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A History of Magic - notes, part 1

This is a book that I started a few years ago but never finished. So it's time to start over-- and take notes this time!!!

A History of Magic is by Richard Cavendish, a historian born in 1930 that focused primarily on occultism. As such, we can expect to learn some pretty accurate information. The book can be bought used here but I'm sure there are other places to find it. Just make sure you have the correct book; there are books with similar titles by different authors. I highly recommend reading the book for yourself, since my notes are only going to be the bare bones and any bits that I personally find interesting.


Magic has been around at least as far back as human history goes. It's been intertwined in human history in multiple ways: religion, science, art, governments, etc.

Weather magic in older times was done in accordance with the seasons. Rain magic was done at the beginning of the rainy season to ensure that the rain would come as expected. It was not practiced during the dry seasons because that would have potentially messed up nature's pattern. So, rain wasn't summoned simply because people wanted it, but because they wanted to make sure it arrived as scheduled. I find this part interesting because I feel like a lot of people try to summon weather that's off-season and I know that the majority of people don't do weather magic at all these days. I wonder if we could help correct climate change by adapting to the old ways. But that's a tangent of my own.

Kings in many cultures were thought to be incarnations of gods and to wield special powers as a result.

As language developed, it became tied into magic and religion. Creation stories often feature a god speaking things into existence. Written language, when it came along, carried a certain mystique; most people were illiterate and only royals and clergy tended to be the ones to write things down, so it follows that those funny squiggles must hold some secret power.

Eventually, a chasm was created between "white magic" and "black magic," white magic being considered legitimate (used by religious authorities) and black magic being considered illegitimate (used by common individuals). At some point, the definitions of these terms morphed into "white magic" being benefic and "black magic" being malefic, but this is a muddy distinction to make since it's largely subjective.

That's pretty much it for the prologue. See you next time!

Stay safe!

- me

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