ritual the preparations for which may include cleansing, fasting, and simply choosing not just the place, but a particular date, often related to lunar or agricultural cycles.
Regardless of one’s confidence in the power of magic or spells, the rituals are also deeply seductive in that they reflect, on many levels, the way in which humankind relates to the inexplicable and the invisible. For this very reason, we’ve chosen five spells from among the world’s cultures which invite us to rethink the very nature of magic:
A Celtic spell for the attraction of prophetic dreams
Practiced in the British Isles for centuries, this enchantment establishes communication with an ancient dream oracle. It can be practiced just one night of the year, that which precedes the Feast Day of Mary Magdalene, that is, the night of July 21. The first step is to mix wine, vinegar and water in equal parts and to place the mixture in a bowl near the bed. Then the supplicant submerges a wand of rosemary, removes the excess liquid, and places it between the chest and nightclothes prior to sleeping. Do not speak, and do not say another word that day.
Chinese spell for healing at a distance (with a doll)
In ancient China, women could not take their clothes off in front of anyone, not even in the presence of a doctor. It was thus customary to carve small, anatomically correct dolls in ivory. The miniature served as a medium of communication between the patient and the doctor or healer, who performed the relevant cures on the small statuette. Even today, the dolls are used to perform healing remotely. To do so, one needs to hold the doll in the hands to charge it with energy. Then one murmurs the words of healing and blessing, rubs the doll with olive, castor, or lavender oil, and finally places it inside a circle of healing candles. This ritual should be repeated as many times as necessary.
Mexican divination spell with an egg
This spell from the magical tradition of the pre-Hispanic Mexican peoples, allows one to diagnose a patient (and to make predictions of the future). First, one must rub the egg, preferably one laid that same day, gently against the patient’s body. The egg is then opened onto a plate. Silhouettes formed within the liquid will provide information about the disease and provide information for adequate treatment.
The Secret Cabinet of Good Luck
In Japan, few things are considered as fortunate as objects which represent or emulate the female and male reproductive organs. Traditionally, these should be placed onto a shelf or altar in the home, next to any other good luck charms. The magical space is installed, traditionally, in a place in the house where it may be easily covered or uncovered at the discretion of the inhabitants. This altar is said to radiate its power over those who are near. It’s also propitious to light candles near the altar and to keep the objects clean and thus, charged with energy.
A Coptic talisman for the protection of sailors
The Copts were an ethnic group who inhabited North Africa, in the region that is Egypt today. Being a community of sailors, they created endless spells for the sailors’ protection during their travels. This talisman specifically serves to invoke the blessings of the god Poseidon while on the high seas. First, one needs to draw a picture of Poseidon on a piece of paper. The drawing needs to include his trident and a dolphin at his feet. Subsequently, the drawing must be saved in a small cloth bag such that it can be carried at all times. For the best results, in ancient times, navigators engraved the image onto a piece of aquamarine or beryl stone, the favorite stones of the god of the sea. The amulet then needs to be blessed before setting sail.