Natural magic

Natural magic in the context of Renaissance magic is that part of the occult which deals with natural forces directly, as opposed to ceremonial magic, in particular goety and theurgy, which deals with the summoning of spirits. Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa so uses the term in his 1526 de vanitate. Natural magic so defined thus includes astrology, alchemy, and disciplines that we would today consider fields of natural science, such as astronomy and chemistry (which developed and diverged from astrology and alchemy, respectively, into the modern sciences they are today) or botany (from herbology). In a modern context, white magic may be referred to as "high magic" (not to be confused with the alternate meaning of "high magic", which denotes ceremonial or ritual magic).

See also


  • Charles G. Nauert, Magic and Skepticism in Agrippa's Thought, Journal of the History of Ideas (1957), p. 176.
  • Ryan J. Stark, Rhetoric, Science, and Magic in Seventeenth-Century England (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2009), 88-114.
Black magic

Black magic has traditionally referred to the use of supernatural powers or magic for evil and selfish purposes. With respect to the left-hand path and right-hand path dichotomy, black magic is the malicious, left-hand counterpart of the benevolent white magic. In modern times, some find that the definition of "black magic" has been convoluted by people who define magic or ritualistic practices that they disapprove of as "black magic".

Books of secrets

Books of secrets were compilations of technical and medicinal recipes and magic formulae that began to be printed in the sixteenth century and were published continuously down to the eighteenth century. They constituted one of the most popular genres in early modern scientific publishing. The books of secrets contained hundreds of medical recipes, household hints, and technical recipes on metallurgy, alchemy, dyeing, making perfume, oil, incense, and cosmetics. The books of secrets supplied a great deal of practical information to an emerging new, middle-class readership, leading some historians to link them with the emerging secularistic values of the early modern period and to see them as contributing to the making of an ‘age of how-to.’

Some books of secrets, such as Alessio Piemontese's famous Secreti (1555), contained mainly practical and technological information in the form of useful recipes. Others, such as Giambattista Della Porta's Magia Naturalis (Natural Magic, 1558) deployed practical recipes in an effort to demonstrate the principles of natural magic. Other books of secrets, such as Isabella Cortese's Secreti (1564), disseminated alchemical information to a wide readership. Recent research has suggested that the books of secrets may have played an important role in the emergence of experimental science by bringing practical technical information to the attention of experimental scientists.

Ceremonial magic

Ceremonial magic (ritual magic, high magic or learned magic) encompasses a wide variety of long, elaborate, and complex rituals of magic. The works included are characterized by ceremony and a myriad of necessary accessories to aid the practitioner. It can be seen as an extension of ritual magic, and in most cases synonymous with it. Popularized by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, it draws on such schools of philosophical and occult thought as Hermetic Qabalah, Enochian magic, Thelema, and the magic of various grimoires. Ceremonial magic is part of Hermeticism and Western esotericism.

Ceremonial magic is also a significant feature of Wicca, a Neo-Pagan religion which is thought to be the continuation of ancient British paganism. It is claimed by Gerald Gardner in 'The Meaning of Witchcraft' that Wicca adopted ceremonial magic first in the Anglo-Saxon period and again in the 19th century. This history has been disputed but, due to the fact that the religion has been passed down strictly as an oral tradition because witchcraft was illegal in the United Kingdom, it is impossible to prove otherwise.

Giambattista della Porta

Giambattista della Porta (Italian pronunciation: [dʒambatˈtista ˌdelːa ˈpɔrta]) (1535? – 4 February 1615), also known as Giovanni Battista Della Porta, was an Italian scholar, polymath and playwright who lived in Naples at the time of the Scientific Revolution and Reformation.

Giambattista della Porta spent the majority of his life on scientific endeavors. He benefited from an informal education of tutors and visits from renowned scholars. His most famous work, first published in 1558, is entitled Magiae Naturalis (Natural Magic). In this book he covered a variety of the subjects he had investigated, including occult philosophy, astrology, alchemy, mathematics, meteorology, and natural philosophy. He was also referred to as "professor of secrets".

Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa

Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim (; German: [aˈgʀɪpa]; 14 September 1486 – 18 February 1535) was a German polymath, physician, legal scholar, soldier, theologian, and occult writer.


Kulam or "Pagkukulam" is a form of folk magic, specifically natural magic, practiced in the Philippines. It puts emphasis on the innate power of the self and a secret knowledge of Magica Baja or low magic. Earth (soil), fire, herbs, spices, candles, oils and kitchenwares and utensils are often used for rituals, charms, spells and potions.

Maelzel's Chess Player

"Maelzel's Chess Player" (1836) is an essay by Edgar Allan Poe exposing a fraudulent automaton chess player called The Turk, which had become famous in Europe and the United States and toured widely. The fake automaton was invented by Wolfgang von Kempelen in 1769 and was brought to the U.S. in 1825 by Johann Nepomuk Mälzel after von Kempelen's death.

