Magic: A History from Alchemy to Witchcraft, from the Ice Age to the Present
“Magic has been part of human civilization since its earliest beginnings. Some believe that religion and science were off-shoots of magic as human society evolved. This book takes the view that all three strands are ancient and enduring characteristics of society, and have influenced each other through the ages. Its objective is to trace the history of magic and explore where magic can be relevant in today’s society (where magic is used for entertainment, or shunned by mainstream academic discourse).
After the introductory chapter, the narrative delves into a history of magic with the intent of covering magic across all cultures and time periods. The initial chapter starts with prehistoric times (40,000 BC to 6000 BC). Most of the narrative focuses on societies where we have primarily archeological evidence (and hence the guidance of a skilled archeologist). The areas covered include ancient civilizations, China, Eurasia, and Europe. One chapter covers magic in Africa, Australia, and the Americas. Another chapter covers Jewish, Greek, and Roman magic. The last chapter discusses modern times and tries to plot future trajectories of the role magic could play in contemporary society.
The work has such a broad scope that it is bound to come under criticism for errors of omission. The work is also bias towards anthropological evidence – sometimes at the expense of other techniques of historical verification. The discussion on the future of magic is very brief and reads more like an opinion than an analysis. The text is academic, and in some places dry. A useful book for those who want to explore the history of magic.”
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