From Jewish Mysticism to Magic

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Jewish Magic

While European magic, because of its heretical worship of Satan and the forces ofevil, had no meaning for the Jew, many so-called "strange" Jewish customs were misinterpreted as magical acts against Christians and considered cause for attack. In actuality, Jewish magic was merely an extension and elaboration of the accepted principles of Judaism. A Jewish magician strictly utilized the Powers of Good by invoking the names of God and his angels.

There were two types of Jewish magicians: the folk magician and the scholar. The folk magician was a man or woman who dealt in therapeutic remedies and segullot, in love potions and charms. The scholar was always male and dealt primarily withthe proper words and texts required for amulets. He was called when exorcism was needed.

Exorcism became a form of Jewish magic only after the development of the idea of transmigration of souls in the sixteenth century by the Lurianic school of Kabbalah. In Jewish folklore the dybbuk was the soul of one forced towander to atone for sins, which sought refuge in the body of a living individual. It represented a psychological possession by something beyond the individual's control.

The possession occurred for a purpose not usually demonic, perhaps for a redemption that had notbeen possible during the life of the dybbuk,or perhaps to help the living. Once the purpose was achieved, the dybbuk would usually leave voluntarily. Exorcism became necessary either if the dybbuk were an evil spirit, or if it refused to leave.

Exorcisms were to be performed only by morally blameless and skilled mystics. They could take minutes or days and followed a specific formal procedure. The dybbuk would be threatened with damnation and excommunication by the use of amulets, charms,and spells. If these proved insufficient, the dybbuk was placed under a ban of excommunication and condemned to dwell in a specific place such as a well ordesert, or else to wander eternally. The victim had to wear an amulet to prevent re-entry.

Accounts of exorcism continue to our own day, many of which are attributed to the Baal Shem Tov, and to the Zadikim (righteous men), the leaders of different hasidic groups.

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