Talk:Magic in the Graeco-Roman world

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It seems that this article is merely a dump of a research paper. Peter O. (Talk) 15:26, 15 October 2006 (UTC)

That's the impression I get, too.Aeronox 14:50, 17 October 2006 (UTC)

Even if this page is overflowing with seemingly useless hyperlinks, it nevertheless yields in some part accurate information. In addition, the Hellenistic period needs to make references to the origins of Hermeticism to at least some extent. The organization and contextualization, however, are my chief concerns.—Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)

The article works well as a template, continuing modifications should bring the article up to a good standard. (

it is poorly writtten and should be scrapped sot that we can strart over okay? I'll delete it then if yu guys od\nt minSmith Jones

Lol, good one Smith Jones, the irony is appreciated.(

It's slightly irritating me how long the content is. Can someone condense it? They don't have to have to have extensive knowledge on the topic, it's just summarising each topic, yes? I'm afraid I don't have the literary skill to do it myself. (talk) 20:41, 18 October 2014 (UTC)

I wouldn't say that the information is entirely accurate. I think that saying that the practice of magic was a part of everyday life is an overstatement. It was only practiced(if at all practiced) by marginal members of society. People went to sorcerers if they felt that their child had been bewitched. Magic was practiced by people who believed there were ways to control nature. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Nicoya730 (talkcontribs) 06:12, 18 October 2007 (UTC)

I completely agree that the practice of magic is overstated in this article, and it also seems to rely on the Christian demonization of the Greco-Roman world to include religious practices under the label to validate the overstatement. -- (talk) 18:13, 11 April 2008 (UTC)

I would have to track down references, but to my knowledge the employment of magic was fairly widespread. To give you some idea, one of the most common applications for magic charms was not healing severe illness or any such extreme situation, but rather ensuring the success of the chariot team one supported in the regular chariot races. I believe the intro to the Greek Magical Papyri in Translation gives a bit more detail about this. Also, I don't think that the normal ritual procedures of the state religions are intended to be included under the definition of magic here, and in fact the article's lead section makes that explicit. If there's anything in the article that's actually referring to rituals of the state religion, then please point them out. Cheers, Fuzzypeg 02:08, 14 April 2008 (UTC)