Although it is the most famous essay on the Turk, many of Poe's hypotheses were incorrect. He also may or may not have been aware of earlier articles written in the Baltimore Gazette where two youths were reported to have seen chess player William Schlumberger climbing out of the machine. He did, however, borrow heavily from David Brewster's Letters on Natural Magic. Other essays and article had been written and published prior to Poe's in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Boston—cities in which Poe had lived or visited before writing his essay.

Magia Naturalis

Magia Naturalis (in English, Natural Magic) is a work of popular science by Giambattista della Porta first published in Naples in 1558. Its popularity ensured it was republished in five Latin editions within ten years, with translations into Italian (1560), French, (1565) Dutch (1566) and English (1658) printed.

Natural Magic was revised and considerably expanded throughout the author's lifetime; its twenty books (Naples 1589) include observations upon geology, optics, medicines, poisons, cooking, metallurgy, magnetism, cosmetics, perfumes, gunpowder, and invisible writing.

Natural Magic is an example of pre-Baconian science. Its sources include the ancient learning of Pliny the Elder and Theophrastus as well as numerous scientific observations made by Della Porta. Natural Magic was translated and published in English in 1658.

Magic (supernatural)

Magic is a category in Western culture into which have been placed various beliefs and practices considered separate from both religion and science. Historically, the term often had pejorative connotations, with things labelled magical perceived as being primitive, foreign, and Other. The concept has been adopted by scholars in the study of religion and the social sciences, who have proposed various different—and often mutually exclusive—definitions of the term; much contemporary scholarship regards the concept to be so problematic that it is better to reject it altogether as a useful analytic construct.

The term magic derives from the Old Persian magu, a word that applied to a form of religious functionary about which little is known. During the late sixth and early fifth centuries BCE, this term was adopted into Ancient Greek, where it was used with negative connotations, to apply to religious rites that were regarded as fraudulent, unconventional, and dangerous. This meaning of the term was then adopted by Latin in the first century BCE. Via Latin, the concept was incorporated into Christian theology during the first century CE, where magic was associated with demons and thus defined against (Christian) religion. This concept was pervasive throughout the Middle Ages, when Christian authors categorised a diverse range of practices—such as enchantment, witchcraft, incantations, divination, necromancy, and astrology—under the label magic. In early modern Europe, Italian humanists reinterpreted the term in a positive sense to create the idea of natural magic. Both negative and positive understandings of the term were retained in Western culture over the following centuries, with the former largely influencing early academic usages of the word.

Since the nineteenth century, academics in various disciplines have employed the term magic but have defined it in different ways and used it in reference to different things. One approach, associated with the anthropologists Edward Tylor and James G. Frazer, uses the term to describe beliefs in hidden sympathies between objects that allow one to influence the other. Defined in this way, magic is portrayed as the opposite to science. An alternative approach, associated with the sociologists Marcel Mauss and Émile Durkheim, employs the term to describe private rites and ceremonies and contrasts it with religion, which it defines as a communal and organised activity. Many scholars of religion have rejected the utility of the term magic, arguing that it is arbitrary and ethnocentric; it has become increasingly unpopular within scholarship since the 1990s.

Throughout Western history, there have been examples of individuals who engaged in practices that their societies called magic and who sometimes referred to themselves as magicians. Within modern occultism, there are many self-described magicians and people who practice ritual activities that they term magic. In this environment, the concept of magic has again changed, usually being defined as a technique for bringing about changes in the physical world through the force of one's will. This definition was pioneered largely by the influential British occultist Aleister Crowley.

Nigel Pennick

Nigel Campbell Pennick (born 1946 in Guildford, Surrey, England) is an author publishing on occultism, magic, natural magic, divination, subterranea, rural folk customs, traditional performance and Celtic art as well as runosophy.

He is a writer on marine species as well as an occultist and geomancer, artist and illustrator, stained-glass designer and maker, musician and mummer. He also writes on European arts and crafts, buildings, landscape, customs, games and spiritual traditions. He has written several booklets on the history of urban transport in Cambridge and London . He is best known for his research on geomancy, labyrinths, sacred geometry, the spiritual arts and crafts, esoteric alphabets and Germanic runic studies.

He has written many books in German and has over 50 published books and hundreds of published papers on a wide range of subjects.


The occult (from the Latin word occultus "clandestine, hidden, secret") is "knowledge of the hidden" or "knowledge of the paranormal", as opposed to facts and "knowledge of the measurable", usually referred to as science. The term is sometimes taken to mean knowledge that "is meant only for certain people" or that "must be kept hidden", but for most practicing occultists it is simply the study of a deeper spiritual reality that extends pure reason and the physical sciences. The terms esoteric and arcane can also be used to describe the occult, in addition to their meanings unrelated to the supernatural.

