Alfred C. (Alfred Cort) Haddon.

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It is by no means easy to do justice to such a large, comprehensive, and
at the same time vague subject as magic in the small compass of a Primer,
and part of even that small space had to be devoted to another subject.
For sins of omission I must claim this excuse; for sins of commission I
claim the indulgence of the reader.

A. C. H.




A. Contagious Magic.

Hair, nail-pairings, etc. (3), scalp-lock (4), saliva (5),
luck-ball (5), footprints (6), clothes (7), rag bushes and
pin-wells (8), personal ‘ornaments’ (9), food (10), cannibalism
(10), sympathetic relations between persons (11), couvade (13).

B. Homœopathic Magic.

Plants (15), rain-making (16), wind-making (18), increase of
plants (18), and of animals (19), luring animals to be caught
(19), human effigies to injure or kill people (20).


Objection to names being mentioned of people, fairies, and
animals (22), names of power (24), satire (26), _geis_ (27),
tabu (28).


Stones and metals (30), colour (31), bones, teeth, claws,
etc. (32), lucky pig (33), amulets against the evil eye (33),
luck-bone (39).



A. Public Magic.

Australian _intichiuma_ totem ceremonies (41), corn-planting
dance of the Musquakie (45).

B. Private Magic.

Folk-remedies (46), love-charms (47), nefarious magic (48).


Training of sorcerers and societies of magicians (51).


Nervous instability (53), suggestion (53), make-believe (55),
tabu (55), _mana_ (58), projective will-power or telepathy
(60), from spell to prayer (61), the impossible not undertaken
(62), loopholes in case of failure (63).



1. Etymological (66), 2. Historical (66), 3. Dogmatic (67).


May be any object (72), a symbolic charm with sympathetic
properties (74), a sign or token representing an ideal notion
or being (76), habitation of a spiritual being (77), vehicle
for communication of a spirit (79), instrument by which spirit
acts (80), possesses personality and will (83), may act by own
will or by foreign spirit (84), spirit and material object can
be dissociated (87), worshipped, sacrificed to, talked with
(89), petted and ill-treated (90).




As knowledge increases, mankind learns more and more about the world and
the processes of nature, but even at the present day the vast majority of
white men possess only a rudimentary amount of this knowledge; indeed,
most so-called educated people have very vague ideas concerning the
physical universe in which they live. Such being the case, it is not
surprising that primitive peoples have very confused notions concerning
these matters, and, as the result of false inductions concerning the
causes of phenomena, they seek to accomplish ends by means that we
recognise as inadequate. ‘It is plain,’ as Dr. Jevons points out (36,
33), ‘that as long as man is turned loose as it were amongst these
innumerable possible causes with nothing to guide his choice, the chances
against his making the right selection are considerable.’ Further, ‘no
progress could be made in science until man had distinguished, at any
rate roughly, possible from absolutely impossible effects (or causes),
and had learned to dismiss from consideration the impossible. It might
be expected that experience would suffice of itself to teach man this
essential distinction, but the vast majority of the human race have not
yet learned from experience that like does not necessarily produce like:
four-fifths of mankind, probably, believe in sympathetic magic.’

The instances of sympathetic magic as Dr. Hirn points out (32, 278)
are naturally divided into two main classes which, broadly speaking,
correspond to the two types of association, contiguity and similarity,
and as in psychology it is often difficult to decide whether a given
associative process has its origin in a relation of contiguity or in one
of similarity, so it is often an open question to which group a given
superstition is to be assigned. We will start from the facts that are
simpler and easier to explain.

A. Contagious Magic.

1. Sympathetic Magic based on a material connection between things (32,
279) has been aptly termed by Dr. Frazer (21, 77) =Contagious Magic=. All
over the world we meet with examples of the belief that objects which
were once related to one another retain their connection though they may
be separated, and whatever may happen to one part or object the other
part or object is similarly affected; thus, by acting upon a part of a
given whole we may influence the whole as well as all its other parts.

This belief explains why a magician, wishing to influence or act upon
some particular individual, desires to obtain some portion of his body
or something actually connected with him. A few hairs from the beard,
a lock of hair, some nail-parings, a drop of blood from the nose which
has fallen to the ground, and which has not been rendered impalpable
by effacing it with the foot, are used by Basuto sorcerers (10, 277),
and indeed by workers of magic everywhere. A few of the examples
collected by Mr. Hartland (30, ii. 66) will suffice to demonstrate the
universality of this belief. In some parts of England a girl forsaken by
her lover is advised to get a lock of his hair and boil it; whilst it is
simmering in the pot he will have no rest. In certain parts of Germany
and Transylvania the clippings of the hair or nails, as well as broken
pieces of the teeth, are buried beneath the elder tree which grows in
the courtyard, or are burnt, or carefully hidden, for fear of witches.
Patagonians burn the hairs brushed out from their heads, and all the
parings of their nails for they believe that spells may be wrought upon
them by any one who can obtain a piece of either.