I disagree. A more correct statement is what is defined as magic by the Christian Church was fairly widespread. The ritualism, healing practices, and other forms of religious and spiritual practices of public, household, and mystery religions are not considered as magic from a more historical POV. Magic is traditionally identified as anti-religious or unscrupulous paranormal activity. This is why many ancient cultures had laws against curses, love spells, and other such activity, and this is why "pagan" practices are typically identified as magic by the Christian Church. The Christian Church set itself up as the only true religion, therefore any practices not of the Church where against the Church and labeled magic. The religious and spiritual practices are as much magic as is the religious and spiritual practices of Eastern religions such as Buddhism, Hindu, Taoism, and Shinto. -- (talk) 13:52, 12 September 2008 (UTC)
No, when I say "magic" I'm not talking about the pre-Christian state religions, nor the mystery religions, although orpheotelestoi and similar characters were attributed with magical powers. I'm talking about the magic that, as a profession (In Georg Luck's words) "remained suspect and feared among the Greeks", not only amongst the Christians. (Luck, Arcana Mundi p. 5). Despite their tenuous position in society, such magicians were well patronised. According to Hans Dieter Betz, they were widely employed by ordinary people throughout the Greco-Roman world, to administer “remedies for a thousand petty troubles plaguing mankind: everything from migraine to runny nose to bedbugs to horse races, and, of course, all the troubles of love and money” (Betz The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation. 1992 p. xlvii).
I disagree that the normal religions of the time are now looked on as "magic"; at least, they aren't seen that way by any reputable scholar. I also disagree that magic is "traditionally identified as being anti-religious or unscrupulous", except by the kind of people who put credence in the theory of diabolical conspiracies against the One True Church. Magic was seen as unscrupulous during the early modern age in Europe, when thousands of innocents were burnt as 'witches', but nowadays, with rationalism under our belts, and with modern approaches to the study of our fellow man, such judgements are no longer made except in religious polemics. Fuzzypeg 23:56, 17 September 2008 (UTC)
Do you really want to cite Georg Luck's Arcana Mundi for what was seen as "magic" and what was not? Luck included the oracles, seers, and the divination performed in Greece and Rome under his definition. These were religious acts. Not that the book is without value, but the audience it was written for needs to be taken into consideration. He paints what is included under the label of magic with a broad brush, including religious and spiritual acts and magical, and philosophers as sorcerers. If this is not using the standards created by Christianity to label what is and is not magic, then what is? Luck presents a single POV, while Wikipedia is suppose to be encyclopedic and neutral. -- (talk) 13:19, 18 September 2008 (UTC)
A basic definition of magic, to separate it from religion, is something done to effect change in the real world. Oracular vision is indeed "magic", regardless of any context in religion. A lot of time, the lazy definitions seem to fall into the binary of "contemporary religion is relgion, and dead religions are magic." Luck's definition is fine, as far as I know. Ford MF (talk) 15:19, 18 September 2008 (UTC)
And, I believe you are using a biased POV based on Christinization. Lesley and Roy Adkins write in Handbook to Life in Ancient Greece (1997, p 360) that what was considered magic must be separated from what was considered religious, and that magicians had disappeared by the time of Classical Greece. A personal interpretation of any "dead religion" as magic is fine, but it is not worthy of an article meant to be encyclopedic and neutral. In fact, this article seems to be more original research, than anything else, without an appreciation for the historic time-line. -- (talk) 15:53, 18 September 2008 (UTC)
You seem to have taken my comment to mean the opposite of what I actually meant; I was not endorsing the lazy view that dead religions were magic. But the idea that magic and religion are mutually exclusive is simply wrong. Oracular vision was just as magic then as seances are today; both are religion, both are magic. The Lesley and Adkins book, while a fine resource and a fascinating thing to dip into, is a general reference, not a definitive academic resource, and not intended for specialists of classics or anthropology. Ford MF (talk) 00:11, 19 September 2008 (UTC)
My response remains the same. A personal interpretation of whatever you want as magic is fine, but it is not worthy of an article meant to be encyclopedic and neutral. -- (talk) 13:59, 19 September 2008 (UTC)
And if they assert that magicians had disappeared by the time of Classical Greece, then, well, they must have reappeared again, because they were fairly common in late antiquity, according to Betz and the various books I've seen on the subject. Magika Hiera ed. by Faraone and Obbink has a good range of information. Ancient Greece and Rome used to be idolised as a golden age of (relative) rationalism, and the growing quantity of evidence surrounding magic and "superstition" in those times has not always been gratefully received, but it is now well established among Classicists and not to my knowledge questioned by anyone. Now, to clear up any misunderstandings regarding what Luck terms "magic", what the Christian Church termed "magic", what the pagans termed "magic", and all such interfaces between different semantic systems, see Arcana Mundi pp. 457 to about 474. Fuzzypeg 02:17, 19 September 2008 (UTC)
Again, look at your source. It is a book written for an audience who want to believe the philosophers were magicians, and magic was intimately woven into the Greek religion. One becomes hard-pressed to find that opinion being pushed in books specifically on the history of Ancient Greece, the Greek religion, or the philosophers, even with the CM's best friend Iamblichus. All this article does is take aspects of Greek myth, religious practice, and thought, and insist they are magic. I mean really, the section "Definition" says so much by somewhat explaining what was considered magic by the Greeks and then making references to Judaism an Christianity to validate an opinion they were wrong about themselves. This is a nice essay for an Occult site, but I don't believe it meets Wikipedia standards. -- (talk) 13:59, 19 September 2008 (UTC)
You're moving from the ridiculous to the sublime. I have mentioned more than one source, and none of them claim that the philosophers were all magicians or that magic was a core part of Greek religion (in the pages I've cited above, Luck discusses how Christianity at times regarded philosophers as magicians, and certain pagan practices as magic). Furthermore, the sources I have mentioned are standard works on the subject. You seem to be both misunderstanding Georg Luck, and painting him as an ideosynchratic crank, whereas he is an extremely highly regarded professor emeritus at the head of his field. Your arguments are so disconnected from the sources I've read, I don't really know what to make of them. I'm struggling to take anything concrete out of what you're saying.
You do mention this book by Lesley and Adkins, and say it claims that "magicians had disappeared by the time of Classical Greece". That's the most concrete thing you've said so far, but it sounds very surprising. Could you give us an exact quote perhaps, so we can be sure exactly what they're saying? The reason I'm surprised is that we have plenty of archeological examples of things like curse tablets dating from the time; we have the Greek magical papyri (from Hellenised Egypt); we have records of theurgy; we have famous trials of those accused as magicians, such as Lucius Apuleius (who acquitted himself); and we have contemporary accounts of professional sorcerers selling their services in the streets. Thessaly was famous for its magicians, and from the time of the Persian war the Eastern approach to sorcery spread from here through the entire Greek world. Basically, there's a hell of a lot of evidence to explain away here if you want to say there were no magicians in Greece. Fuzzypeg 01:22, 22 September 2008 (UTC)
The reason I quoted Lesley and Roy Adkins is because their book is one of very few that even entertain the word beyond a very limited notation, but I have more.
Greek Religion: Archaic and Classical by Walter Burkert, on Page 55, states in a small snippet on a larger discussion regarding religious ritual, "In early Greece, where the cult belongs in the communal, public sphere, the importance of magic is correspondingly minimal. And however much the Greeks may hope that good things will flow from pious acts, they are nevertheless always aware that fulfilment in not guaranteed, but lie in the lap of the Gods."
In Ancient Greek Religion, Jon D. Mikalson discusses magic only on pages 193 and 194, and states "Such stories were certainly told in classical Athens, and amulets, evil-eyes, and other magical means were employed against these fearful things (evil spirits), but they are very much matters of private practice, outside and perhaps beneath the notice of the traditional religious system..."
In Athenian Popular Religion, Mikalson, on page 23, states "The lack of mention of such magic rites in the more public sources suggests that while they may have been privately practiced, they to some extent lacked public acceptability." Mikalson goes on to state on the same page these practices where considered impious.
In A Handbook of Greek Religion by Arthur Fairbanks, page 35, it is states, "Worship, in truth, was no more magic or barter than it was purely spiritual adoration." On page 124, Fairbanks states the Greeks had an "epic aversion to magic." And later, on page 146, in discussing the banishing of evil spirits, he states, "In later Greek practice such rites were not yet extinct; they have, however, so little of religion about them, they are so definitely magic and not worship, that they hardly require our consideration"
Theurgy and the Soul: The Neoplatonism of Iamblichus by George Shaw only discusses magic in regards to the "Letter of Porphery to Anebo" as today being notoriously used "as an apology for the practice of magic," but makes no other references linking theurgy to magic.
This article, like the books Magika Hiera and Arcana Mundi, spends a good bit of time validating calling practices magic that are not seen as magic.
Let's really look at this article for a moment. It's title is "Magic in the Greco-Roman world", and correctly defines Greco-Roman as the post-hellenistic world of the Greeks and Romans. Yet, the article relies on non-Greco-Roman periods of Greece, and seems to ignore what is considered magic, in many respects. BTW, in the section on "Magic in Classical Greece", the article states Orpheus is a mythical figure, said to have lived in Thrace “a generation before Homer”, and that would be at the dawn of the Archaic or even within the Dark Age of Greece, not Classical Greece.
It then goes on to define what the Greeks saw as magic, but attempts to dismiss it by using Jewish and Christian references to validate what the contributors want to call magic. The section on "Homeric magic" continues to try to make the argument for use of magic. This really should be a subsection of the "Definition", don't you think? In any event, it is rather telling that a good third of the article if used to validated what contributors want to call magic in the later Greco-Roman world.
The article also calls Orpheus, Pythagoras, and Empedocles Greek magoi when it earlier stated that during that time period the word was associated with the Magi of Persia. The article continues with implying that gifts of healing and prophecy are magical, when these gifts were part of public religion and not considered magic.
A step further, the section on magic in the Hellenistic period almost exclusively talks about Greco-Roman Egypt. The Hellenistic period ended first with the defeat of Greece, and a final death blow with the defeat of Cleopatra and Rome taking full control of Egypt. It is after these events that we start talking about the Greco-Roman world. If there were "plenty of archaeological examples" of magic then you would have greater discussion of that outside of works written for audiences wanting to learn about magic. You should also take a good read of some of those Greek curse tablets. They read as petitions and pleadings to the Gods. They are prayers. Maybe not the fluff many think a prayer should be, but the Greeks did not have fluffy Gods.
The fact is, modern scholarship tends to avoid using labels, such as magic, for the religious acts of ancient cultures. This article begins correctly stating "magic is generally seen as a ritual or supernatural practice to influence the world, but distinct from religion or science," but then wants to include acts such as healing, divination, spirit communication, petitioning the Gods, gifts from the Gods, mystical contemplation, and so on as magic. These were part of the religion, and are not anything that should be called magic in an article with a NPOV, and again, the fact that a third or more of the article needs to define and defend the use of the word is evidence of that. -- (talk) 14:58, 22 September 2008 (UTC)
The quotes you provide merely support my statement that magic/sorcery existed in Greece, and that it was viewed with suspicion by official religion. I'm not sure what point you're trying to make by them. You go on to provide your own analysis of Shaw's article (which I haven't read) and claim that like Georg Luck and the contributors to Magika Hiera, he attempts to classify elements of state-supported religion as magic, and that that's wrong. Now, if all these experts really are using that classification, who are you to say they're wrong? But is that even what they're saying? The fact that magic sometimes involved divination doesn't have to mean that all divination should be considered magic! Even though magic could involve appeal to divinities, and was sometimes directed towards healing, divination and other things that were also present in more mainstream cult practices, none of this need make it any less magic. Magic need not exclude religion, and I don't think any experts on the subject take such a black and white view.
All you've demonstrated so far is that you don't like the academic consensus on how the word "magic" is used. Your own ideas may or may not be valid, but they're not useful to Wikipedia, as they constitute original research. We're chewing through a huge amount of talk page here, as well as each other's time and the time of the poor people who try to read all this. Please put aside your own interpretations and commentary, and either give us something concrete to work with (like the Lesley and Adkins quote), or drop it. Fuzzypeg 00:08, 23 September 2008 (UTC)
Did you actually read my response or are you just reacting? I never said magic did not exist is ancient Greece, I am stating, as Nicoya730 did, that this article both overstates and misrepresents the subject. It is not just an issue of the "state religion" but a fact that is was considered a low practice from society as a whole. I can say "all these experts are wrong" because a broader study of ancient Greece, the ancient Greece religion, and philosophy does not come close to supporting the claims in this article.
How "academic" and "scholarly" is it to point to the healing and divination associated with the religion to "prove" the irreligious practices of assumed existing magicians? How "academic" and "scholarly" to point to misrepresent historical figures to "prove" the existence of magicians? You accuse me of original research, but you make statements such as "magic need not exclude religion," which may fit very well within your worldview and agree with your personal opinion, but does not fit within an article on ancient Greece, which is suppose to be encyclopedic and neutral.
It takes a lot of gall to insist I provide "something concrete to work with" when I have been the one providing references to works about the actual history of ancient Greece, Greek religion, and philosophy, while you rely only on George Luck's book that is obviously written for a specific audience. Is it wrong to assume you actually have read Arcana Mundi, the source you want to rely on? Have you read the introduction of this book, and how Luck admits blurring the lines between religion and magic to support his writing? Lets be serious, he even goes so far as to use the word magical as an adjective to describe animal sacrifice. His references to an older goddess religion and "Earth Mother cult" seems to indicate that he is one of the few who still buy the idea of an ancient Goddess monotheism. Is this article suppose to be about "magic in the Greco-Roman world" or is it an article on how occultists interpret the practices of ancient Greece and Rome as magic? -- (talk) 13:27, 23 September 2008 (UTC)

