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J.A. Bailey, M.D.: Early Africans' Story of Magic

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Beliefs in Magic (also called Potency and Dynamism) were no doubt among the first thoughts of Primitive (meaning the original Ancestors of the human race) Africans. Perhaps one of the first practical involvements pertained to Echoes. Because those echoes seemed magical and mysterious, they were attributed to Spirit voices. Furthermore, no matter how far apart, echoes provided a conduit or channel back to the source of what produced it and thus the echo and its source were never isolated or separated from the other. If there was a significant time period between them, the connecting conduit was said to be by way of a mysterious transcendental memory. Maybe this was how Incantations began--the first of the powerful basis for Magic in African Tradition. Incantations (Latin, “to consecrate with charms”) are words of Magic used to infuse power into Spells or Charms or to summon help from the Spirit World. Their two original groups were: Group I Cosmos happenings deemed to be natural events; and Group II happenings being so special as to generate "Wonder." From being awed by the various aspects of the Occult (“hidden”), Primitive Africans were driven to keep exploring the Unseen Realms. To improve, they engaged in the “Pre-scientific Method”--the “Subjective” Science--concerning observations of the Tangible in order to make inferences about the unknown in Unseen planes. This led to the Spiritual view of the Law of Sympathy--i.e. all God's creatures and creations are spiritually related no matter how remote in time or space. This implied things can act on one another at a distance because of them being secretly linked together by invisible bonds. From this principle, there evolved several types of Magic based upon three principles of practices for attempting to force spirits into compliance. They included: (1) the belief of the magic of the word (considering words to be real things that soar into the Intangible and the Immaterial regions of the universe); (2) the magic of the human being him/herself; and (3) the magic of acts of ritual used as a force. These developed out of Africans' efforts to constrain the gods to do magicians' wills by threats as well as by the dynamism of words and spells.

The first of Group I is Homeopathic Magic whereby “like has power to affect like”--an imitative or mimetic event. For example, Primitive Africans thought they could magically make rain happen by throwing water into the air to simulate a fall of rain and/or to make a smoke cloud to help the rain clouds gather around it. However, Interior Very Ancient Africans did not regard “Sympathetic Magic” as, for example, “rain-making” rituals to be magical because, to their way of thinking, it contained no element of Wonder. Instead, such rituals were seen as a “cause” which would bring about an “effect” based upon the “sympathy” invisible bonds connecting rituals with rain-making. Second is “Contagious Magic”--based on the notion that things once joined or which have been in contact continue to act on each other at a distance after the physical contact has ended. To illustrate how magical things are believed by some to happen by one affecting the other, if one made a wish while looking at or touching something connected with good fortune, then the wish would probably come true. Or, a magician can take someone's hair or nail clippings, castoff clothing, or fluids of the intended victim or benefactor; then he/she performs a prescribed formula over these objects under the belief that there is a cause and effect to make her/his wish come true. Third is Imitative Magic--based on the “like brings like” belief, if a hunter desires a good day’s hunting, then he wears images of the game he seeks. Furthermore, that hunter would anoint the weapon which caused a wound in the victim instead of anointing the wound itself. Here, the belief was that the blood on the weapon continues to “feel” with the blood on the victim’s body. If a mother desired a child to replace the one she lost, she would then wear a doll. In modern times, sticking pins into dolls with the idea that whatever they made happen to the doll would similarly happen to the victim. Vodun practitioners (derogatorily called "Voodoo" by Europeans) used such dolls to benefit the person selected, as in lovingly caring for the doll.

As Primitive African forms of Magic evolved over the ages, greater discoveries about the Unseen came from Reasoning by Analogy--i.e. comparing solved and familiar problems as a starting point to deal with difficult situations never seen nor heard of before.


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