Vesagas: About Magic-A A +A
Friday, November 1, 2013
HALLOWEEN is here and typically by this season, our cultural practices include visiting our departed loved ones in cemeteries as a family.
Also, during the visits we bring items like food or any object that we think would please the deceased loved one.
I need not elaborate but this practice makes us Filipinos unique.
In other cultures, more particularly in the West, the Halloween season is celebrated by guising up in a horrific costume like a witch, pumpkin man or poltergeist while playing ‘trick or treat’ in the neighborhood.
But regardless of culture, one holds true that Halloween is associated with magic and magical creatures.
Allow me to retell a story about ‘magic’ that I have been sharing in this column every Halloween for the past two years since I majored in sociology and anthropology for my master’s degree.
In its simplest definition, magic is a supernatural force that allows certain phenomenon to happen.
The phenomenon is predominantly favorable to the one who cast the magic.
You may think of magic as a petition or prayer that one often does whenever he or she wants to ask some supreme or divine being for interventions or blessings.
However, magic is not all about asking for blessings or luck, mind you.
And magic is being practiced in almost every culture regardless of religion and season without even the knowledge of the practitioner.
Anyway, in the practice of magic, there are two laws that are established by Fraser, an anthropologist who has first objectively observed this phenomenon.
The first is the law of similarity. Under this law, it is said that ‘like attracts like.’
For example, why do Filipinos serve rounded fruits on the dining table during New Year’s Eve?
Is it not that the roundedness of the said fruits mimic the circular mold of the money?
And the more rounded fruits we have the more money we might have the following year.
Another is that during All Soul’s day, why do we bring the things that our loved one who have crossed the other side the things that had pleased them most like certain foods or things?
Is it not because those objects were the very same items that were dear to them?
Another example is the replica of the cross, saint or Virgin Mary.
Although people do not really worship these objects, the images they form do symbolize the sacred or divine beings as if it was really them.
A last example would be the practice of not sweeping the house at night because such actions mean sweeping good luck or fortune out of the house.
The act of sweeping is somehow equated with its literal meaning but has been extended to symbolize or imitate ‘sweeping’ whatever is good away.
A common denominator among the enumerated examples is the fact that similarities had existed and that these similarities had formed symbolic meanings to the practitioner or the person using such similarities.
All these examples are magic via the law of similarity.
The second is what Fraser called ‘Law of Contagion.’
In its simplest explanation, an object that has been with the owner for a time is said to be an extension of that owner.
Therefore, anything done to the object is symbolically done to the owner as well.
Example, if one wishes to cause illness to another, the wisher must obtain a hair strand of fingernail of the owner.
The use of a voodoo doll by witches is another elucidation of this law.
But for it to cause effect, the witch must attach an object that is owned by the victim to the doll.
On the other hand, witch doctors who use their bodily fluids like saliva, sweat or blood in their healing craft are using the law of contagion.
Their bodily fluids serve as the extension of the powers.
Another good example of this law at work is when religious believers affectionately touch religious statues or icons with the belief that by doing such, they are actually touching the divine beings and are therefore blessed as well.
In sum, these two laws are always at play whenever magic is at use.
Majority may dismiss these anthropologic concepts but if we examine our individual religious practices, we may come to agree that at certain times we do observe or follow them.
But to what effect?
Well, social scientists suggest that these ‘magical’ acts do reduce anxiety.
One last blow before I end my piece; in line with the last statement, is it not that we caress the sacred objects or practice certain ‘superstitions’ whenever we are faced with uncertainties in life?
Email the columnist: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on November 02, 2013.