New header for breathing room[edit]

If anything, the sources you quote support the opposite point (except generic ones like the Adkins book, which no Classical scholar would be caught dead citing above a freshman-level class, and even then it'd be dubious): That magical practices existed under most all eras of Greek and Roman civilization up through Christianity.

Also, you keep saying "what the Greeks saw as magic". What the Greeks saw is irrelevant here. Insisting on defining "magic" by what the Greeks themselves reckoned is by definition POV, so the one straying from NPOV tone here is you, not your detractors. Voudou practitioners might reject the idea that what they're doing is magic. It doesn't matter. Anthropologists will note but generally ignore a subject's opinion of themselves. I mean, it can be mentioned that XXXX is something the Greeks did not consider to be magic, but hey, if you are trying to effect change in the world (whether or not it is "guaranteed"), then what you are doing is magic, just the same as when priests claim that wine is turned into literal blood, that is magic. Ford MF (talk) 14:21, 23 September 2008 (UTC)

They do support it, but as unscrupulous irreligious practices, superstition, or just plain mummbo-jumbo, not as the interpretation of religious practices as magic or priests and philosophers as magicians. I'm not sure I understand your argument on POV. Are you saying that oculist interpretation of Greek religious practices as magic is more correct than the general academic community segregating the two? So that I better understand your opinion of magic, do you consider Catholic ritual to be magic, and their priests to be magicians? -- (talk) 16:02, 23 September 2008 (UTC)
Some academics continue to insist on a clear distinction between religion and magic, however this is now a somewhat old-fashioned view. Ronald Hutton, for instance, claimed in Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles that magic and religion were separate and distinct, and that a blending of the two would have been inconceivable to any pagan of the ancient world. Following a fierce debate with Don Frew, he actually came around, and accepted that there is a hazy boundary between the two. I can track down references, and some of other academic opinions they were citing in their arguments, if you like.
Now an "occult" interpretation (I think that's what you're referring to; typo) is neither here or there. Occultists aren't necessarily just daft in the head, and some follow the historical scholarship on the subject, but what we're discussing here is history, not occultism. More specifically, we're discussing your attempt to convince us that magicians did not exist in Classical Greece (18 Sept, above, where you mention the Adkins' book), that "magic" is largely only relevant as a Christian pejorative for describing mainstream pagan cult practices (12 Sept, above), and that "Magic is traditionally identified as anti-religious or unscrupulous paranormal activity" (also 12 Sept).
I'm in complete agreement that magic was considered a "low practice" in the Greco-Roman world (I quoted Luck above, 17 Sept, as saying it was "suspect and feared"), but then, so was prostitution. Many people still went to prostitutes, and many people went to sorcerers (who were quite often also prostitutes, as it so happens!). So the simple fact that it was frowned upon doesn't mean that it was also rare. Fuzzypeg 01:09, 24 September 2008 (UTC)
The methods of modern historians and scholarship has evolved to use a scientific method to help reveal the reality and truth of ancient cultures and history overall. When analyzing opinions, it is important to consider who wrote what, based on what facts and evidence, and to what audience. A prime principle modern scholarship is judged is what level of bias does a historian inject into their analysis. Hutton is another example of an author writing to an audience who want a certain vision of the past. What is "a somewhat old-fashioned view" is the idea that we use Christianity's intentional damnation of competing religions or occultists' romanticized interpretations to define ancient religious practices. This essay is even evidence of the fact contributors felt the need to spend an inordinate amount of time arguing the definition of magic, why ancient Greek practices where magic despite their own rejection of it, and why prominent historical figures, such as Pythagoras and Empedocles, are magicians despite any real measurable or empirical evidence supporting it, and rather than talking about what actually was considered magic by ancient Greeks. This article is more an apologetic argument attempting to support and defend occult beliefs and practices, than an encyclopedic narrative with a NPOV. -- (talk) 14:44, 28 September 2008 (UTC)
You seem to be making repeated implicit accusations that editors who oppose your view have some sort of secret occultist agenda, which is now starting to impinge upon WP:AGF. Allowing subjects to define themselves is the very height of POV, which is why we don't reckon European nomads barbaros on Wikipedia, even though the Greeks unambiguously would have. I will not disagree with you that the current article needs some copy-editing, but the notion that Pythagoreanism and Pythagorean mathematics contains no germ of mysticism is patently untrue, and is not a statement supported by anything even approaching mainstream scholarship on the subject. Ford MF (talk) 20:06, 28 September 2008 (UTC)
Point of fact, mysticism and magic are not synonymous. You may want to believe that philosophical mysticism is magic, but that is a single POV, and one generally not promoted or endorsed by works on Greek philosophy. -- (talk) 14:24, 29 September 2008 (UTC), you really need to sign up for an account. Now, in one breath you praise the evolved scientific method of modern historiography, and in the next you write off a historian as "another example" of an author pandering to a certain market. I don't believe you really understand the state of academic scholarship on the subject, when you make such arbitrary judgements. Hutton, as it turns out, isn't very reliable, but you have similarly flicked off authors like Luck, Betz and the contributors to Magika Hiera, on the basis that they have "written for a specific audience". They are specialists in magic in the ancient world, writing for other specialists; that makes them more reliable and relevant to this article, not less.
The article needs work, yes. That's a different argument though. All that concerns me here is your misguided attempt to convince us that magic was absent from the Greco-Roman world. Now how about that Lesley and Roy Adkins quote? The single source you have so far mentioned which supposedly supports your bizarre position? Please give us something concrete to work with rather than all this loggorhoea. Fuzzypeg 04:16, 29 September 2008 (UTC)
Single source? Did you miss the other sources I listed? Heck, many of the resources listed don't even support what is stated. For example, Dodds' book The Greeks and the Irrational, one of the books from the resource list actually used in the article, calls Empedocles a shaman, not a magus. In fact, the word magus is never used in the book. I never said magic did not exist, I stated that magic in this article is overstated and misrepresented based on a biased and slanted POV. What you are saying is the only valid resources are sources that want to describe ancient religiosity as magic, and philosophers as magicians. Your opinion seems to be books actually on the subject of the Greek religion and Greek philosophy are not valid. -- (talk) 14:08, 29 September 2008 (UTC)
No, I didn't miss your list of citations; as I have previously stated, they have no clear relevance to your argument, but actually confirm my position. You now make another arbitrary judgement that only the word "magus" is permissable to describe a practitioner of magic. You're grabbing random factoids from scattered sources and interpreting them in a most *ahem* liberal fashion, while at the same time ignoring the broader conclusions of these various works, in an effort to tell us that magicians were extinct by the time of classical Greece, and that what is now termed "magic" was simply the standard religious practices of the state-supported religions.
In the mean time, you're carving up the article at a huge rate, chopping out cited sections of text on the basis that you don't consider them relevant. Judging by your ability to argue a point coherently here, I suspect your wholesale removal of text may be similarly misguided. I will discuss that in a separate section. Fuzzypeg 22:29, 29 September 2008 (UTC)
I did not say only the word "magus" is permissible to describe a practitioner of magic. I said that it was not supported in the text cited, and now I'm sure I know why. The original contributor did not actually read or use Dodds' book in creating this article. It has become painfully obvious when I looked over Arcana Mundi again that the original contributor to the article just cited the same sources Luck cited, as to not look like he was doing a book report on Arcana Mundi. But beyond that, your own statements contradict this article and Luck's work. You stated that the practice of magic was separate from the religion, yet this article wants to describe aspects religion as just that. Luck even calls very prominent aspects of the public religion, such as animal sacrifice and oracles, as magic. Do you want it both ways? -- (talk) 14:37, 30 September 2008 (UTC)

