The real roots of the original belief in magic should be sought in the material and social conditions of their lives.

The real roots of the original belief in magic should be sought in the material and social conditions of their lives.

Causes of magic

There are different definitions of magic. However, all of them invariably note one of its features, namely: it is always based on the belief in supernatural forces and in the ability of man to control the world around him with the help of these forces.

"Magic – a ritual associated with the belief in the ability of man to supernaturally affect people, animals, natural phenomena, as well as imaginary perfumes and gods" (Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 9, 15, 152).

Magical action, as a rule, consists of the following basic elements: a material object (substance), ie a tool; verbal spell – or request a requirement with which to appeal to supernatural forces; certain actions and movements without words are a rite.

Scientists attribute the time of origin of magic to the period of primitive society, more precisely – to the Stone Age. There is evidence that magical rites and beliefs already existed among the Neanderthals, who lived 80-50 thousand years ago. We are talking about the burial (warehouses) of bear cysts in the Mousterian caves Drachenloch (Switzerland), Peterschelle (Germany), Regurda (France), which are considered evidence of hunting magic (cave bears at the time of the past one of the main objects of human hunting).

Primitive people, according to some scientists, preserving bear skulls and cysts, hoped that this would allow the killed animal to return to life and thus increase the number of these animals. In many tribes that retained the original way of life in the late nineteenth century and had similar rites, burying cysts and skulls of slaughtered animals, these rites were given just such an explanation.

As for the monuments of the Upper Paleolithic period discovered in the XIX – XX centuries (Late Stone Age – 40 – 10 thousand years ago), they, and almost all scientists agree with this, indicate the presence of primitive man already developed magical ideas and rites. In 1879, a deep cave called Altamira was discovered in the Iberian Mountains (Spain). On the walls and ceiling of this cave by the hand of the original artist were depicted wild boars, bison, deer and other species of animals that were hunted by people of that time.

Remains of three sculptures depicting cave lions were discovered in the Motespan cave discovered after Altamira in France. Traces of darts and spears thrown by primitive people into this sculpture were clearly visible on the neck and chest of one lion. The other two sculptures were completely destroyed as a result of frequent hits.

The most popular among such finds (and today there are more than 100) is the famous Lyasko cave opened in 1940. This cave gained its popularity due to the richness and abundance of images of primitive people found here. Most of these drawings, and some of them are truly huge, are perfectly preserved to this day.

In all the halls of the cave, in the transitions between them on the wall and ceiling, the original artist depicted in different poses the animals he saw around him: deer, bears, wild boars, etc. All drawings are colorful: three colors were used – black, yellow, red. Notches were made on the bodies of the animals and next to them, symbolizing the field of the dart and the wound of the beast. Many drawings bear traces of throwing real copies and darts at them. There are so many pictures that in some places they crawl on each other.

Why did primitive people paint the animals they hunted in such inconvenient, poorly lit, often inaccessible places – caves, their remote corridors and passages? Why, after finishing their work, did they not enjoy contemplating it, but destroyed it by throwing spears and darts at it? Ethnographic observations of the peoples who preserved the original way of life in the XIX – XX centuries help to answer these questions.

It is known that the Australian aborigines before the hunt performed a special ritual: they drew a figure of a kangaroo on the sand and during the ritual dance stuck their battle spears into the depicted animal. At the same time, they thought that if they got into the picture of the animal, they would get into the animal itself during the hunt. Apparently, primitive man thought the same.

Here we can cite the words of Karl Marx about fetishism:" The fantasy inflamed by desire creates an illusion in the fetishist, as it were "indifferent thing" can change its inherent properties just to satisfy his whim"… A similar illusion was created in the original participants of the magical ritual, which symbolizes the death and killing of an animal. "Fantasy inflamed with desire" performers of the ritual turned the imitation of hunting into hunting itself, ritual and magical "murder" animals in the actual killing of the beast.

The real roots of the original belief in magic should be sought in the material and social conditions of their lives. The original state of mankind is sometimes depicted as full of bliss, when people, as mazunas of nature, received from it in the form of gifts everything necessary for life. But the difficulties of primitive people, the harsh, sometimes tragic conditions of their lives are eloquently shown by the following figures: almost 50% of Neanderthals did not live to their twenties.

