Thursday, October 29, 2015

Magic is Real: My Final Exam in Magic, Sorcery, and Witchcraft, by Alec Frazier

Hello! In this blog entry, I shall celebrate Halloween by giving you answers I gave a few years ago in the final exam to my class on Magic, Sorcery, and Witchcraft. This is a very serious class at my school, the State University of New York University at Buffalo. I am sharing these answers because I think that the questions are fascinating and entertaining. If you glean some knowledge from it, then even better! I do realize that somebody may potentially try to use this to cheat on an exam. However, I do think that that probability is quite slight.

Prof. Stevens has been teaching this class for over 40 years. He made a promise to us on the first day that he could convince us that magic is real. I agree. After his class I was convinced that magic is real to those who believe in it! Without further ado, the exam!
Alec Frazier
Anthropology 377
Prof. Philip Stevens
Final Exam
Question I, Option B
Power is the energy behind the overriding forces that impact the world. It is present in everything magical, and is arguably the primary driving engine behind magic. Power is a driving force behind the act of public, good magic, as well as sorcery, as evil magic. In terms of public, good magic, the people of Bali use power to determine their new year, as shown in the video at the beginning of class. In terms of sorcery, as evil magic, Alejandro in the second video we were shown in class was supposedly the victim of sorcery on the part of the evil spirits in Chile.
Forces are the way that power manifests itself in the functioning of the world. It is through these forces that power makes itself known. One example of forces in the world is taboo. Taboo is when something is forbidden by supernatural sanctions. When taboo is engaged, supernatural forces will punish you. A good example of taboo from class readings is the Polynesian/Melanesian concept of Mana. In these societies, only the Chiefs are allowed to perform various ceremonies and touch certain objects. If someone is not a chief, the Mana behind these ceremonies and objects will punish that individual.
Interconnections in nature is the network of connections between these forces previously mentioned. In magic, the world is a web of interconnected forces, manifesting power. Interconnections in nature are often used in divination. In divination, there is communication with beings and/or forces to find mystical information. Good examples of divination can be found amongst the Azande people of central Africa. They use several oracles to divine mystical information, including a benge poison oracle, and a termite oracle.
Symbols are items that stand in for other items, often with magical force behind them. Symbols often work through Fraser’s principle of similarity. Symbols are often used is often present in magical protection. In magical protection, an object symbolizing a form of protection or item to be protected may be given to someone and allowed to work on them. A good example of this from the reading by Raymond L.M. Lee is the amulet given to him by the Muslim mystics in Indonesia. This amulet supposedly protected him during his sleep.
Fraser’s principle of similarity is when objects, actions, sensory perceptions and other such items are similar to other items and cause connections between them. Symbols often work through this principle.
Fraser’s principle of contagion takes place if an item that is being used for magic has been in direct contact with something it is representing, making the magic more powerful and successful. This principle exists through both space and time.
One functional explanation for an aspect of magical beliefs is to provide justice. The Azande people of central Africa the previously mentioned divination from oracles in order to mete out justice for criminals. As mentioned earlier, the Balinese provide another functional explanation for an aspect of magical beliefs in using power of magic to determine their calendar.
A biological explanation for an aspect of magical beliefs can be based on how the mind works. Imagine that the mind exists. Also imagine that perception exists. Then imagine that perception forms a filter to how conditions reach the mind. By using perception as a lens through which conditions reach the mind, the way the mind views those conditions is based largely on perceptions. A good example illustrating this is the autistic brain. Because the way that autistic perceptions work is so vastly different from the neurotypical (i.e. neurodiverse)*, it is easy to see how different perceptions impact the mind. Out of the previously discussed aspects, this alteration in perceptions can be used to explain the human view of all of them. It is at least partially how we perceive each of these elements above that helps make them work on our minds.
*   Neurodiversity is a new term used to describe people whose brains and minds function different from the perceived norm. The perceived norm is called neurotypical. The idea is that brains and minds come in many different forms, just as there are many different races, sexual orientations, religions, ethnicities, etc. It is very interesting, and I encourage you to look into it. 
Question II, Option 1
According to Prof. Stevens in the class material, a demonology is when the majority or in power group persecutes a minority or out of power group for perceived allegations, which are unfortunately not always true. In the most serious demonologies throughout time, the allegations have been almost completely false. These demonologies have often come during times of difficult social/political conditions.