Disputed References List[edit]

I started to examine the reference for this article, and I do not believe many of the sources were ever used in the creation of the article. This is not the first time I have noticed a large list of references created to bolster an article in hopes they will not be verified. I will give an opportunity to add page reverences to the individual works to specify where they re related to an this article before I begin deleting. One of the first sources I questioned and pulled made no reference at all to magic, or the assertions made in the article. -- (talk) 15:39, 23 September 2008 (UTC)

Which source? Ford MF (talk) 19:59, 24 September 2008 (UTC)

Reference 1 - links to a BNET article that no longer exists. The book listed has 5 volumes, none are listed in the reference, neither are page numbers, ok to delete as is misleading at best? — Preceding unsigned comment added by Nightowl89j (talkcontribs) 01:18, 14 January 2013 (UTC)

Also, the reference I wanted more information about, the 3rd century magician's kit, leads to Perseus Lookup Tool. And when I use this tool, I find nothing. (talk)Chezzo Osman — Preceding undated comment added 13:39, 30 March 2014 (UTC)

Fritz Graf[edit]

Amazon says he's boring, but surely essential to the article? Which I agree, it's an essay. Stubify, start all over. You can't rewrite an essay to make it encyclopedia. Doug Weller (talk) 14:28, 29 September 2008 (UTC)

for once, I tend to disagree with Doug. It would be a pity to stubify this. If you want to spend some time with this, apply inline tags to dubious passages. Somebody will need to sit down for a few hours with it before it turns into a good article, I'll agree, but there is some good material to work with already. It is difficult to overestimate the impact of the "Hellenistic New Age boom", but this applies only to say 200 BC to 300 AD, not the entire "Greco-Roman world". --dab (𒁳) 18:27, 29 September 2008 (UTC)

Since you both are obviously interested and invested in the article, would either of you mind perhaps weighing in on the debate above, as it just seems to be going in circles and is desperately in need of new blood. Ford MF (talk) 18:31, 29 September 2008 (UTC)

  • I've tagged this as {{essay-entry}}, which it clearly is. There are large chunks which need to completely go, but some of what's already there is definitely usable and can be easily melded into a proper article. Certainly the topic is a very valid one. Moreschi (talk) 21:00, 29 September 2008 (UTC)

Completely delete "Homeric magic"?[edit]

If we remove every instance of personal interpretation, labeling divine intervention and other acts in primary source material as magic, it leaves a thin and incoherent section. I believe it should be deleted. -- (talk) 19:39, 29 September 2008 (UTC)

Delete section "Magic in Classical Greece"?[edit]

The article does not support its own claims. It identifies both Orpheus and Pythagoras as theois aner, which he reports to translate to "divine man", but can be more correctly translated to "man of God." This is in the same light as other miracle workers. The main source labeling Empedocles as a magus does not make such a statement. There is nothing there to salvage. -- (talk) 20:22, 29 September 2008 (UTC)

