From Middle English sorcerie, and Old French sorcier, derived from the Vulgar Latin sortiarius, traced back to the original Latin, sors, meaning lot, or chance, and sortis, the genitive case meaning of, or by, lots (indicative of the practice of divination by lots, or Sortilege), sorcery is a process of casting enchantments or conjuring demons and/or spirits to alter or influence natural events, objects, people, and physical phenomena, or to produce a wanted outcome or knowledge.
This primitive magic, sometimes also called sympathetic magic, involved practices such as tying and untying knots, blood sacrifices, and sticking pins in wax images or little dolls or poppets.
Sorcery is a very ancient form of magic. Its practice date back to prehistoric and pre-Columbian religions, as well as those of the Middle East and ancient Egypt; by the Middle Ages it referred to the practice of malevolent magic, or black magic, most commonly the use of supposed supernatural power by the agency of evil spirits called forth by spells by any person with a desire for malice, often motivated out of envy or revenge.
A male that performed sorcery was known as a Sorcerer; a female, Sorceress. Most people picture a sorcerer as being male, an evil person, such as a black witch or black magician, who dresses in black and practices black magic.
In ancient times, a sorcerer could be almost anyone a gypsy, a diviner, a necromancer (someone who calls up the dead), an intellectual or learned man, anyone who practiced science or set up a laboratory.
Sorcery in all its forms, such as divination, love-magic and death-magic, as well as necromantic practices, was rife amongst all the classes in ancient Rome. From the highest castes of the Roman Republic to the lowest slave, they all had some belief in divination, nature deities, magical rituals, or superstitions. There were charms and spells for everything under the sun; the rain charm of the pontiffs consisting of the throwing of puppets into the Tiber; the charm against thunderbolts compounded of onions, hair and sprats; the charm against an epidemic when the matrons of Rome swept the temple floors with their hair; and many more down to the simple love charm strung round the neck of the country maiden.
In medieval times, Sorcerers were believed to be the priests of Satan and were assumed to attend Sabbaths along with witches in order to worship their evil god.
Today sorcerers are believed to be people who work magic for the purpose of harming others, and may use wax dolls to inflict pain, or evoke deities or spirits in order to ask their assistance in evil matters.
General characteristics of a sorcerer;
- Uses magic for evil purposes.
- Generally works alone.
- Often evokes demons.
- Uses magic tools.
- May worship the Devil.
- Is generally male.
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Sources: (1) Spence, Lewis, An Encyclopedia of Occultism, Carol Publishing Group; (2) Randi, James, An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural, St. Martin's Griffin; (3) The Encyclopaedia Britannica Eleventh Edition Handy Volume Edition, Oxford University Press; (4) Bailey, Nancy (editor), The Little Giant Encyclopedia of Spells and Magic, Sterling Publishing.
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