Sorcery is a magical art involving spell casting with the help of spirits, including Demons, and often associated with witchcraft. sorcery is derived from the french word sors, which means “spell.”
Sorcery is engaged to influence one’s lot in the world: love, fertility, luck, health, and wealth; protection against disaster, outsiders, and enemies; redress of wrongs and the meting out of justice; control of the environment; and explanations of frightening phenomena. Sorcerers have the power to harm, curse, and kill and to counteract spells cast by other sorcerers or practitioners of magic. They make use of Familiars, sending them on magical errands to fulfill their spells. They have shape-shifting powers.
Goetic sorcery in Western magic is based on the 72 Spirits of Solomon, also called Fallen Angels. Details of their duties, characteristics, and Seals are given in the Lemegeton, a grimoire attributed to Solomon but probably written much later than his time.
Sorcery is a systems of Magic, Divination and Spell-Casting. The distinction between sorcery and witchcraft is often murky. Both have been nearly universal throughout history and have been defined with different shades of meaning. In many cases, the terms sorcery and witchcraft have been used interchangeably. During the witch hysteria in Europe, however, witchcraft was regarded as different from sorcery.
The word sorcery comes from the French sors, for “spell,” and refers to the casting of spells or the use of charms to influence love, fertility, luck, health and wealth. The French word for “witch” is sorcier. In many societies, the assumption is made that spells have an evil purpose and that sorcerers cast spells against others for whom they have an unjustified hatred. Conversely, sorcery provides protection against other sorcery. Counter-sorcerers, Witch Doctors or medicine men may be sought out to cast protective spells against the evil spells of other sorcerers, or to break evil spells.
Sorcery fulfills various needs in society, such as protecting people and livestock against disaster, outsiders and enemies; redressing wrongs and meting out justice; controlling the environment; and explaining frightening phenomena.
Sorcery is low Magic: it is not a set of beliefs, like high magic, but is mechanistic and intuitive. Some societies still
make distinctions between sorcery and witchcraft. many African tribes view witchcraft as thoroughly evil, while sorcery is close to religion. It is benevolent when performed for the good of society, such as protecting a village or tribe from the evil of enemy sorcerers or from natural disasters, but it is evil if performed for the gain of one individual at the expense of another. The Lugbara, however, view sorcery as more evil than witchcraft, for sorcerers use medicines against others, while witches direct only hostile emotions against others (see African Witchcraft). The Navajo associate witchcraft with death and the dead and sorcery with enchantment by spells; sorcerers, however, also kill others and participate in witches’ sabbats.
Divination is related to sorcery. In some societies it is viewed as completely separate—performed by oracles, card readers, palm readers and the like—while in others it is considered a form of sorcery and is performed by sorcerers or witches.
Sorcerers, like witches, have long been accused of other evil, offensive behaviors: holding orgiastic nocturnal sabbats, conjuring the dead (see Necromancy),Shapeshifting (see Metamorphosis), cannibalism, night riding (see Nightmare), owning and having sex with Familiars and vampirism.
Anthropologists have attempted to distinguish sorcery from witchcraft by defining sorcery as harmful magic, usually illegitimate, that is performed by a professional, the sorcerer. The witch, on the other hand, is a person, usually female, who is believed to be inherently evil, born with the power to commit evil against others, and filled with anger and envy. Such a person has some physical characteristic to distinguish her as a witch, such as a mark, a substance within the body or the Evil Eye. This definition stems from E. Evans-Pritchard, an anthropologist who did one of the first systematic studies of sorcery, among the Zande of Africa, in the early 20th century. The definition does not hold up for sorcery and witchcraft in all societies, and it does not fit contemporary Witchcraft.
In its simplest form, sorcery is magic by the manipulation of natural forces and powers to achieve a desired objective. Neolithic cave paintings depicting rituals for successful hunts give evidence that primitive peoples had a grasp of magic and practiced sorcery. One of the most famous examples is the Sorcerer of Trois Frère cave painting in France, a depiction of an antlered half-man halfbeast or man in animal costume performing a ritualistic walk or dance. The figure may represent a sorcerer or a shaman preparing for a hunt or the god spirit of the forests or animals. The ancient Greeks believed that sorcerers called upon daimones, intermediary spirits between heaven and earth, to help them in their magic. Originally, daimones were neither good nor evil but could be swayed to either purpose (see Demons). Demons began to take on the aspects of evil with Plato’s pupil, xenocrates, who believed that the gods embodied good and daimones embodied evil.
By the sixth century B.C.E., sorcery was associated with fraud. As Christianity developed, sorcery became entangled with Demonology, the system of Demons who served the Devil.
European witchcraft grew out of sorcery, the casting of spells and divination. Until the Inquisition, sorcery was considered a civil crime, punishable under civil law. By the 14th century, the church succeeded in linking sorcery to heresy, making sorcery an ecclesiastical crime. The most odious form of heretical sorcery was witchcraft, the performing of maleficia in service to the Devil. The Malleus Maleficarum (1486), the leading witch- hunter’s handbook of the Inquisition, further strengthened the connection between sorcery and heresy and attributed most witchcraft to women.
During the late middle Ages and renaissance, the term sorcerer was also applied to men of high learning, such as alchemists and physicians, some of whom were believed to derive their knowledge from supernormal sources. Their conjuring of Demons for knowledge or riches was not considered the same as a witch’s conjuring of Demons for maleficia. royalty and popes were reputed to practice sorcery.
The European view of witchcraft as Devil-worship sorcery has lasted to present times. Contemporary Witches, who define their Witchcraft as Goddess worship and benevolent magic for the good of others have sought to re-educate the public, which has proved to be a difficult task.
- Malinowski, Bronislaw. Magic, Science and Religion. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1948.
- Marwick, Max, ed. Witchcraft and Sorcery. New York: Viking Penguin, 1982.
- Rush, John A. Witchcraft and Sorcery. Springfield, Ill.: Charles C. Thomas, 1974.
- Russell, Jeffrey Burton. Witchcraft in the Middle Ages. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1972.
Sorcery is a magical art, usually associated with the low Magic of Spell-casting. Sorcery is derived from the French word sors, which means “spell.”
Sorcery is not a system of spiritual practice like ceremonial magic traditions but is mechanistic and intuitive. It involves the casting of spells or the use of Charms to influence love, fertility, luck, health, and wealth. Sorcery fulfills various needs in a society, such as protecting against disaster, outsiders, and enemies; redressing wrongs and meting out justice; controlling the environment; and explaining frightening phenomena. Sorcerers are universally believed to have the power to harm and kill and to counteract spells cast by other sorcerers or practitioners of magic.
In the West, sorcery usually is associated with harmful black magic and demonic arts and with Witchcraft. In other societies, however, sorcery is regarded more favorably than witchcraft, and in some others it is considered to be more evil than witchcraft.
Divination is related to sorcery, although in some societies diviners are considered to be separate from sorcerers. .
- Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. Harper’s Encyclopedia of Mystical & Paranormal Experience. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991.
- Regardie, Israel. The Tree of Life: A Study in Magic. York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, 1969.
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