Bob Schwartz

Tag: magic

Demons

From Jewish Fairy Tales and Legends (1919)

“Demons are spirits that act malevolently against human beings, usually in the form of disease, illness, confusion, or misfortune.”

“The malevolent effects of demons are many: they cause illness and death, especially for the vulnerable (children, women in childbirth), they trouble and deceive the mind, and they cause contention in the community of mortals. The appearance of demons varies, but is always terrible.”

“Intriguingly, there is a strand of tradition that holds a mortal can work constructively with demons, if one knows the proper rituals of power to control them.”

“Usually spirits must be controlled magically, captured, and coerced to do the will of the adept. By the same token, anything that smacks of demon veneration or worship, such as making offerings or burning incense to a demon, is expressly forbidden.”

The Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic and Mysticism (Second Edition)

***

Depending on one’s religious beliefs, demons may be characters in complex stories embellished over millennia or may be very real presences in an equally complex existential scheme. Either way, like so many traditional visions, they offer opportunities to see the world we live in and the people we live among with fresh eyes. If demons do happen to be in our midst, this information may come in handy.


From The Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic and Mysticism (Second Edition) by Geoffrey W. Dennis

Demons:

Demons are spirits that act malevolently against human beings, usually in the form of disease, illness, confusion, or misfortune. Judaism has not produced one uniform attitude toward the demonic, its origins, nature, or functions. Jews do have traditions of demonic creatures which are ontologically distinct from humanity (Such as Samael, Asmodeus, and Lilith), yet an equally large body of Jewish thought regards these same evil spirits to be malevolent byproducts of humanity: incomplete human Souls, the malevolent dead, or spirits spawned by human action. While there are a few pre-existent spirits, demons are usually understood to be spiritual byproducts of human criminal and immoral sexual activity. Moreover, it is not until the Middle Ages and the rise of classical Kabbalah in the 13th century, that one can read of demons that fit the Christian mold of hell-spawn that threaten the very fabric of the cosmos; the majority of sources from antiquity view shedim, mazzakim, and kesilim as other traditional cultures have imagined djinns, sprites, and elves—cruel, mischievous spirits who afflict humanity with miseries, both great and small.

While the Hebrew Bible devotes remarkably little attention to demonology, it does make mention of evil spirits (Lev. 16:10; 1 Sam. 16:14–16; Isa. 13:21, 34:14), including satyrs and night demons, but does not provide a great deal of detail. In fact, the language of the Bible is so ambiguous, it is often difficult to discern whether the author is referring to a named demon, or poetically reifying an abstract concept, such as Death, plague, or pestilence (Jer. 9:20; Hab. 3:5; Ps. 91:6).

Clear-cut and more elaborate stories about demons appear during the Greco-Roman period. The Gospels, which provide us with a comparatively detailed picture of Jewish life in 1st-century Palestine, record several accounts of confrontations between Jesus and demonically possessed people (Mark 5). Select demons—Belial and Masteman—are mentioned repeatedly in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Josephus also includes some reflections on the subject (War 7; Ant. 8:2, 8:5)….

The Talmud begins by asserting that they are a creation of the twilight of the sixth day (M. Avot 5.6). The suggestion is that these spirits are partly formed souls, unfinished beings left over from God’s creative process. The Talmudic sources do not specify whether demons are an independent creation, or whether they first appear as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve, which in some traditions also happened at twilight of the sixth day. Whatever the case, they are tied to humanity, for they cannot procreate on their own; they used semen from Adam in order to make more of their own kind (Eruv. 18b). A celebrated elaboration on this tradition is that of Lilith, the first woman, having transformed herself into a witch-demon using the Tetragrammaton, takes the nocturnal emissions of men she seduces to procreate demons (AbbS). Eve was also seduced by incubi, producing a line of malevolent offspring, beginning with Cain (PdRE 21; Targum Pseudo-Jonathan 4:1)….

The malevolent effects of demons are many: they cause illness and death, especially for the vulnerable (children, women in childbirth), they trouble and deceive the mind, and they cause contention in the community of mortals….

There are numerous strategies to stop the predations of demons. Reciting certain psalms repels evil spirits (Pss. 29, 91, 121), as do other key verses of Scripture (Num. 7:4–6). Magical phrases and incantations have also been recorded that can combat their malevolent effects….

Intriguingly, there is a strand of tradition that holds a mortal can work constructively with demons, if one knows the proper rituals of power to control them. This idea premised on the implications of absolute monotheism—all things are created by God purposefully. This belief that man can direct demonic energy to beneficent purposes is first articulated in stories about Solomon controlling demons (Testament of Solomon). One Sage in the Talmud permits demon summoning, provided one does not violate Torah in either the manner of the summoning or what is asked of the spirit (Sanh. 101a). Eliezer of Metz (ca. 12th century) permitted the use of imps in spells and amulet writing: “Invoking the demons to do one’s will is permitted … for what difference is there between invoking demons and angels?” Demons can be turned against other demons (Lev. R. 24). Rabbi Judah Loew of Prague permitted communication with demons, but solely for the purpose of divination (B’er ha-Golah 2).

Sometimes the demon will help a human willingly, which is taken as evidence that even demons serve God, however inscrutably (Pes. 106a), but usually spirits must be controlled magically, captured, and coerced to do the will of the adept. By the same token, anything that smacks of demon veneration or worship, such as making offerings or burning incense to a demon, is expressly forbidden (Sanh. 65b).