The term occult sciences was used in the 16th century to refer to astrology, alchemy, and natural magic. The term occultism emerged in 19th-century France, where it came to be associated with various French esoteric groups connected to Éliphas Lévi and Papus, and in 1875 was introduced into the English language by the esotericist Helena Blavatsky. Throughout the 20th century, the term was used idiosyncratically by a range of different authors, but by the 21st century was commonly employed – including by academic scholars of esotericism – to refer to a range of esoteric currents that developed in the mid-19th century and their descendants. Occultism is thus often used to categorise such esoteric traditions as Spiritualism, Theosophy, Anthroposophy, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and New Age.

Particularly since the late twentieth century, various authors have used the occult as a substantivized adjective. In this usage, "the occult" is a category into which varied beliefs and practices are placed if they are considered to fit into neither religion nor science. "The occult" in this sense is very broad, encompassing such phenomenon as beliefs in vampires or fairies and movements like Ufology and parapsychology. In that same period, occult and culture were combined to form the neologism occulture. Initially used in the industrial music scene, it was later given scholarly applications.

Performance (soundtrack)

Performance is a 1970 soundtrack album to the film Performance by Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg. It features music from Randy Newman, Merry Clayton, Ry Cooder, Jack Nitzsche, Buffy Sainte-Marie, The Last Poets and Mick Jagger.

A single from the album, "Memo from Turner" sung by Mick Jagger (b/w the instrumental "Natural Magic") was released in 1970 reaching #32 on the UK singles chart.

Renaissance magic

Renaissance humanism (15th and 16th century) saw a resurgence in hermeticism and Neo-Platonic varieties of ceremonial magic.

Sally Morningstar

Sally Morningstar was a Wiccan High Priestess many years ago and is the author of at least twenty-six books on magic, astrology, Ayurveda, Wicca, divination and spirituality. At heart she has always been a Hedgewitch and returned to those roots where she has remained (hedgewitch) She is a spiritual mentor, psychic, and healer. She is also a professional photographer and a musician on the bodhran, an Irish hoop drum, and played for several years with a Celtic band called Wyld Angelica. She teaches one to one online distance learning courses in Hedgewitchcraft & Natural Magic, runs a psychic and healing consultancy, and a remote-learning apprenticeship program. She has appeared on numerous television programs and writes for magazines, newspapers, and periodicals on spiritual subjects, healing and natural magic. Her latest written work can be found on Excellence Reporter on The Meaning of Life

She lives in Somerset, England.

Scott Cunningham

Scott Douglas Cunningham (June 27, 1956 – March 28, 1993) was a U.S. writer. Cunningham is the author of several books on Wicca and various other alternative religious subjects.

His work Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, is one of the most successful books on Wicca ever published; he was a friend of notable occultists and Wiccans such as Raymond Buckland, and was a member of the Serpent Stone Family, and received his Third Degree Initiation as a member of that coven.

The Night of Enitharmon's Joy

The Night of Enitharmon's Joy, often referred as The Triple Hecate or simply Hecate, is a 1795 work of art by the English artist and poet William Blake which depicts Enitharmon, a female character in his mythology, or Hecate, a chthonic Greco-Roman goddess of magic and the underworld. The work presents a nightmarish scene with fantastic creatures.The Triple Hecate is painted with deep tones and bold masses. Blake employed a new technique whose "effect is darker and richer than [his] illuminated books". One scholar interprets his colour print Hecate thus:

"She is triple, according to mythology: a girl and a boy hide their heads behind her back. Her left hand lies on a book of magic; her left foot is extended. She is attended by a thistle-eating ass, the mournful owl of false wisdom, the head of a crocodile (blood-thirsty hypocrisy), and a cat-headed bat."

Blake often drew on Michelangelo to create and compose his epic images, including Hecate's, according to a consensus of critics. "Blake is indebted to Michelangelo for many of his giant forms". Michelangelo contributed many "characters to Blake's gallery of mythic persons and heroes". Regarding the Hecate colour print, a suggested trail may be traced. From Michelangelo, Blake copied his early sketch entitled The Reposing Traveller, which then evolved into a figure for his work (1795-1797) regarding Night Thoughts, and also into the similarly posed figure of Hecate here.The image may also allude to the Three Fates — the Moirai of Greek mythology and the Parcae of Roman. Notwithstanding these allusions, critics point out that a contemporary trigger for Blake's inspiration probably was the return popularity of Shakespeare's play Macbeth. As Hecate listens offstage, the three witches, in arranging Macbeth's doom, chant: "Double, double, toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble". Each witch in turn adds her verses, the second's being:

