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Illuminating the Obscure
  • Writer's pictureRejected Religion

SPOTLIGHT 'Occulture Series' #2: What is 'magic' & how do we see it portrayed in contemporary mediA? Several months ago, I interviewed Andrea Franchetto for the podcast (E22) about magic in the history of religions, and in that discussion we focused on magical practices taken from antiquity and medieval periods. In this video, I'm taking another (brief) look at an academic chapter that I referenced back then, from the book _Defining Magic: A Reader_, edited by Bernd-Christian Otto and Michael Stausberg; the chapter is the General Introduction called "Magic: A Critical Category in the Study of Religions." This chapter discusses 'magic' and the difficulty of the term, the broad semantic field, and the wide range of phenomena and traits that can be categorized as 'magic.' With the help of some examples taken from contemporary TV and films, I discuss Otto and Stausberg's chapter and point out how we see the phenomena and features portrayed in popular media. The topic of magic is one that is eternally fascinating for scholars of religion and esotericism, as it is so difficult to define and categorize. Otto and Stausberg argue that while we most likely can't stop speaking of 'magic' when we often perceive evidence for it, we might consider using the phrase 'patterns of magicity' when dealing with these observations of 'magical' phenomena. These patterns, once identified, can then be analyzed and explained in their own right. This is, of course, only one approach to the topic of 'magic', and some other examples can be found in Egil Asprem's review of Otto and Stausberg's chapter.

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