There are good sources. Arcana Mundi: Magic and the Occult in the Greek and Roman Worlds - A Collection of Ancient Texts , G. Luck, John Hopkins University Press; 2Rev Ed edition (16 May 2006). Among the Gods: An Archaeological Exploration of Ancient Greek Religion By John Ferguson has a chapter on magic. I've already mentioned Kraft. Magic and Magicians in the Greco-Roman World by Matthew Dickie Routledge; 1 edition (19 Dec 2002) can be 'searched inside' [1] looks extremely useful. This is clearly a valid field of study, the article needs fixing, sure, including this section. Doug Weller (talk) 21:34, 29 September 2008 (UTC)
I pulled my copy of Arcana Mundi, and it calls Orpheus, Pythagoras, and Empedocles miracle-workers, theois andres, and "divine men" (page 11). Additionally, despite attributing the claims of this section to other sources, it appears to be a synopsis of pages 41 and 42. In fact, it so closely resembles those pages (even representing the sources Luck used as the original contributor's own), that I think it may cross the line into plagiarism.-- (talk) 13:36, 30 September 2008 (UTC), from the discussions above it is becoming increasingly clear that you have preconceived opinions that you're trying hard to read into your various sources. Rather than providing quotes which directly support your statements, you're relying on your own analyses, such as word searches. You also discount certain highly regarded authors on the subject because they're "writing for a specific audience" (that audience being scholars of greco-roman magic!) or because you claim they have made some error and cannot be trusted. Such analyses on your part constitute original research, and have no place at Wikipedia. Not even on the talk pages. All this verbiage is getting out of hand, and it's made worse by the fact that, when challenged on any particular point, you simply skip to some different and equally unconvincing point. You are coming up with copious references, but don't seem to have understood them, and you are dragging your heels on providing the clarifications of source texts that I have requested, specifically a quote from Lesley and Roy Adkins regarding magicians being extinct by the time of classical greece. You obviously have access to a lot of books, but I don't want to hear 20 vague assertions each with an author's name tacked on the end, I want to see one concrete statement in the Adkins' own words. If you can't give us that, then how can you expect us to take any of your other citations seriously? Fuzzypeg 23:00, 29 September 2008 (UTC)
The reason I can state authors like Luck are writing for a specific audience is because their claims of what was and was not magic is not supported by works on ancient Greek history, culture, and religion. If you want to have an article about curse tablets, wax dolls, and amulets then fine, go for it, but many of the claims made in this article cannot be substantiated outside of books with the word "magic" in the title. Again, you seem to present an opinion that books actually on the subject of the Greek religion and Greek philosophy are not valid. -- (talk) 13:48, 30 September 2008 (UTC)

Deleted sections[edit]

An anonymous editor has been deleting substantial sections of text. I'm not convinced that these deletions are all warranted. There are indeed problems with some of the text, but and in light of our discussions above I'm worried that these deletions may be overzealous, POV-pushing, or disruption to prove a WP:POINT. The removed sections are:

The History of Animals,[1] a work attributed to Aristotle, seeks to establish that the planets and the fixed stars and daemons (lower order spirits) influence life on earth, and advocates a concept of sympathies and antipathies applied to the forces of the animal world, under the influence of the stars. The attribution of much of this material may be spurious, since Books 7-10 of the History, in which these ideas mostly appear, are not considered genuine by most scholars (Book 10, for instance, is missing in the oldest extant manuscript),[2] but the material still probably reflects teachings of the Aristotelian school.[2] These are teachings that support the central tenets of the magician, and they show that distinctions between magic and religion are to a large degree merely a result of cultural perspective.

The last sentence is uncited and vaguely refers to the "central tenets" of a magician, which does indeed sound dodgy, but the rest of the text is still usable, since Thorndike mentions the History of Animals as evidence "that Greek science at its best was not untainted by magic." (Lynn Thorndike, Place of Magic in the Intellectual History of Europe, p. 62.) For a more recent reference regarding this, see Luck's Arcana Mundi p. 43, where he states that this work shows an Aristotelian belief in astrology, a system of sympathies and antipathies, and (in principle at least) deamons.

I was going to try to copy a number of the deleted sections out here and comment on them, but several are quite difficult to extricate from the surrounding text, and quite clearly deleted unnecessarily, so I'll try to do some fix-ups in the article. I may deposit some more questionable sections here for comment. Fuzzypeg 00:50, 30 September 2008 (UTC)

Righto. I've quite easily found supporting sources for some of the deleted sections; I've also removed a couple of "failed verification" tags, since I discovered that the cited text was indeed correct., in future, please refrain from deleting sections of text. Either tag the sections indicating what your problem is, or raise the issue here on the talk page. I agree that there were problems with some of the wording, but entirely deleting these sections is overkill and wastes a lot of other editors' work. If you can't make sense of these sections of the article, perhaps another editor can! Fuzzypeg 02:35, 30 September 2008 (UTC)
The only citations are (1) a translation of History of Animals to prove History of Animals exists. Do we really need that? It is just an attempt to make the citations look more substantial than they really are. And, (2) the reference to page 24 of A History of Magic and Experimental Science does not support the statement claimed. It states, "...we cannot explain away the vagaries of the Timaeus as flights of poetic imagination or try to make out Aristotle a modern scientist by mutilating the text of the History of Animals." On page 27, in citing the same text, "However, these expurgations save the face of Aristotle rather than Hellenic science or philosophy generally, as the spurious seventh book is held to be drawn largely from Hippocratic writings and the ninth from Theophrastus." -- (talk) 12:27, 30 September 2008 (UTC)
Added: I'm becoming more and more convinced this article is little more then a report of Luck's chapter called Magic, in Arcana Mundi.
From page 43-44:
"Aristotle is convinced that the planets and the fixed stars influences life on earth, and in principle at least, he too believed in the existence of daemons. In his History of Animals a better title would be Biological Researches, because historia originally meant "research," not "history" is the modern sense), he already suggests the magical theory of sympathies and antipathies, in the animal world, under the influence of the starts, a theory that reflects a good deal of ancient Greek folklore. Some of this pseidoscientific theories are found in Book 7-10 of the History, but because they do not fit our image of Aristotle, there are serious doubts concerning the authenticity. Book 10, for instance, is missing in the oldest extant manuscript; but even though Aristotle himself may not have written it in this form, it seems to reflect the teachings of his school. Books 7 and ( have been rejected by modern editors, but it seems that Book 7 uses material from respectable Hippocratic writings and that Book 9 relies of Theophrastus; hence these portions cannot lightly be discarded as later fabrications."
If this is not plagiarism, it is walking a very thin line, and adds weight to my leaning to believe this article is nothing but a book report. -- (talk) 14:59, 30 September 2008 (UTC)


  1. ^ Historia animalium / Aristotle; with an English translation by A.L. Peck. Vol 3.
  2. ^ a b L. Thorndike, A History of Magic and Experimental Science, p. 26.