Jews, were discriminated against based on the fabricated book, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and two allegations made in response to the book were that Jews were using business and banking to economically strangle control of the world, and that Jews were paying off the world’s most powerful politicians to do their bidding. One sociopolitical condition going on at the time was that the world was rapidly changing in the face of the Industrial Revolution. Another sociopolitical condition was the rise of rights belonging to people who previously did not have rights: women, the new middle class, workers, racial minorities, etc.
Japanese-Americans were demonized during World War II, partially based on the two allegations that they knew something about the Pearl Harbor attack, or that they were secret agents of the Japanese government. One primary sociopolitical condition was that the world’s largest war was in action, causing much stress at home and abroad. Another sociopolitical condition was the increasing liberalizing of America following the new deal and various Supreme Court decisions affirming acts such as Social Security.
Communists in America in the early 1950s were alleged to be trying to control the government, and also being alleged to be trying to control the arts. One sociopolitical aspect was the Cold War between the US and the Western states on one side and the Soviet Union and the eastern states on the other side. Another key sociopolitical aspect was that there was growing political opposition to institutionalized racism, with public schools and institutions being integrated against the opposition of many in some parts of the country.
Diabolical Satanists in America in the 1980s and 1990s were alleged to be engaged in many unholy activities such as cannibalism and incest. Two sociopolitical conditions going on at the time were the rise of urban crime in the United States, and growing gap between the classes in the United States: the extremely poor, the middle class, and the supremely wealthy. 
 Question III
Trachtenberg states in part three of his book, Jews as Heretic, that the common demonology of Jews in Europe became almost universally common sometime around the 11th century. It was at this time that all other non-Christian faiths in Europe were either converted or vanquished. Until this point, Jews had not been the only non-Christians in Europe, and had sympathizers both among non-Christians and some Christians. After this point, it was not until the 20th century with the emergence of new were faiths and some religious tolerance that Jews were not almost universally demonized.
One allegation about Jews Dating to Jewish-Hellenic tensions under the Seleucids was that Jews, like witches, committed ritual murder.
One allegation about Jews was that, like witches, they were poisoners.
One allegation about Jews is that the Antichrist would be a Jew. This was born of the fact that throughout European society at the time, the opposite to Christian was seen to be Jewish, as there were almost no other faiths present. By putting the Jews on par with the Antichrist, there was a specific link to witches, who were supposed servants of the Antichrist’s father, Satan.
One allegation about Jews was that they often had physical deformities. These deformities often had similarities to the perceived appearance of the devil. They included horns, tales, and unnaturally disgusting odor. Although somewhat likely to be attributed to a witch, the attribution was not uniform or that frequently likely.
One allegation about Jews is that they were often sorcerers. It was often thought that Jewish doctors owed their success to these occult powers, and used human blood for medicinal purposes. This allegation is one of the specific ways in that medieval demonology of Jews was very similar to demonology of witches: they both were alleged to use blood in rituals.
I see very much a parallel between many groups today. Perhaps the biggest parallel is the demonology of the Muslims by the non-Muslims, specifically the Judeo Christians. After the events of 9/11, Muslims throughout the US and indeed the world have been unfairly demonized. In reality, there is much evidence to support that the Muslim community at large views those who committed these acts as heretics. There are many rules supporting peace and nonviolence in the Muslim religion, which were violated on that day. While I do feel that we were on the verge of a witch hunt just a few years ago, this demonology of Muslims has already scaled back considerably, and I do believe it will slowly, but surely go back to pre-9/11 levels. 
Extra Credit
            While I have mentioned the demonology of Muslims, there is another group that is very much demonized in today’s society. It is my group. The LGBTQ group. Today, there is an attack on us by religious fundamentalists who allege that we are trying to destroy American marriage, and family values as a whole, as well as corrupting children and devolving society into bestiality. Like many other times, there are sociopolitical situations that are making things tense right now: post-9/11 crackdowns, gradual liberalization of America, the collapse of the Republican Party, and the radicalization of people on the ends of all spectrums. People unfortunately seem to need something to demonize. The greatest mind in the world, Albert Einstein, was once asked if he believed that conflict would ever go away while humans roamed the earth. His answer was, “No.” Unfortunately, the same can probably be said for demonology.
This blog posting is the personal opinion of Alec Frazier, not the professional policy of his advocacy firm, Autistic Reality. If you oppose it, please screen grab it! I am very proud of this opinion!

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