What are other kinds of "magic" than the ones found in the West?
December 10, 2012 12:09 PM   Subscribe

Leading off this comment, what are some good sources about magic in the Renaissance? The Roman Era? Ancient China? Egypt? Mesopotamia? Ancient India? Pre-Colombian civilizations? How did they differ from the "dark age" concept of magic?
posted by the man of twists and turns to Religion & Philosophy (13 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't read these but they're on my wishlist:

Ozark Magic and Folklore
Witchcraft in Europe
Magic in the Middle Ages
The Devil's Doctor

May give you a place to start.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 1:00 PM on December 10, 2012

Frances Yates and her books about renaissance hermeticism would be useful.
posted by trigger at 1:04 PM on December 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seconding Frances Yates (came in to link to her) and Witchcraft in Europe. I took a class on magic and belief in early modern Europe and both of those books were on the syllabus. I can only remember one other: The Night Battles by Carlo Ginzburg.
posted by Hactar at 1:16 PM on December 10, 2012

(The Yates book I read was the one on Giordano Bruno.)
posted by Hactar at 1:17 PM on December 10, 2012

Spiritual and Demonic Magic: From Ficino to Campanella by D. P. Walker
Eros and Magic in the Renaissance by Ioan P. Couliano
posted by misteraitch at 1:26 PM on December 10, 2012

Early modern European witchcraft - centres and peripheries, edited by Bengt Ankarloo and Gustav Henningsen.

Ancient Christian magic - Coptic texts of ritual power, edited by Marvin Meyer and Richard Smith.

And, somewhat peripheral to your interests but a book I enjoyed very much (and the Nicolas Flamel who is mentioned in one of the Harry Potter books is in it:

The Jewish alchemists - a history and source book by Raphael Patai.
posted by rjs at 1:42 PM on December 10, 2012

I would recommend the books of Carlo Ginzburg, especially The Night Battles, Ecstasies, and The Cheese and the Worms. Ginzburg is a serious academic and these books rely on a lot of research and eyewitness accounts of cults, "magic" and how the Inquisition treated witches, magicians and other evildoers.
posted by mattbucher at 1:46 PM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you like thinking about this kind of stuff, the (fiction! but peppered with real facts in among the fictional bits) Aegypt Cycle will be right up your alley.
posted by rivenwanderer at 3:01 PM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you have access to the Oxford Bibliographies, this is a good place to start. (Disclosure, I know him from college. His personal bibliography is another place to look.) Magic and Magicians in the Greco-Roman World would be a great book, if it's available at a library near you. Blackwell's slightly more reasonably priced look at the Greek world is here. There are also sourcebooks like Magic, Witchcraft, and Ghosts in the Greek and Roman Worlds. If there's anything in particular you're interested in, there's a lot of amazingly weird rubbish about magic in classical times for free on the internet, but also some interesting articles. Medea is often portrayed in tragedies as a witch and you might find the plays an interesting way to look at magic in society!

(Also, I know I've mentioned it before on the green, but curses are an extremely interesting and fun look at magic in the Roman world. Found from Carthage to Britain, we know more about the wants and desires of people from all walks of life from their curses. Good intro to British curses here.)
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:08 PM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Religion and the Decline of Magic by Keith Thomas
posted by shibori at 12:50 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

For China, though mid-Qing rather than ancient, Philip Kuhn's Soulstealers on a sorcery panic is excellent.
Seconding the Keith Thomas rec as well, superb book.
posted by Abiezer at 6:51 PM on December 11, 2012

For ancient Egypt, Ritner's "Mechanics of Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice" is The Source - and it's available as a free download from UChicago: http://oi.uchicago.edu/research/pubs/catalog/saoc/saoc54.html
posted by Nemtynakht at 8:53 PM on December 13, 2012

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