The Cro-Magnon’s average life expectancy did not exceed 20 years. Women and children were in the most difficult situation: 38% of Neanderthals died before the age of 11, almost none of the women lived to 25 years. Pithecanthropus and synanthropus mortality was even higher: 68% of synanthropes were under 14 years old.

These data were obtained by scientists in the study of bone remains of primitive people. The high mortality rate was often the result of frequent starvation, fatal injuries during hunting of large animals, which was natural and natural due to the underdevelopment of primitive productive forces, poverty and weakness of primitive technology. The people of that era had only the simplest tools made of stone, cysts, wood. They were rude and could not provide a constant source of food. The ancient people earned their living by hunting, fishing, and gathering. However, the primitive hunter, despite all his skills and art, often remained without prey, and the fisherman without fish: the beast disappeared from the forest, the fish left the rivers. Plant food could be obtained only in certain months of the year.

The labor activity of primitive people, all the efforts of our distant ancestors, which aimed to provide themselves and their loved ones with means of subsistence, often ended in vain. This caused them a state of uncertainty in their abilities, uncertainty in the future. The lack of real funds that guarantee reliable and consistent results of production activities, and were the main reasons that the Stone Age man turned to the search for irrational means of practical impact on nature. Magical rituals and ceremonies appeared by similar means.

Thus, economic underdevelopment, the weakness of primitive humanity, expressed in the practical helplessness of man before nature, and became the social background on which the belief in magic grew.

Primitive people were convinced that by performing magical rites they come into contact with a supernatural force that can protect them from the elements of nature, from all evil forces and beings, to help achieve a practical goal that they are unable to achieve. by means of real receptions and means. Specific forms of witchcraft were created by each clan, tribe, community independently, resulting in a myriad of magical rituals and ceremonies. Scientists have described and systematized literally thousands of sorcery rituals and beliefs that existed in different nations at different times.


Originating in the primitive epoch of mankind, magic did not remain unchanged for centuries, but took various forms. One of its developed forms is the occult.

Occultism (from the Latin occultus – secret, secret) – is a common name for teachings, "theoretically" substantiating the presence of magical (magical, supernatural) forces in man and space, inaccessible to ordinary mortals, but available for "dedicated" who have undergone special initiation and training. The occult includes the following "secret" science, such as astrology, mantic, or divination (palmistry, physiognomy, etc.), spiritualism, hermetic (named after the legendary founder of occultism – Hermes Trismegistus, whose image was the result of combining images of the Egyptian god Thoth and the Greek god Hermes – Herald of Divine Wisdom) medicine and others. For the first time we are talking about the occult in the era of late antiquity, when in the I-IV centuries AD in Alexandria was created a large occult literature, called hermetic.

At the heart of the occult are "principles" and "laws" primitive magic. Occultists only systematized the oldest magical ideas based on the principle: like causes like (sympathetic magic), part replaces the whole (contagious magic).

With the emergence of complex highly developed monotheistic religious systems such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, magical rituals have become an integral part of them. About how magic became part of one of "higher" religions – in Christianity – should be told in more detail.

Magic in the Christian cult

Religion of slaves and freedmen. "Once established, religion always retains a known buy a comparison essay cheap stock of ideas inherited from ancient times." F. Engels.

A similar statement applies to Christian rites, which contained elements of rites and rituals of other religions that preceded or existed in Christianity in the same era.

Christianity emerged as a religious product of socio-economic, ideological and political relations of a particular historical epoch. The social essence of early Christianity was that it arose as a movement of the oppressed. Christianity was originally a religion of slaves and freedmen, poor and disenfranchised, conquered or scattered peoples of Rome, preached the coming salvation from slavery and poverty, and sought this salvation in the afterlife in heaven.

In accordance with the basic principles of its doctrine, Christianity has reworked material borrowed from other religions and added to it a new symbolic meaning and significance. Thus, all ancient religions had the notion that gods offended by humans could be atoned for by sacrifices.