"Fillet of a fenny snake,

In the cauldron boil and bake;

Eye of newt and toe of frog,

Wool of bat and tongue of dog,

Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,

Lizard's leg and owlet's wing,

For a charm of powerful trouble,

Like a hell-broth boil and bubble." (Macbeth, IV.i)Hence, bat, owl, snake or frog would be appropriate to The Triple Hecate.Blake printed his illuminated Europe a Prophecy in 1794. The bulk of the book, according to one scholar, "is devoted to the night of Enitharmon's joy, when she establishes her Woman's World with its false religion of chastity and vengeance: a religion of eighteen hundred years, which is the error of official Christianity." In other words, it is said to represent a Feminine Will over a patriarchal Christianity. Blake's character is described as "the Moon of love to Los's Sun", hence its relationship with Hecate, one of the Moon Goddesses alongside Diana/Artemis and Selene. She is also invoked in Hamlet, in the play within the play method, by the (actor) Lucianus: "With Hecate's ban thrice blasted, thrice infected, Thy natural magic and dire property [...]" but in Europe: a Prophecy Enitharmon's night is presented in this way:

"Now comes the night of Enitharmon's joy!

Who shall I call? Who shall I send?

That Woman, lovely Woman! may have dominion

Arise O Rintrah thee I call! & Palamabron thee.

Go! tell the human race that Womans love is Sin!

That an Eternal life awaits the worms of sixty winters

In an allegorical abode where existence hath never come:

Forbid all Joy, & from her childhood shall the little female

Spread nets in every secret path."There are other literary sources for the myth of Hecate, such as Metamorphoses by Ovid, VI 140, VII 74, 94, 174, 177, 194, 241, XIV 44, 405, and Blake himself: "The Gods all Serve her at her will; so great her Power is, like fabled Hecate, she doth bind them to her law." (Blake, Then She bore Pale desire…). But not only in his poetry The Triple Hecate makes a connection: it is seen as an opposition to his painting Pity, circa 1795, where the piety provides a "possibility of salvation" in the fallen world. Here, both witchcraft and curse, associated with Hecate, are factors to human perdition. Geoffrey Keynes wrote about it:

"Hecate, an infernal Trinity, crouches in the centre. An evil winged spectre hovers over her. On her left an ass is grazing on rank vegetation, while an owl and a great toad watch from between rocks. The theme of the Moon Goddess is derived from Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream."

The image was created in a time in which Shakespeare's Macbeth had a revival, being performed nine times. Like other works by Blake, such as The Ghost of a Flea, the picture is part of W. Graham Robertson's private collection and was presented to the Tate Gallery by himself in 1939. It is considered to be one of the most brilliant and significant pictures of William Blake.

Thomas Vaughan (philosopher)

Thomas Vaughan (17 April 1621 − 27 February 1666) was a Welsh philosopher and alchemist, who wrote in English. He is now remembered for his work in the field of natural magic.

Three Books of Occult Philosophy

Three Books of Occult Philosophy (De Occulta Philosophia libri III) is Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa's study of occult philosophy, acknowledged as a significant contribution to the Renaissance philosophical discussion concerning the powers of ritual magic, and its relationship with religion. The first book was printed in 1531 in Paris, Cologne, and Antwerp, while the full three volumes first appeared in Cologne in 1533.The three books deal with Elemental, Celestial and Intellectual magic. The books outline the four elements, astrology, kabbalah, numbers, angels, God's names, the virtues and relationships with each other as well as methods of utilizing these relationships and laws in medicine, scrying, alchemy, ceremonies, origins of what are from the Hebrew, Greek and Chaldean context.

These arguments were common amongst other hermetic philosophers at the time and before. In fact, Agrippa's interpretation of magic is similar to the authors Marsilio Ficino, Pico della Mirandola and Johann Reuchlin's synthesis of magic and religion, and emphasize an exploration of nature. Unlike many grimoires of the time, these books are more scholarly and intellectual than mysterious and foreboding.

White magic

White magic has traditionally referred to the use of supernatural powers or magic for selfless purposes. Practitioners of white magic have been given titles such as; wise men or women, healers, white witches or wizards. Many of these people claimed to have the ability to do such things because of knowledge or power that was passed on to them through hereditary lines, or by some event later in their lives. White magic was practiced through: healing, blessing, charms, incantations, prayers, and songs. (manipulation of the world and its events). With respect to the philosophy of left-hand path and right-hand path, white magic is the benevolent counterpart of malicious black magic. The eternal dualism of night and day may compromise the totality of it's sphere of action. Because of its ties to traditional Paganism (nature worship), white magic is often also referred to as "natural magic".

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