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6. Magicians, Kings And Gods
It is perhaps necessary, at the commencement of this chapter, to say a, few
more words about the nature and origin of the belief in Magic. Magic represented
on one side, and clearly enough, the beginnings of Religion--i.e. the instinctive
sense of Man's inner continuity with the world around him, TAKING SHAPE: a
fanciful shape it is true, but with very real reaction on his practical life and
feelings.[1] On the other side it represented the beginnings of Science. It was his
first attempt not merely to FEEL but to UNDERSTAND the mystery of things.
[1] For an excellent account of the relation of Magic to Religion see W.
McDougall, Social Psychology (1908), pp. 317-320.
Inevitably these first efforts to understand were very puerile, very superficial. As
E. B. Tylor says[1] of primitive folk in general, "they mistook an imaginary for a
real connection." And he instances the case of the inhabitants of the City of
Ephesus, who laid down a rope, seven furlongs in length, from the City to the
temple of Artemis, in order to place the former under the protection of the latter!
WE should lay down a telephone wire, and consider that we established a much
more efficient connection; but in the beginning, and quite naturally, men, like
children, rely on surface associations. Among the Dyaks of Borneo[2] when the
men are away fighting, the WOMEN must use a sort of telepathic magic in order
to safeguard them--that is, they must themselves rise early and keep awake all
day (lest darkness and sleep should give advantage to the enemy); they must not
OIL their hair (lest their husbands should make any SLIPS); they must eat
sparingly and put aside rice at every meal (so that the men may not want for
food). And so on. Similar superstitions are common. But they gradually lead to a
little thought, and then to a little more, and so to the discovery of actual and
provable influences. Perhaps one day the cord connecting the temple with
Ephesus was drawn TIGHT and it was found that messages could be, by
tapping, transmitted along it. That way lay the discovery of a fact. In an age
which worshiped fertility, whether in mankind or animals, TWINS were ever
counted especially blest, and were credited with a magic power. (The
Constellation of the Twins was thought peculiarly lucky.) Perhaps after a time it
was discovered that twins sometimes run in families, and in such cases really do
bring fertility with them. In cattle it is known nowadays that there are more twins
of the female sex than of the male sex.[3]
[1] Primitive Culture, vol. i, p. 106.
[2] See The Golden Bough, i, 127.
[3] See Evolution of Sex, by Geddes and Thomson (1901), p. 41, note.