SOCIAL SCIENCES

Magic: A History; From Alchemy to Witchcraft, from the Ice Age to the Present

Farrar. Nov. 2020. 512p. ISBN 9780374200121. $30. SOC SCI
COPY ISBN
Gosden's (Prehistory: A Very Short Introduction) enlightening history explores magical beliefs and practices in cultures around the world from the earliest ages of human history, drawing on evidence from archaeological and textual sources. Defining magic as practices seeking to explore and exploit the connections between humans and the world around them, Gosden identifies participation as the hallmark of magical traditions. Cave paintings, grave goods, protective amulets, and graffiti etched into church walls are some of the many examples of magical artifacts Gosden uses to illustrate the ways in which different cultures have sought to understand the place of human beings within the cosmos and to harness the power of correspondences to foretell or influence future events. Rather than forming successive trends of increasing rationality, Gosden persuasively argues that magic, religion, and science have always existed in tandem, forming a “triple helix” of understanding running through the course of human history up to the present day. In light of the current climate crisis, and inspired by the discoveries of quantum physics, Gosden furthermore makes a compelling case for a return to the kind of interconnected perspective central to most magical traditions.
VERDICT A fascinating exploration of magic’s hold on the human imagination.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.


RELATED 

ALREADY A SUBSCRIBER?

We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing

ALREADY A SUBSCRIBER?