taboo A system of magical prohibition in which certain people, animals, objects, actions, and words are untouchable, unmentionable, or not to be done. Taboo systems are universal. The term taboo comes from the Polynesian word tabu. The effect of some taboos is a social Curse: Something or someone is feared for their inherent and dangerous magical or spiritual power, and so they are made outcast. A taboo may be permanent or temporary; an example of the latter is the widespread taboo against touching or having social interaction with menstruating women. Some things are taboo because they are sacred, and to tamper with them will desecrate them and incur divine wrath. It might be taboo to touch royalty or holy objects. Some taboos are intended to purify, protect, and ensure success. For example, prior to a hunt, it might taboo to engage in certain practices, lest the spirits of the intended prey be offended.


  • Gordon, Stuart. The Book of Curses: True Tales of Voodoo, Hoodoo and Hex. London: Brockhampton Press, 1994.


The Encyclopedia of Magic and Alchemy Written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley Copyright © 2006 by Visionary Living, Inc.