Chapter 27 Magic as the Local Application of Authoritative Tradition

In: Guide to the Study of Ancient Magic
David Frankfurter
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This chapter examines the relationship of magic and religion itself. Magic describes the invocation and deployment of an authoritative tradition in a local performative context through the creative agency of a ritual expert and involving various ritual media. After a review of Redfield’s notion of a “little tradition” that draws on a “great tradition” and a comparative discussion of various ways a great tradition emerges locally as a kind of magic, the chapter turns to more problematic cases: iconography with magical functions, interpretations of scripture as concretely efficacious, the nature of ritual expertise in the mediation of a great tradition, magic deriving from invented great traditions, and magic deriving from historically/institutionally defunct great traditions.

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