Definition of Magic
DEFINITION OF "MAGIC" FROM THE
Magic: ritual performance or activity believed to influence human or natural events through access to an external mystical force beyond the ordinary human sphere. It constitutes the core of many religious systems and plays a central social role in many unliterate cultures.
At one time magic was considered entirely distinct from religion, as consisting of external manipulation rather than supplication and inner grace, and it is still so regarded by many religious thinkers. Contemporary anthropologists and historians of religion, however, tend to hold that since both magic and religion are concerned with the effects on human existence of outside mystical forces, they are generically similar and connected, the specific difference being that magic is usually a more impersonal and mechanical affair, with an emphasis on technique.
There are usually considered to be three main elements in magic: the spell or incantation, the rite itself, and the ritual condition of the performer. Excellent examples of spells are recorded from the earliest times and especially in Greco-Egyptian papyruses of the 1st to the 4th century AD. These include both magical recipes involving animals and animal substances and also instructions for the rites necessary to ensure the efficacy of the spells. The frequently archaic and esoteric vocabulary of incantations may represent in a symbolic sense the mysterious nature of spiritual power and in a practical sense the restriction of human access to it. Personal names are commonly used in spells by magicians to work good or harm upon individuals. This power is regarded in some societies as so strong that each individual bears two names--a "real" one that is kept a careful secret and an everyday title, through which no magic can be worked. Gods and spirits are commonly believed to have special magic names, known only to a chosen few. Along with spells may be included the material objects or "medicines" used in many societies.
The techniques of magic have generally been interpreted as supposed means to specific ends (e.g., the ensuring of an enemy's defeat; the summoning of rain). Another view ascribes a more symbolic, expressive character to such activity. The magic may serve to state and maintain the formal culture and organization of the society; thus, a rainmaking ritual has also the function of stressing the importance of rain and the agricultural activities associated with it.
Even though regarded as an everyday and "natural" phenomenon in the societies it characterizes, magic is nonetheless considered as potentially dangerous and polluting, as is any sacred or religious object or activity. Both the magician and the rite itself are typically surrounded by the observance of taboos, by purification procedures, and the like. Failure to observe such precautions nullifies the magic, and the precautions indicate to the participants and witnesses the importance of the rite itself and the ends desired.
Strains of magic in Western tradition, formerly associated with heretics, alchemists, witches, and sorcerers, persist in modern times in the activities of self-styled Satanists and others.
The terms witchcraft, shamanism, and sorcery are frequently
confused with magic and with each other on the basis of apparent similarities among the
Prospero's Magic in The Tempest
Prospero performs many acts of magic during the course of the play.
*Prospero's power has been learned from his books, which at the end of the play he will drown.
*Prospero's power is exerted through the magic robe he wears and the staff that he carries on stage and will finally break.
*Through the course of the play, Prospero is not only able to raise a storm, but also raises an imprisoned spirit, and is able to raise the dead.
*Apparently limitless in his control of the physical and metaphysical universe (at least within the force field of the island), Prospero is able to summon up powers that other mortals cannot even see. Ariel cannot be seen by other mortals unless he is transformed into a harpy. Also, when Prospero changes himself into a sea nymph, he does so for only his own delight, for he will be "Invisible to every eyeball else." (I.2.302-3)
*Despite his powers, one thing Prospero has no control over is the effects of his magic on human feelings. Negatively, he changes Antonio against his will. Positively, an outpouring of love and joyous emotion between Ferdinand and Miranda. Prospero hoped for this love, but could not create it.