The potency of the hair is shown in the beliefs about the long narrow
beaded band which is used to tie up the hair of a Musquakie woman (56,
96, 7). This, though a talisman when first worn, becomes something
infinitely more sacred and precious, being transfused with the essence of
her soul; any one gaining possession of it has her for an abject slave if
he keeps it, and kills her if he destroys it. A woman will go from a man
she loves to a man she hates if he has contrived to possess himself of
her hair-string; and a man will forsake wife and children for a witch who
has touched his lips with her hair-string. The hair-string is made for a
girl by her mother or grandmother and decorated with ‘luck’ patterns; it
is also prayed over by the maker and a shaman. The scalp-lock ornament
worn by the Musquakie men is kept with great care as it helps to protect
the soul. As the tearing out of the scalp-lock makes the soul at its root
the slave of the one obtaining it, so the possession of its ornament and
shield, which has absorbed some of its essence, gives the possessor the
ability to send the rightful owner brain fever and madness (56, 106).

In the South Sea Islands it was necessary to the success of any sorcery
to secure something connected with the body of the victim. Accordingly
a spittoon was always carried by the confidential servant of a chief in
the Hawaiian Islands to receive his expectorations, which were carefully
buried every morning. The Tahitians used to burn or bury the hair they
cut off, and every individual among them had his distinct basket for
food. As Mr. Hartland points out (30, ii. 76), the custom, everywhere
practised, of obliterating all trace of the saliva after spitting,
doubtless originated in the desire to prevent the use of it for magical
purposes, and the same desire led to the extreme cleanliness in the
disposal of fouler excreta which is almost universally a characteristic
of savages. Thus this belief has been one of the most beneficial of

Luck-bags of red cloth, which contain ‘the four things of good fortune,’
are made by witches in Italy (43, 287), who while sewing it sing an
incantation. American Negroes brought over from West Africa the art of
making ‘luck-balls’ or ‘cunjerin’ bags,’ a practice which is kept up to
the present day. They are supposed to bring happiness and success in
everything the owner undertakes; one made for Charles G. Leland, at the
instigation of Miss Owen (57, 173), contained, in addition to knotted
threads, a piece of foil to represent the brightness of the little spirit
that was going to be in the ball, a leaf of clover _in the place of the
hair of the one that is going to own the ball_, and some dust which
was designed to blind the eyes of enemies. Miss Owen got the same man,
Alexander, the King of the Voodoos, who made the ball for Mr. Leland,
to make one for me, and she informed me that ‘it was made just like Mr.
Leland’s with the same words and with the same materials, excepting the
clover. This is not the season for clover, _so a fragment of paper, torn
from one of your books, represents you_.’

It is not essential that the object to be operated upon should have
formed an actual part of a person, for something associated with that
person, such as something habitually worn or used, is sufficient, or as
in the case of the luck-ball just cited, the association may be as remote
as that between an author and a piece of the paper of a book he has

Earth from a man’s footprints, on account of its close contact with the
person, has acquired the virtues of a portion of his body. Widely spread
in Germany is the belief that if a sod whereon a man has trodden—all the
better if with the naked foot—be taken up and dried behind the hearth
or oven, he will parch up with it and languish, or his foot will be
withered. He will be lamed, or even killed, by sticking his footprint
with nails—coffin nails are the best—or broken glass (30, ii. 78); but
these are also the practices of Australian or other savages. To quote
only one example from Australia (34, 26), sharp fragments of quartz,
glass, bone, or charcoal are buried in the footprints of the victim or in
the mark made in the ground by his reclining body. They are supposed to
enter the victim, and rheumatic affections are very frequently attributed
to them.

