Thursday, September 1, 2011
Middle Eastern Magic
Semitic Magic: It's Origin and DevelopmentSemitic Magic: It's Origin and Development
Thompson, R. Campbell, Bibliolife
The book like it's cover suggest cover the magic of the Middle Eastern population. It focuses primarily in Mesopotamian culture, Hebrew Bible and Muslim religion. Middle Eastern magic focuses primarily on spirits and their ability to do individuals harm. Middle Eastern Wizards had three classes. The first one was the priest who could banish evil spirits in an official capacity.The next two were village healers and shamans. There was a fourth class a black magician who put hexes on people and maybe dealt with love philtres.
In the Middle East there were three classes of spirits who would do wrong to humanity. The first type was the spirit of the deceased. Usually they were disturbed because they were not properly buried or because their relatives were not leaving food and drink offerings. This is prevalent through out all three cultures discussed. Even in Muslim tradition animals would be slaughtered by the grave their blood smeared at different points. In Mesopotamian mythos offering of food and drink were left by the grave so spirits could derive nourishment.
The second type of spirits was the half man half spirit type. Born from the union of demon and human they were said to have inhabited the spirit world.In the bible Asmodeus was example of this. He is mentioned in the book of Tobit as interfering with a marriage as he laid claim to a human female. Tobit burned some foul incense which drove him away. Lilith was another case in point. She was a species of vampire spirit that cohabited with men and drained their life force. She was also conceive children with them. This species had a male and female gender. Ubartu spirits also mated with human being.
The third type was strictly spiritual. They were called Sheidim in Hebrew and were often described as goat like in appearance. Islamic and Mesopotamian mythology mention these jinn or demaons. They inhabited rivers, lakes , abandoned areas and desert wastelands. One had to avoid such areas in order to avoid harm. When building on new land or moving into a house sacrifices were made to the spirits living their so as not to offend them. Interesting that Iron and loud noises are also offensive to them. Very similiar to faeries.
When someone was plagued by the evil spirits the remedy was often to transfer the demon to another object. The object could be water, clay figures or animals. Transference was used to treat illnesses and possessions. The Demon would be driven into the object and would either be imprisoned or destroyed. Water and salt were agents of cleansing. Much like European witchcraft circles were cast to protect practitioners and secure a magical working space.
Demon usually assaulted people and their homes when they were offended by someone. This could be because a human being broke a Tabu or prohibition or something that was they were not supposed to like marry a human that a demon was love with or touching a corpse. Cleansing rituals were performed and sacrifices were made. Sacrifices were supposed to take the place of the victim.
The last part of the book talks about the sacrifice of the first born. Usually when a first born male is born an animal is sacrificed. The first born belong to the gods. This maybe a carry over of a time when the first born children were actually killed in a sacrifice. Maybe they were even eaten.
Scholarly book with lots of good information. It include models of incantations that were used to ward off harmful spirits but no full rituals are included. The book is dated and often times indigenous populations are referred to as savages.
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