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March 25, 2018
Have We Forgotten the Importance of Magic and Superstition?
“Superstition arises from ignorance, a misunderstanding of science or causality, a positive belief in fate or magic, or fear of that which is unknown.” Wikipedia
Magic and superstition are just as common today as any other time in the past, but the general perception of these words or practices has changed dramatically.
That is to say; there was a time when both magic and superstition were considered as relevant as math, physics or alternative scientific studies and quite often, they were also the source of reason behind many modern-day truths. Although in recent times, most people attribute these concepts as being fantastical or outlandish and devoid of any use other than for the purpose of entertainment.
Here we will take a look at the origins of magic and superstition and how modern society continues to ignore and suppress their true meaning and potential.
The Origin of Magic and the Presence of Superstition
In case you might be asking yourself, magic refers to the power of influencing events with the use of mysterious forces while superstition is a common yet unproven belief that supernatural forces can cause or lead to certain consequences, based on this same belief.
Sorcery and witchcraft are the subjects of several teachings in the Bible, but aside from this testament, there is endless evidence of magic and superstition since the very earliest human societies. In some cases, this practice related to what we know as black magic but in most cases, there was rhyme and reason behind this practice and subsequent beliefs.
In fact, many of these superstitions are still present in society, but we seem to disassociate or discount the relevance of ancient history in the face of the modern world.
For example, in Ancient Egypt, the shape of a triangle was regarded as sacred and a representation of the trinity of the Gods. With this in mind, we can understand the design of some very famous pyramids but also the reluctance of the people to pass beneath a ladder which happened to be leaning against a wall. After all, this formed the sacred shape of a triangle and walking through this symbol was considered disrespectful to the Gods.
Many centuries later, this belief was also usurped by the followers of Jesus Christ, for a ladder had rested against the crucifix of Christ and formed the same ominous symbol.
At the same time, this is just one of many superstitions which share a similar origin and whether they know it or not, just as many people adhere to these superstitious in the modern day. From broken mirrors and black cats to spilling salt and touching wood; this practice is widespread and not because of any magical thinking, but simply because these actions or traditions make sense.
Either way, these superstitions were believed to court misfortune and they are still commonplace in society today.
Changing Perceptions of Magic and the Age of Enlightenment
In order to understand the current perception toward magic and superstition, we must also realize the great significance of religion throughout the centuries and the role it had to play regarding magic.
As you may know, fractions of the Christian community actively condemn magic and attribute any form of this practice as being satanic or for demonic possession. On the other hand, several Christian organizations engage in magical practice while others dismiss this act as nothing more than superstition.
In short, this has always been a rather complex issue, and new age authorities are quick to discredit or demonize magical beliefs among Christians. In fact, ecclesiastical elites consistently condemned this practice in council and moved to portray magic as pagan superstition. Furthermore, Christian rulers established legislation against the use or practice of these beliefs and enforced these laws among their subjects.
If this oppressive rule was not enough, philosophical movement during the 18th Century, in particular, was directly opposed to any argument for superstition or magic. Coincidently, this was also a time when society was less invested or inclined to believe in the power of witches and sorcerers. In many ways, the legitimacy of magic began to dissipate with the arrival of empiricism and rationalism and this period is now known as the Age of Enlightenment.
Belief Systems and the Erosion of Ancient Astrology
In one of the meanings in the Oxford English Dictionary, superstition is defined as an unfounded or irrational belief. In my own instance, this also ascribes religion to be a superstition, for I believe religion to be both unfounded and irrational.
Indeed, there is a sense of irony here, for the fact that religious views were largely responsible for outlawing the practice of magic. More specifically, people are killed every day for sharing an alternate religious belief so does this not suggest that the reality of superstition should be taken more seriously?
Anyway, I digress.
Whether you have a particular stance or belief system for magic and superstition, there is no denying the conventional wisdom in the underlying practice.
As with a cliché or stereotypes, we become almost desensitized to the word “magic” yet the meaning remains sound and entirely logical. In the case of fairytales or heroic quests, there are also similarities at every turn, and the metaphorical reason in these stories offer a similar sense of wisdom to that of superstitions.
With this in mind, we can also look to astrology and consider how a very complex and artful science is now confined to the horoscope section of a newspaper. Ancient astrology was an interpretation of real-world events based on endless study and centuries of observations. When astronomical phenomenon occurred, astrologers recorded these events and sought correlations between the sky and what was happening around them.
However, astrology is now the subject of sneers in modern society, and it provides an easy target for modern psychology. In this sense, modern psychologists prefer to dismiss astrology as an outlandish concept and compel their clients to use an alternative “logic” to overcome their issues.
Have we Forgotten the Relevance of Magic?
While some of us would like to believe that the advanced education and scientific knowledge should be enough to keep superstitious beliefs in check, the signs are all around, and they tell us that superstition is here to stay. In fact, in a time when civilization is apparently so advanced, it seems quite irrational to ignore this overwhelming evidence.
Does it make sense to discount centuries of observations and the teachings of ancient astrologers? Are we right to dismiss these insights as superstitions for events that never come to pass? Or will we realize the irony in that we see them happen time and time again?
The truth is we can only learn from the power of magic or superstition through application and if we maintain the current approach to this practice, we may never understand the insightful knowledge of our ancestors. After all, magic and superstition were once integral pillars of learning and they deserve the same amount of respect as math, physics or any other scientific study. However, it would seem that we need to drop the ignorance first and then seek to understand what we no longer seem to know.