Contemporary Ritual Magic

Authored by: Egil Asprem

The Occult World

Print publication date:  December  2014
Online publication date:  December  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415695961
eBook ISBN: 9781315745916
Adobe ISBN: 9781317596769


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‘Ritual’ and ‘magic’ are elusive concepts with long and complicated histories in academic discourse (Styers 2004; Otto & Stausberg 2013). One could easily get lost in a thicket of semantic and theoretical problems when combining the two to talk about ‘ritual magic’. It is, therefore, crucial to stipulate from the outset that ‘ritual magic’ here refers to a historically specific constellation of texts and practices, and their receptions, reinterpretations, and transformations. We are not here discussing ‘magic’ as a cross-cultural type, embedded in (or supporting) ‘ritualized’ behavior, which would require the scope to be truly global. Instead, we will focus on ‘ritual magic’ as a (largely) emic designation for certain forms of practice in the context of modern Western esotericism. (Hence, all figures, practices, and representations mentioned in this article recognize themselves as ‘magicians’ and their practices as ritual or ceremonial ‘magic,’ although, as we shall see, the understandings of what that implies may vary dramatically.) Thus contemporary ritual magic refers to a set of cultural phenomena that are historically related to this historiographical category. This chapter probes the variety of contemporary ritual magic, and explores how changing conditions in society, technology, media, and economy have influenced the practice of ritual magic in contemporary esotericism.

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