Clothes, from their intimate association with the person, have naturally
attained a prominent place among the instruments of witchcraft. In
Germany and Denmark no portion of a survivor’s clothing must on any
account be put upon a corpse, else the owner will languish away as it
moulders in the grave. To hang rags from the clothing of a dead man upon
a vine is to render it barren. ‘Probably,’ as Mr. Hartland suggests, ‘it
is only a different interpretation of the same belief which alike in
Christian, in Mohammedan, and in Buddhist lands has led to the ascription
of marvellous powers to the clothes and other relics of departed saints.
The divine power which was immanent in these personages during life
attaches not merely to every portion of their bodies but to every shred
of their apparel’ (30, ii. 90). An illustrative parallel can be taken
from the Pacific. The red feathers which adorned the sacred girdle worn
by the Tahitian kings were taken from the images of the gods. The girdle
‘thus became sacred, even as the person of the gods, the feathers being
supposed to retain all the dreadful attributes of power and vengeance
which the idols possessed, and with which it was designed to endow the
king.’ So potent was it that Mr. Ellis says (17, iii. 108) it ‘not only
raised him to the highest earthly station, but identified him with their

It is conceivable, as Mr. Hartland suggests (30, ii. 214), that
uneducated folk might argue thus: if an article of my clothing in a
witch’s hands may cause me to suffer, the same article in contact with a
beneficent power may relieve pain, restore me to health, or promote my
general prosperity. Hence the practice of throwing pins into wells, of
tying rags on bushes and trees, of driving nails into trees and stocks,
of throwing stones and sticks on cairns, and the analogous practices
throughout the world, suggest that they are to be interpreted as acts of
ceremonial union with the spirit identified with well, tree, stock, or
cairn (30, ii. 228). In the British Islands the sanctity of the well or
bush was subsequently annexed by the missionaries who took up their abode
beside them, and thus we find the wells or trees called after certain
saints and the healing power attributed to the latter, whereas the
holiness and efficacy of the wells were in the vast majority of cases, if
not in all, pre-Christian (27, 383).

Objects are worn or eaten so that by induction the individual may acquire
their properties. Thus the Red Indian hunter (70, 131) wears ornaments of
the claws of the grizzly bear, that he may be endowed with its courage
and ferocity, and the Tyrolese hunter still wears tufts of eagle’s down
in his hat, to gain the eagle’s keen sight and courage. ‘Look,’ writes
Casalis (10, 271), ‘at those strange objects hanging from the necks of
our little black friends. There is a kite’s foot in order that the poor
child may escape misfortune with the swiftness of the kite in its flight.
Another has the claw of a lion in order that his life may be as firmly
secured against all danger as that of a lion; a third is adorned with
the tarsus bone of a sheep, or an iron ring, that he may oppose to evil
a resistance as firm as iron, or as that little compact bone without
marrow which could not be crushed between two stones without difficulty.’

The eating of certain kinds of food, more especially of the flesh of
animals, would similarly have a very potent effect; thus among the Dyaks
(65, i. 176), young men sometimes abstain from eating the flesh of deer,
lest they should become timid. The Abipones of Paraguay (14, 258) ‘detest
the thought of eating hens, eggs, sheep, fish, or tortoises, imagining
that these tender kinds of food engender sloth and languor in their
bodies and cowardice in their minds. On the other hand they eagerly
devour the flesh of the tiger [jaguar], bull, stag, boar, anta and
tamandua [ant-eaters], having an idea that, from continually feeding on
these animals, their strength, boldness, and courage are increased.’

Belief in contagious magic leads quite logically to various revolting
practices. In Torres Straits the sweat of renowned warriors was drunk
by young men, who also ate mixed with their food the scrapings from the
finger-nails of the warriors which had become saturated with human blood
in order ‘to make strong and like a stone; no afraid’ (29, v. 301). The
eyes and tongue of a freshly killed enemy were frequently torn out and
given to lads to make them brave and fearless. The Australian natives
believe that a man’s fat and his strength and vitality are connected,
therefore the wasting of the body and disease are the result of the
absence of fat, perhaps to be followed by death. By eating a man’s fat,
and thus making it part of himself, the black fellow thinks that he also
acquires the strength of the deceased. So also they think that human fat
brings success in hunting, causes spears which are anointed with it to
fly true, or the club to strike irresistible blows. The possession of
human fat is, therefore, much desired by these aborigines, especially
those who feel age or disease, or who wish to be successful in the
magical arts, for it is believed that the spirit of the dead man whose
fat has been used will help the charm to act (35, 411, 361). Cannibalism
for magical purposes of this sort has probably been extremely common and
is possibly at the base of a good deal of anthropophagy.

