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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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The Label of ‘Magic’ in the Ancient Greco­Roman World

The Label of ‘Magic’ in the Ancient Greco­Roman World

(p.378) 11 The Label of ‘Magic’ in the Ancient Greco­Roman World
Drawing Down the Moon

Radcliffe G. Edmonds III

Princeton University Press

This concluding chapter assesses why the label of “magic” is applied, by whom, to whom, and in what circumstances. Many of the things labeled as “magic”—curses or prayers or divinatory rituals—may, depending on the circumstances, be regarded as perfectly normative. However, these ritual acts may also be considered non-normative if the same things are done by different people in different contexts (social location) or with different claims to power and authority (efficacy). The chapter then considers the ways these cues of social location and efficacy are used in the discourse of magic, both for the labeling of the self and of others. For other-labeling, the dynamics are especially clear in the legal arena, where the community or its representative are deciding where that person fits within the community. In such evidence, claims of extraordinary efficacy remain secondary to the cue of the social location of the performer. By contrast, self-labeling is much rarer and appears only in limited kinds of evidence, such as the Greek Magical Papyri, but the cue of extraordinary efficacy is the most important, and claims to extraordinary social location tend to be secondary to it. The appearance of such self-labeling, however, is unusual in the discourse of magic found in other cultures, so these examples are particularly revealing for the nature of the discourse of magic in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

Keywords:   magic, ritual acts, social location, extraordinary efficacy, other-labeling, self-labeling, Greek Magical Papyri, ancient Greco-Roman world

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