Pub. date: 2006 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952453 | Print ISBN: 9780761930297 | Online ISBN: 9781412952453| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Phillips Stevens Jr.
The words “magic” and “magical” are used in many different ways to refer to a huge variety of supernatural or wondrous phenomena, and even within anthropology there is inconsistency. So varied have been referents of the terms that some scholars have insisted that they have no cross-cultural validity and have urged that they not be used at all. But the word magic is firmly rooted in our language; it has been important in the development of anthropological theory, and ethnology has enabled the description of a set of features of magic that reveal important capacities of human cognition and cultural conceptualization. When the word magic is encountered, the student should take care to ascertain just what it means. Some of the most common meanings of magic and magical include illusion or sleight-of-hand performed for entertainment; the ability to change something's form, visibility, or location or to create something from of ...