I need some other editors to help out here! User: has been making some fairly extensive deletions from the article and is pushing for even more sweeping alterations, which seem to be based entirely on WP:OR (see discussion above). I've been trying to hold things together, with a little help from a couple of other editors, but there's a limit to how much time I can spend on this. If you have any knowledge/expertise in this area, please jump in and help me out! Thanks, Fuzzypeg 02:42, 30 September 2008 (UTC)

Can everyone please remember that "there is no deadline"? This article has been sitting here for ages. Yes, it should be tagged as problematic, but once we've done that, the reader is warned to use it with extra caution, and we can take our good time to fix it. This isn't easy, since it will eat a lot of expert time. Random blankings aren't helpful if you don't know what you are doing. If you have the expertise, by all means start plodding away. If you don't, you'll need to acquaint yourself with the relevant literature before being able to make judicious estimates. This isn't a topic you can learn about in college or on popular websites: you really need to go to the academic literature directly. --dab (𒁳) 09:54, 30 September 2008 (UTC)

note the main sub-articles at Greek magical papyri, Curse tablet and Ephesia Grammata, which seem less prone to uninformed additions. The literature section at present is cluttered with too much tangential material. Luck (1985) sounds like a good starting point. Searching for "Hellenistic magic" on amazon, I find the following promising titles:

  • Jon D. Mikalson Religion in Hellenistic Athens (1998)
  • Ankarloo (ed.) Witchcraft and Magic in Europe, Vol. 2: Ancient Greece and Rome (1999)
  • George Luck, Arcana Mundi: Magic and the Occult in the Greek and Roman Worlds: A Collection of Ancient Texts (2006)

these less-than-a-decade old titles should be useful for coming to terms with the general outline of the topic as it presents itself in current academia. --dab (𒁳) 09:56, 30 September 2008 (UTC)

I have Mikalson's Religion in Hellenistic Athens (as well as others of his works) and I think you will be disappointed. Like I said before, academic works actually on ancient Greek history, culture, and religion do not support the claims made in this article. The only mention of magic in Mikalson's work is a vague reference to curse tablets and wax dolls, on page 319, in a larger paragraph about religiosity.-- (talk) 12:42, 30 September 2008 (UTC)

I think is a bit too eager to delete things. The article needs a lot of work, yes, but the IP seems to be operating with an unduly restricted definition of magic. The Oxford Classical Dictionary article on magic (signed by Hank Versnel) gives Circe as an example of a witch (not really surprising to anyone who's read the Odyssey) and names other classical sources.

Hm. I see that people have already mentioned the books Magika Hiera and Arcana Mundi as good secondary sources, and our IP says that "This article, like the books Magika Hiera and Arcana Mundi, spends a good bit of time validating calling practices magic that are not seen as magic." Never mind that those books were written by experts in the topic of ancient Greek magical practices...I think, perhaps, the IP has an axe to grind. --Akhilleus (talk) 13:59, 30 September 2008 (UTC)

Many scholars present what can be described as fringe theories. Pointing to two sources that wish to describe and argue that religious practices are magical, and holy men and philosophers are magicians, does not make it a widely accepted idea. If you want to call Circe a witch then fine, but this article does limit itself to those individuals generally accepted as witches and magicians, and those acts that are generally accepted as magic. Arcana Mundi also paints Jesus as a socerer from the Greco-Roman world. This is not a fringe theory? -- (talk) 15:56, 30 September 2008 (UTC)
You're too eager to jump to black and white conclusions. You have for instance asked me to commit myself to deciding whether religious practices do or don't count as magic, when the boundary between religion and magic is generally considered to be rather hazy. Philosophers too, you insist either were or weren't magicians, despite the broad diversity of schools of philosophy in the ancient world: surely it is possible that some philosophers strayed more into the realm of magic than others??! These strict polarisations aren't present in our sources, only in your own analyses. The sources present more sophisitcated accounts. For example, Jesus is not (as you claim) painted by Luck as a sorcerer; rather Luck shows how certain deeds attributed to Jesus corresponded with contemporary views of magic, and how Jesus was thus seen by some Greeks, Romans and Talmudic scholars as a magician. Fuzzypeg 20:39, 30 September 2008 (UTC)
None of what you wrote defends this article in the condition that it is in. If you want to have a philosophical debate regarding the boundaries of religion and magic, you should probably do that some place like MysticWicks. This article is suppose to be encyclopedic with a NPOV. -- (talk) 21:14, 30 September 2008 (UTC)
Fortunately we don't have to rely on our own analyses, no matter how sophisticated or otherwise. We have reliable academic scholars to draw on, and all we have to do is faithfully report what they say. I'm not trying to promote any of my own theories. Fuzzypeg 21:58, 30 September 2008 (UTC)

Wisdom of Solomon info was deleted[edit]

I had deleted the Wisdom of Solomon because the sources noted did not validate. Fuzzypeg restored it adding citations to Arcana Mundi. The fact that Fuzzypeg was able to "validate" the information with Arcana Mundi is because the information comes directly from Arcana Mundi pages 57-59. The original contributor had even plagiarized that same butchered quote of D. Winston, trans. of The Wisdom of Solomon, which Fuzzypeg has only added a citation pointing to Luck's butchered quote of the text. This provides additional proof this essay nothing but a synopsis of the chapter called Magic from Arcana Mundi. -- (talk) 15:41, 30 September 2008 (UTC)

Indeed it is a pity that whoever added this text didn't cite Luck, and instead gave his second-hand sources. Bad form indeed. However, once this is corrected I don't see any problem, and in fact, Arcana Mundi is a great resource to use widely throughout the article, given that Luck is so well regarded, and provides such clear, accessible summaries of all the important areas. I know you don't like Luck, and if you can find some reliable published criticisms of Arcana Mundi then we can reconsider how much weight we give to his opinions. Until then I don't see any problem with him. Fuzzypeg 20:50, 30 September 2008 (UTC)

Plotinus on theurgy[edit]

The citation of Dodds' work does not validate the statement, "According to the Greek philosopher Plotinus (205-270 CE) theurgy aims at establishing sympathy in the universe and uses the forces that flow through all things in order to be in touch with them." I deleted it once, but it was restored without validation. In fact, the only quote on that page is from Proclus' Theology of Plato, which was in the article already, with no mention of Plotinus at all. Also, on pages 286 & 287, Dodds seems is stating Plotinus is not a theurgist by arguing against points others have made he was. There are also many other works that indicate Plotinus saw theurgy as lesser to contemplation, and a form of spirituality for the masses who were not capable of independently initiating a divine experience. -- (talk) 17:07, 30 September 2008 (UTC)

I see where the original contributor got that statement not, and it is not from Dodds as stated, it is from Arcana Mundi, page 52.
Arcana Mundi: According to Plotinus (Enn. 4.4.26), theurgy aims at establishing sympathy in the universe and uses the forces that flow through all things in order to be in touch with them.
The article: According to the Greek philosopher Plotinus (205-270 CE) theurgy aims at establishing sympathy in the universe and uses the forces that flow through all things in order to be in touch with them.
This is absolutely plagiarism! And that whole section is picked out of pages 51 and 52 of the Arcana Mundi. -- (talk) 17:16, 30 September 2008 (UTC)


This was found with a line-by-line analysis of the "Further defining types of magic" section. One plagiarized line was already mentioned talking about Plotinus. Starting on page page 51 of Arcana Mundi.

Arcana Mundi: Our material permits a division of magical operations into two man kinds, theurgical and goetic.

Article: In some texts that discuss magical practices, there are some interesting differentiations made between theurgical and goetic uses of power.

Arcana Mundi: The word theurgia calls for a brief explanation. In some contexts it appears to be simply a glorified kind of magic practiced by a highly respected priestlike figure, not an obscure magician.

