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Magic 1, Requirement 5

In Norse culture we see magic divided into to primary methodologies known as Galdr and Seidhr. Galdr is very much the formal magic of sound, word and poetry meaning literally to intone while Seidhr is the magic of the spirits and is used by the folk in their everyday lives to assist in their crafts and arts. Compare the methodologies of spoken word magic and spirit magic and discuss their cultural significance within at least one Indo-European culture. (minimum 300 words)

Syllabic prayer in Greece can be seen in the classic tale of the Sorcerer's Apprentice from Lucans Philopseudes:

"Whenever we came to an inn, he used to take up the bar fo the door, or a broom, or perhaps a pestle, dress it up in clothes, and utter a certain incantation; whereupon the thing would begin to walk about, so that everyone took it for a man."

Later in the story, the narrator informs us that the incantation was a set of three syllables which are said in a specific way. This use of syllabic incantation is a prime example of the kind of syllabic magic that can be found in IE cultures.

Also from Lucan, in his book The Golden Ass, the narrator is turned into an ass by repeating the syllables he overhears a witch say. Again, we have a set of syllables that it does not require practiced skill to repeat.

In the same culture, we find a high number of defixiones, curse tablets that deal primarily with the spirits of the dead, or chthonic deities. Mostly, the use of such tablets involves calling up those who have died a violent death, or else who missed a rite of passage and are thus stuck in a liminal state. The angry ghost or the deity is then directed against a specific person.

Another example of such non-verbal magic is the prohibition against silent prayer common in the ancient world. This sort of prayer causes issues because it could be used by a magician to pray to these chthonic deities or angry spirits. While the prohibition doesn't necessarily indicate that it existed, it does indicate a fear of it existed, which leads us to conclude that it was part of the world-view of IE cultures.

I wonder some about this division, though, and think that perhaps we should look at it harder before we decide that, indeed, this division between "silent" and "syllabic" magic actually exists in a pan-Indo-European context.


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