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Drawing Down the MoonMagic in the Ancient Greco-Roman World$
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Radcliffe G. Edmonds III

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691156934

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691156934.001.0001

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Through a Glass Darkly: Divination and Magic

Through a Glass Darkly: Divination and Magic

Chapter:
(p.188) 7 Through a Glass Darkly: Divination and Magic
Source:
Drawing Down the Moon
Author(s):

Radcliffe G. Edmonds III

Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691156934.003.0007

This chapter assesses divination. Divination consists of soliciting and receiving messages from the gods; it is in some sense the reverse of prayer, since it is communication from gods to mortals. As with prayer, divination is an area in which the definition of magic as an extraordinary form of ritualized action becomes particularly useful. Like prayer and sacrifice, divination forms a large part of the order of normal religion in the Greco-Roman world, so divination is only labeled “magic” when it makes claims to authority far outside this normal order, either as a superlatively efficacious procedure that depends on specialized arcane knowledge or, conversely, as a bit of traditional superstition that seems ineffective in comparison with the normally accepted procedures. Technical, indirect, or artificial divination consists in the observation of significant phenomena and the puzzling out of the significance, whereas natural or inspired divination does not rely on such interpretive techniques but rather on interpersonal communication with the divine.

Keywords:   divination, divine communication, magic, ritualized action, Greco-Roman world, arcane knowledge, traditional superstition, technical divination, natural divination

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