Article: The word theurgia in some contexts appears simply to try and glorify the kind of magic that is being practiced – usually a respectable priest-like figure is associated with the ritual.

Arcana Mundi: In a typical theurgical rite the divinity appears in one of two ways: (1) it is seen in a trance, in which case the soul of the theurgist or medium leaves the body, ascends to heaven, sees the divinity there, and then returns to describe the experience; (2) it descends to earth and is seen by the theurgist either in a dream or when he is fully awake.

Article: Further, in a typical theurgical rite the divinity appears in one of two ways: 1. The spirit is seen in a trance, and the soul of the theurgist leaves the body, ascends to heaven, sees the divinity, and then returns to recount the experience and the knowledge learned from it. 2. The spirit descends to earth and is seen by the theurgist either in a dream or when he is fully awake.

Arcana Mundi: The philosophers interested in magic describe themselves as theurgists, and the lower-class practitioners as magoi or goetes.

Article: Thus it is not surprising to see philosophers interested in magic describe themselves as theurgists, to try and distinguish themselves from the lower-class practitioners - the magoi or goetes.

Arcana Mundi: Hence, it could be argued that the term theuria of late antiquity, who would have been horrified to be called Magoi or goetes, especially the latter, since that term could also designate a juggler or chrlatan..."

Article: The term goetia by contrast is derogative, indicating low, specious or fraudulent mageia in Greek, just as theurgia is a more exalted form of magic.

I think this seals the deal on this article. -- (talk) 17:45, 30 September 2008 (UTC)

Plagiarism and paraphrasing aren't the same thing, folks. See: plagiarism. Ford MF (talk) 18:22, 30 September 2008 (UTC)
If you're concerned about potential copyright violations, the offending text should indeed be rewritten. But that's not really your argument here, is it, as you want the text removed (despite, as you have now demonstrated, its strong reliance on reliable sources). Ford MF (talk) 18:25, 30 September 2008 (UTC)
The text in question is plagiarized, because it is a paraphrased version of an uncited source. --Akhilleus (talk) 18:50, 30 September 2008 (UTC)

It's great that you've found these uncited statements. Very sloppy work from the original editor. The correct way ahead is to cite them to Luck, and either ensure that they're sufficiently paraphrased or else slap quotation marks around them and ensure that they're identical wording. I'll have a look-see and fix what I can. Fuzzypeg 20:56, 30 September 2008 (UTC)

Someone else suggested it, but this really will require turning the article into a stub. It means starting from scratch, and providing a more balanced interpretation of history. As is, a good 95% of the article is completely from Luck, and the existing citations are not only plagiarized, but fail verification beyond citing Luck. -- (talk) 21:20, 30 September 2008 (UTC)
Not at all. With your gratefully received help, I've managed to clean that section up superbly. It could be worked in a little better with the rest of the article, and the section title could perhaps be improved, but apart from that it's looking much better. There're probably more of the same problems scattered through the article, and as we find them we can apply similar fixes. Cheers, Fuzzypeg 22:07, 30 September 2008 (UTC)
I noticed that you cleaned up the section mostly by adding citations to Luck's work, but I don't really think that completely fixed the main problem. For example, I deleted the Plotinus reference because it failed verification. You restored it, and since this came to light, added the citation to Luck's book. While it is an accurate description of what Luck said, Luck misapplies Plotinus' writing to theurgy. The citations throughout this article that I either marked as failing verification, or deleted them, still fail verification whether it is the Wikipedia contributor citing the original source, or it is Luck citing the original source. -- (talk) 05:00, 1 October 2008 (UTC)
If you want to remove the Plotinus reference then go ahead. I actually had a bit of a read of Plotinus and thought Luck was summarising him rather well, but the reference to Luck is probably more useful since he provides a broad summary and a much simpler read. So feel free. Fuzzypeg 21:10, 1 October 2008 (UTC)


I originally suggested this section "Homeric magic," be deleted because it represented original research, but it in fact is another example of the plagiarizing of Luck's book, mostly from pages 39-40. From page 41 to 44 is the section "Magic in Classical Greece", and "Magic in the Hellenistic period" is taken primarily from pages 44 to 51. Even Luck's quotes of other works, and citations. -- (talk) 19:07, 30 September 2008 (UTC)

Great! I think these sections could do with a bit of copy-editing anyway. Look at how cumbersome even just the first sentence of "Homeric magic" is, for instance! These sections can surely be made more readable and concise, and we can deal to any copyright violations, all in one blow! I have to do some work (my real work) now, but I'll come back to it and try my hand at fixing things up. Again, thanks for finding this! Fuzzypeg 22:25, 30 September 2008 (UTC)

Question about introduction edit[edit]

There was this line in the introduction:

The principle defining factor of magic in the classical world, as today, is that it is held in low esteem or even condemnation by the speaker or writer who uses the term; an objective definition is not widely agreed. (See e.g. Robert Fowler, 'Greek Magic, Greek Religion', Illinois Classical Studies 20 (1995), pp. 1-22.)

It was a small edit, but the as today was removed because in the editor's opinion it was "obviously wrong." Did this statement fail verification, or is this just a person's opinion? While a 2001 Gallop Poll showed that 73% of Americans believed in some form of paranormal (clairvoyance, telepathy, ESP), only 21% believe that witches are really real. Additionally, it does not take much effort to find news articles regarding dissemination against Wiccans and other Neopagans. One prominent concept about discrimination is that it can only be perpetuated by the majority against the minority. Are we making judgments of what is "obviously wrong" based on our own inner-circle? Should we not try to verify cited statements before editing them? -- (talk) 16:18, 1 October 2008 (UTC)

Just to clarify for you, this was not a question of epistemology, and if it had been simply a statement regarding whether magic was "real" or not, I would have removed it with less fuss, since we already have a simple ruling on such statements: Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Paranormal#Adequate framing. No, what was stated was quite different: it's not talking about magic being disbelieved in, but rather "held in low esteem or even condemnation"; it even states that this is the principle defining factor of magic today! I think my edit summary mentioning Harry Potter summed it up, and I'll repeat it here, since it seems you didn't quite get what I was saying: "To my knowledge "magic" today is not definitively held in condemnation. Perhaps not believed in, but that's not the same thing! Harry Potter, for instance is not "condemned", except by extremists."
If we want to make statements about how magic today is "condemned" then we need to cite a reliable source on contemporary views on magic. I suggest, however that people can go to the Magic (paranormal) article if they're interested, rather than us cluttering up the lead section with info that's largely irrelevant to the article. Fuzzypeg 21:04, 1 October 2008 (UTC)
Ah! I see you've added a statement about the perceived "reality" of magic. The problem is, this kind of statement tends to be insulting: to skeptics, because you're insulting their intelligence, and to believers, because you're insulting their world-view. This has in the past been a point of contention in several articles, so now there is a clear ruling on it: Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Paranormal#Adequate framing. I have thus removed the statement. Cheers, Fuzzypeg 21:22, 1 October 2008 (UTC)

