The History Of Magic by Harlan Tarbell
I want you to go with me into far away lands and into the long ago to get a glimpse of the beginnings of the Mystic Art. This Art has been practiced from time immemorial, and from the faint echoes of the ages comes here and there an intimation that with Magic are bound up the very lives of the ancients. In one remote corner of the globe we see how Magic played a vital part in religion; in another distant spat we find that Magic was a part of the daily lives of the people; and in other lands we see the family and the social relationships of the people under the powerful influence of Magic.
Magicians In The Bible
The first record we have of Magic in ancient times is in the Bible. You remember the story of the Pharaoh's dream of seven full ears of corn and seven withered ears, of seven fat cows and seven lean cows. The Pharaoh was much perturbed by the dream and summoned all the magicians of the realm to come and interpret it. None of them was able to explain the dream until Joseph was called and gave the interpretation of seven years of plenty and seven years of famine for Egypt.
The second time we read of Magic in the Bible is the story of the plea of Moses and Aaron before the Egyptian King to release their people so that they might sojourn to another land. To prove that his mission was of divine origin, Moses turned his rod into a serpent. All of the magicians of the land were asked to do the same but failed.
All through the Bible, Magic is mentioned again and again, indicating that Mysticism played a tremendous part in the life of the ancients.
The Kings of the Jews, we are told, called upon the soothsayers and magicians to interpret and foretell events for them. Imagine the power of the magician! The very destinies of the people depended on their acts and ideas. For, who would dare to go contrary to these magicians?
The Egyptians then are the first people of whom we have any record who were distinguished for proficiency in Magic.
Magi Or Wise Men Of The East
After the Old Testament stories about Magicians, we find scattered bits of information about the Magi or Wise Men of the East. These men lived in Egypt, Babylonia, Persia, and India. It seems that these men had gained more education than the masses of the people and consequently were admired for their knowledge. They were eager for even more esteem from their inferiors and so developed the Art of mystifying the people and making it seem that they had supernatural powers. They gained great influence as a result of their Mystic Art. In the New Testament Simon Magus is mentioned as a Magician. He is said to have bewitched the people. Some of his wonderful feats were to make himself invisible and to free himself from bonds and chains.
Historians tell us something of the early Greeks in relation to Magic. They believed that supernatural powers mixed with human affairs. Their gods were half human creatures with the powers of performing supernatural acts. From the hundreds of fascinating stories of Greek Magic, let me tell you just one. Circe was a beautiful creature who enchanted men with her charms. Whenever a Grecian beheld her, he could not resist her spell and fell into her power. She lured the bewitched men to her castle and there transformed them into hogs. This is only one of the many interesting tales of Magic in ancient Greece. There were also the Greek Oracles, which played an important part in Greek life. The Oracle of Delphi is the one famed in story for her mystic influence over the imaginations and the very lives of the Greeks.
Influence Of Magic In Rome
You remember the story of Caesar's death — how he was warned again and again by the soothsayer to beware of the Ides of March. He ignored the warning and met his death on the Ides of March. We find that Nero also invoked the Magician's Art. He had murdered his mother, Agrippina, and sought to have her spirit conjured up by the Magicians so that he could pray her forgiveness.
New Era In Magic
This covers what knowledge we have of ancient Magic and brings us to a new era in the Art of Magic, about 300 A. D. It was then that Christianity was established as the religion of the Roman Empire. The establishment of the church was supposed to stop the worship of spirits and devils. From that time the power of Magic in religion was lessened, and consequently its character changed somewhat. Magic continued, however, to be a big influence in the lives of all peoples.
Beginning Of Records
Every land and every age had its Sorcerers and Magicians. Here and there we pick up some information. Here we find a tale about King Macbeth of Scotland, who conjured up visions and apparitions; and somewhere else we read of the Popes of the Tenth Century, who practiced Magic and Sorcery. But these little stories are scattered and vague as no records of Magic were kept until the Dark Ages — beginning with the Eleventh Century. Then we begin to get accurate history.
Merlin At King Arthur's Court
Merlin is the outstanding Magician of the Dark Ages. Though he lived in the last part of the Fifth Century, the records of his performances were not written until the Eleventh Century. He was the wizard at the Court of King Arthur.
The story of Stonehenge is Merlin's most remarkable exploit. Stonehenge is a huge stone monument to the Saxon conquest of England, which you could see today standing on Salisbury Plain in England. The monument originally stood, so the story goes, in Ireland. Merlin commanded that it be moved to England. The ponderous stones would not yield to the efforts of hundreds of men. Merlin looked on for a time and then applied his Magic powers. The stones rose high in the air and flew to Salisbury Plain, where the monument stands now.
Land Of The Arabian Nights
Asia to all of us stands out as the romantic land of the Mystic. The Arabian Nights tales have held us all spellbound with their fantastic charm. Aladdin and his lamp will live forever in our memories. Though these are just stories, they reflect the thoughts and beliefs of the middle Fifteenth Century.
We have traveled far in this little history of Magic. I wanted you to have it as a foundation for your study. I wanted you to know how ancient this Art is and what its significance has been. I wanted you to understand the attitude of people toward it — how it has always held them in its spell and always will. You have watched with me its development through the ages up to the beginning of its present stage.
Modern Magic is a long step from the Magic of old. We no longer regard it as supernatural or "black," but we look upon it as a time-honored Art which has stood the test of centuries undiscovered and is now the most entertaining of Arts.
To me, Magic is a Science. It is based on fundamental principles — not on hit or miss methods. I have tried to trace it as a Science and find its beginnings in the latter half of the Thirteenth Century.
First Scientific Magician
Roger Bacon, who lived at that time, was the first scientific Magician. He did not have or pretend to have supernatural powers, but because he got the effects that the Magicians got, he was looked upon as a Mystic. He was a Magician — but a Scientific one. He studied the Sciences — particularly, the Science of Optics, which plays an important part in Magic. He developed scientific explanations for the magnifying glass and the telescope. His principles governed the effects that Magicians secured then and that Modern Magicians secure, and consequently this marks the beginning of a scientific basis for Magic.