Sociology Index


Magic is the performance of routines, usually in a fixed or rigid manner, designed to influence the future, persuade the ‘gods’ or shape fate. Magic is considered separate from both religion and science. Magic is a category into which have been placed various beliefs and practices which are not verifiable. Magic has historically had pejorative connotations, with things labelled magical perceived as being primitive, or foreign.

The concept of magic has been adopted by scholars in the humanities and social sciences, but many contemporary scholars regard the concept to be so problematic that they reject it altogether. The term magic derives from the Old Persian magu. The term magic was adopted into Ancient Greek, where it was used with negative connotations to apply to rites that were regarded as fraudulent, and dangerous.

The term magic was associated with demons and thus defined as against Christian religion. Protestants often claimed that Roman Catholicism was magic rather than religion, and as Christian Europeans labelled the non-Christian beliefs they encountered magical. The ball player who believes that wearing the same sweater or eating the same meal before a game will determine whether the teams wins or not is performing magic.

Greek magos is first attested in Heraclitus. The Greek mystery religions were strongly magic oriented. Magic is a system that asserts human ability to control or predict the natural world through mystical, paranormal or supernatural means. Magic also refers to the practices employed by a person asserting this ability. 

Messianism, Mysticism, and Magic: A Sociological Analysis of Jewish Religious Movements (Studies in Religion) - by Stephen Sharot (Author). Sharot deals primarily with the Jewish masses. He describes religious currents in which hope focused on either a messiah who would bring redemption or on the means by which the individual could achieve mystical cleaving to God. Also discussed are Sabbatianism, Hasidism, Reform Judiasm, revolutionary socialism, Zionism, and the relationship between religion and magic.