Chapter 28 Magic and Social Tension

In: Guide to the Study of Ancient Magic
Esther Eidinow
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This chapter looks at magic as a discourse of suspicion, accusation, imagination, as well as deployments of ritual materials that arise in situations of social tension. The chapter first looks at individual cases of binding and curse rites – e.g., as efforts to gain supremacy in competitive circumstances or in response to the fraught nature of a particular social situation (theft, love, arena) – and the various social and psychological models that have been applied to them. Then the chapter turns to collective panics – resulting in, e.g., judicial proceedings – and the consequent efforts to define malfeasance (mageia?) and criminal nature (pharmakos?). Ultimately, the appearance of such discourses of suspicion, accusation, and protection demand our close examination of historical and social circumstances

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