Goodbye Hourglass! Lucky Charms Adds Magical Unicorns!

Timeless magic that’s cosmically delicious!

From General Mills:

For the first time in 10 years, Lucky Charms is introducing a new and permanent marshmallow – the magical unicorn! The magically delicious brand tapped into the imagination and creativity of young minds to hand select the newest charm and the decision was unanimous.

“Our goal is to not only create a cereal that families and cereal fans will love and enjoy, but to inspire magical possibilities and help spark imagination and fun no matter what the age,” said Josh DeWitt, marketing manager of Lucky Charms. “That’s why, after 10 years, we decided to introduce a new charm with the help of the keepers of magic themselves – kids. They spoke, and after hearing their love for the magical unicorn, we listened.”

From magical and lucky to cool and colorful, both boys and girls agreed that these mythical creatures had timeless magic that was the perfect fit for the only truly magical marshmallow cereal. The new unicorn charm, which features hues of bright purples and blues, is the first-ever marshmallow to be inspired and created by kids.

With the entrance of the new magical charm, consumers will have to say goodbye to the hourglass marshmallow, which has been a staple in the magical line up for more than a decade. Lucky Charms marshmallow blend will continue to feature eight lucky charms including hearts, stars, horseshoes, clovers, blue moons, rainbows, red balloons and now magical unicorns.

The cosmic significance of this change can’t be overstated. The hourglass is the symbol of time, in all of its inevitably and finitude. That’s gone. The unicorn represents “timeless magic” and will “inspire magical possibilities and help spark imagination and fun.”

If there was ever a time for unicorns, at breakfast or whenever, this is it. Thanks General Mills!

Calling All Magicians or Time Travel Technologists: Help Bring Back the Original American Revolutionaries

Practical magic is a very popular subject for fictional speculation. So is time travel. If either of those turn out to be real, the one thing I would do with those practices is to bring back the venerated founders of America—our original revolutionaries and constitutional architects.

Their inspired vision of an enlightened democracy was a gift to us and to all civilization. Since at this moment there seems to be major misunderstanding, misrepresentation or ignorance of the essential principles, these political heroes would be the best people to explain themselves.

I see them making the rounds of the news networks. Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, the whole lot, appearing on CNN, MSNBC and especially Fox News. They would be subject to vicious criticism and character assassination, of course, but those who stood up to and defeated King George III would have little trouble dealing with the 2018 Republican Party and Sean Hannity.

Ben Franklin would have a particularly good time. Besides his scathing wit, Franklin would focus on Trump’s frequent reference to attending the University of Pennsylvania. Franklin was founder of the University of Pennsylvania, and would suggest that if he knew Trump would someday be bragging about it, he would never have founded the university in the first place.

So, if you are a magician or time travel technologist, here is an opportunity to do immense good with your skills. Bring back the Founders. Now.

Magic

Magic

Magic
must be
real.

The Whole Wheat of Spirit and the Millstone of Reason

Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth

Going beyond pure reason is a trip too far for many, to a place where the possible and the impossible seem to coexist on equal terms.

But why not go beyond, at least for a visit or vacation? You never know what you will find or learn there.

Mama always told me not to look into the sights of the sun
Oh but mama that’s where the fun is
Bruce Springsteen, Blinded by the Light

To the pious man God is as real as life, and as nobody would be satisfied with mere knowing or reading about life, so he is not content to suppose or to prove logically that there is a God; he wants to feel and to give himself to Him; not only to obey but to approach Him. His desire is to taste the whole wheat of spirit before it is ground by the millstone of reason. He would rather be overwhelmed by the symbols of the inconceivable than wield the definitions of the superficial.
Abraham Joshua Heschel, Man Is Not Alone

Recommended:

The Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic and Mysticism: Second Edition, Geoffrey W. Dennis

The new edition of a thoroughly readable and accessible compendium of information and insights. Fun for the casually curious, valuable for the interested reader and researcher.

From the Introduction:

Judaism is one of the oldest living esoteric traditions in the world. Virtually every form of Western mysticism and spiritualism known today draws upon Jewish mythic and occult teachings—magic, prayer, angelology, alchemy, numerology, astral projection, dream interpretation, astrology, amulets, divination, altered states of consciousness, alternative, and rituals of power—all have roots in the Jewish occult….

Modern Jews like to imagine that magic has been swept into the dustbin of history by the long, inexorable progress of rationalism. More than that, Jews have been taught from our youth that Judaism has always possessed an essentially naturalistic worldview and that magic, merely a marginal Jewish preoccupation at most, was just an anomaly resulting from our being situated (and corrupted) by the superstitions of our neighbors. But that’s not entirely accurate. It is only in the last two centuries that Jews have fully embraced science, but we have always been looking for ways to change the world for the better, whether it be through science, medicine, or “practical Kabbalah.”

Even today, rationalism has not completely displaced our sense that there is a mystical potential at work in the world; Occam’s razor has never been able to fully overpower the Sixteen-Sided Sword of the Almighty. Millions of people, both Jews and gentiles, continue to believe that the stars influence our lives. Most Americans believe in the reality of angels. Jewish techniques of dream interpretation and for combating the evil eye are still widely practiced today. When you read the entries of this book on topics such as these, you will realize that magical thinking and enchanting deeds have always had a place in Judaism and, however much some might want to dismiss Judaism’s miraculous and wondrous traditions, the presence of Jewish magic in Jewish life has merely been eclipsed, never uprooted; it still has the potential to empower us.