Very widely spread is the belief that close relatives or even friends are
bound together in a sympathetic relation, which is especially manifest on
important occasions or at critical times. When a Land Dyak village has
turned out for a wild-pig hunt in the jungle, those who remain at home
may not touch water or oil with their hands during the absence of their
friends, lest the hunters should all become ‘butter-fingered,’ and the
prey so escape them (60, i. 430). It is also recorded from Borneo that
when men are on a war expedition, fires are lighted at home, the mats
are spread, and the fires kept up till late in the evening and lighted
again before dawn, so that the men may not be cold; the roofing of the
house is opened before dawn, so that the men may not lie too long and
so fall into the enemies’ hands (60, ii. 104). Again when a Dyak is out
head-hunting, his wife, or, if he is unmarried, his sister, must wear
a sword day and night, in order that he may be always thinking of his
weapons; and she may not sleep during the day nor go to bed before two
in the morning, lest her husband or brother should thereby be surprised
in his sleep by an enemy (20, i. 30). Similar instances could easily
be multiplied indefinitely from various savage countries, but even in
Europe there are not lacking records of a real sympathy between husband
and wife, where the former suffers from certain characteristic ailments
of the latter (59, 240). There is a very widely spread series of customs
based upon the belief that the father and his unborn or newly born child
are in such sympathetic relationship that the former has to take all
sorts of precautions lest his offspring should in any way be injured. The
extreme form this custom takes is for the newly made father to take to
his bed and be specially dieted; this occurs in many places, but notably
in the East Indian Archipelago and in South America. The custom, which
is known as the _Couvade_, is subject to many modifications, which have
been tabulated and discussed by Mr. H. Ling Roth (59, 204). Among the
Land Dyaks of Borneo the husband of a pregnant woman, until the time of
her delivery, may not do work with any sharp instrument, except what may
be absolutely necessary for the cultivation of his farm; he may not tie
things together with rattans, or strike animals, or fire guns, or do
anything of a violent character for fear of injuring the child. Often the
men must abstain from certain food lest it should affect the child; thus
in Guiana partaking of the Agouti would make the child meagre, or eating
a _labba_ would make the infant’s mouth protrude like the _labba’s_, or
make it spotted like the _labba_, which spots would ultimately become
ulcers (59, 220). Thus the father is frequently debarred from performing
many of the usually unconsidered daily acts, lest they should affect the
welfare of a child that is newly born or is about to be born; and there
is the curious development of the belief of an occult reaction of the
expected child on the father, affecting, to take one example, his success
in fishing (59, 234).

B. Homœopathic Magic.

2. When man first began to think about the world around him he must
have noted (what he, in common with other animals, had unconsciously
acted upon in the past) that day and night and the seasons arrived in
regular succession, the same stars rose and set, an animal reproduced
its own kind, in fact that there was a uniformity in nature. But side by
side with these natural sequences there were irregularities. Some days
were shorter than others, some were bright, others cloudy, the length
and character of the seasons varied from year to year, some stars had
a course in the heavens independent of the majority. Again, he might
early have noticed that many of these fluctuations in sunshine and rain,
in heat and cold, affected him directly or indirectly by influencing
vegetation. We need not be surprised, therefore, if he came to the
conclusion that it would be better for him if he exerted himself to
regulate matters somewhat, but then the difficulty would arise, what was
he to do?

The unenlightened mind does not discriminate between cause and effect,
and imagines that as like produces like, so a result can be attained by
imitating it. Hence arose =Mimetic= or =Symbolic Magic=, which, following
Dr. Hirn, is better termed =Homœopathic Magic=, which is occult influence
based upon a likeness between things (32, 282). On this was founded
the mediæval medical theory known as the Doctrine of Signatures, which
supposes that plants and minerals indicate by their external characters
the diseases which nature intended them to remedy.

It would be easy to give a large number of examples to illustrate
homœopathic magic, but a few will suffice. Thus the Euphrasia, or
eye-bright, was, and is, supposed to be good for the eyes, on the
strength of a black pupil-like spot in its corolla (70, 123). The yellow
turmeric, or saffron, cured jaundice. The roots of roses or their slips,
with their knots removed and set amongst broom, will bring forth yellow
roses (47, x. 70).

The influence of homœopathic magic can be traced in beliefs and practices
from the lowest savages to civilised nations. The magician who works
by similarities makes representations of things or beings, in order
to acquire an influence over them. By dramatic or pictorial imitation
heavenly bodies are influenced, rain is made, plants and animals are
increased, animals enticed to their destruction, human beings acted upon.

When it was wished to cause rain to fall in Murray Island, Torres
Straits, the rain-maker scooped a hole in the ground, and lined it with
leaves and placed in it a rude stone image of a man which had previously

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Online LibraryAlfred C. (Alfred Cort) HaddonMagic and fetishism → online text (page 1 of 6)