Luck, Arcana Mundi[edit]

I'm willing to give Luck his just due credit. He is a professor at Harvard University, holds the chairmanship of the Classics Department at Boston College, and held the editor position of the American Journal of Philology for a year. He has had a decent career in the academic world, but nothing one could point to as so outstanding as to define his as THE definitive authority on Greco-Roman history and religion. The fact is, I would have never found the plagiarism, in this article, if the sections I initially deleted for failing source verification were not restored by someone citing Luck's Arcana Mundi, and then I tried to verify the "new" citations. The original contributor used Luck's quotes and citations of other sources as his own, and they were failing verification. This article is already basically nothing but a {{onesource}} essay. Regarding the newest edits to the intro, that cite Luck, I have several sources in front of me that make quite the opposite conclusion to the statement "magic seems to have borrowed from religion." I know there are people working on this article who don't want it reduced to "magic in the Greco-Roman world was practiced by the fringe and disenfranchised of ancient society," or "magic in the Greco-Roman world was defined as superstitious or unscrupulous irreligious ritual practices," and I am sensitive to that, but even the article as-is suggests that the ancient holy-men and philosophers (that this article wants identify as magicians) would have seriously rejected the ideas being promoted here, and that suggestion comes straight from Luck's book itself. If this article is to move way from being "a personal reflection or essay" to being a balanced and correctly weighted encyclopedic article, it will need serious editing, not just the addition of citations in an attempt to keep the article as-is, keeping the occultist worldview dominate. As is, this article "departs significantly from mainstream or orthodox theories" on Greek history, religion, and philosophy, despite what some may want to think. From Wikipedia's content guidelines: "Neutral point of view is a fundamental Wikimedia principle and a cornerstone of Wikipedia; all significant views are represented fairly and without bias, with representation in proportion to their prominence." Note, with representation in proportion to their prominence. It is glaring obvious with some of the editing, such as the former the "Further defining types of magic" title being changed to "High and low magic", that undue weight is given both to the occultist worldview on this subject and (with other editing) to Luck's writing. -- (talk) 13:38, 2 October 2008 (UTC)

First, I'd like to thank you for what has clearly been quite a bit of work, checking sources and finding poorly cited statements, and even statements that are clearly in copyright violation. Second, I totally agree that magic was on the fringe of society and often practised by the disenchanted, and was seen as irreligious. Third, a single source is not ideal, yes, and you're helping us a lot by finding alternative and opposing sources. That's where editing becomes really fun, and it's also where you really start learning about the subject: when you play different authors' opinions off against each other. Fourthly, I'm not in favour of keeping the article as is; I agree it needs a lot of work. There's good stuff there, though, and I'm reluctant to throw it away out of hand; I'd prefer to summarise/reduce it, while expanding the article with alternative views. Fifthly, while the article discusses occultism a lot (for obvious reasons), I don't think it takes an occult worldview. It seems to me that it mostly views the subject from a disinterested historical/ethnographic position, as it should.
The "High and low magic" section heading was chosen because there was no section above it in which magic was systematically defined: the old title was misleading. Nor did it define more than two types of magic: theurgia and goetia. I considered calling it "Theurgia and goetia", but I thought "High and low magic" would provide more context and be easier to spot for non-experts. If you have other suggestions for a title, feel free to play.
Sixthly, I'm not convinced that I am departing from consensus. On the subject of magic vs religion and the haziness of their boundary, I have read a number of authors' opinions. Some deal with more modern anthropology, some with the ancient world. There has been some controversy on the issue. But in recent scholarship it seems to be more generally agreed that this distinction is not entirely clear. Not that these terms have no meaning, but that they don't have precise meaning. I must hunt around in my notes and see what I can pull out. It's definitely not all from Prof. Luck though, believe me! Fuzzypeg 02:36, 3 October 2008 (UTC)
Despite the best efforts of Fuzzypeg, I find this discussion very frustrating. The IP interlocutor seems to be operating under the assumption that if magical practices can't be proven to be efficacious, they don't exist -- or perhaps it's a matter of rejecting occultism and therefore being uncomfortable with the subject as a field of objective, detached study. The article is about the belief system and practices of a particular culture, not whether magic works. Luck et al. are examining what people believed or what assumptions the literary sources make about "magic." It's also discouraging that more contributors have not made themselves aware of discussions regarding the relation of religion and magic in antiquity, and the difficulties in distinguishing the two; often, it's public vs. private. For instance: see Matthew W. Dickie, “Magic as a Distinctive Category in Roman Thought,” in Magic and Magicians in the Greco-Roman World (London: Routlege Taylor & Francis Group, 2001), and Hans G. Kippenberg, “Magic in Roman Civil Discourse: Why Rituals Could Be Illegal,” in Envisioning Magic: A Princeton Seminar and Symposium, Studies in the History of Religions, NUMEN Book Series 75 (Leiden: Brill, 1997). There's also discussion of this in Magika Hiera. (Incidentally, Jesus as a sorcerer is hardly a radical topic; it doesn't mean Jesus of Nazareth WAS a magician, it means that there is a tradition depicting him as such, and that this tradition can be understood in the context of magic in antiquity and the Middle Ages; reporting on this isn't the same thing as asking people to believe it. Cynwolfe (talk) 15:43, 26 October 2008 (UTC)


I have given the article a more adequate lead section, and restructured the early sections (before the main historical material). I have cut nothing out. Charles Matthews (talk) 11:50, 12 October 2008 (UTC)

What a horrible Mess[edit]

Plotinus is a theurgist, people on the talk page think the first edition of Arcana Mundi is a primary source, Graf is dismsissed as 'Boring'. Ugh. Somebody needs to completely rewrite this page. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:00, 2 April 2010 (UTC)

The editing of this article is treated as private territory by those with an affinity toward Ceremonial Magic and Neo-Paganism. There is no way to create a balanced and encyclopedic article with a NPOV. -- (talk) 17:00, 3 August 2010 (UTC)
Right! the "Ceremonial Magic and Neo-Paganism" cabal are running the show.. Abandon all hope puny bunches of numbers.—Machine Elf 1735 (talk) 19:21, 3 August 2010 (UTC)


In regard to this edit, Iao (the more common English spelling) is probably going to be hard to disambiguate. We don't have an article on Iao. We have bits and pieces scattered here and there as if Wikipedia editors are able to sort into distinct categories the wildly overlapping and confusing use of this name in antiquity. What we need is a single article that collects and explains all the uses (in magic, especially inscriptions; in Gnosticism; Varro's identification of Iao as the god of the Jews) in ways helpful to the confused reader without of course implying that these figures are all the same Iao. Summary sections could direct to further discussions. This would be fiendishly difficult to accomplish. Cynwolfe (talk) 20:31, 29 September 2013 (UTC)

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