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Jewish Magic and Superstition, by Joshua Trachtenberg, [], full text etext at Rabbi Joshua Trachtenberg, in his defensive yet illuminating book, writing of the age-long reputation of jews as practitioners of black magic and. From Sefer Raziel, Amsterdam, i7 JOSHUA TRACHTENBERG JEWISH MAGIC AND SUPERSTITION A Study in Folk Religion Submitted in partial fulfillment.

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Thus we find ensconced in the Hebrew lore beliefs and practices emanating from the entire Mediterranean world: A curious parallel to this tale indicates the tragic use to which this reputation for sorcery could be put, and the tragic necessity which prompted such a use.

The magicians exercised great freedom of choice, selecting in a given case the name or names which they believed to possess the greater power, and determining their use by the specific request or magical act which accompanied the utterance of the names.

Corresponding with Holle-locke is the term Hollenzopf50 The lady made her way into Jewish life in her other role as well. There were, of course, deviations from the general rule.

Jewish Magic and Superstition | Joshua Trachtenberg, Moshe Idel

May 31, Bram rated it really liked it. So uncompromising a magiv, however, found few adherents. In such cases the spirits would be absolutely at a loss to distinguish the one from the other. It appeared frequently in magical formulas intended to drive off demons and to counteract magic, and was recited at funerals, when the spirits were unusually active, and upon all other such critical occasions.

Finally, the position of the angels in heaven made accessible to them the founts of mystic lore; they were the source of that secret wisdom to which the mystic aspired. A classic treatise, available now for the first time in paperback, on the folk beliefs of the Jews, with a new introduction by arguably the most important contemporary scholar of Jewish mysticism. Phrases that are capable of being lead alike in either direction were especially highly prized.


Often this shouting followed a formula.

Jewish Magic and Superstition: A Study in Folk Religion by Joshua Trachtenberg

He received the Israel Prize for excellence in the field of Jewish philosophy in Had such a method ever been more generally employed, these works would bear testimony to that fact. So intimately had they entered into Jewish folklore that it was possible for some writers to identify them with those original demons whose souls were created on the eve of the Sabbath, when the press of time left them in a bodyless condition.

The Name has swallowed up the Angel. There is in the folklore superstitikn the Middle Ages, as indeed of all times and all places, no definite and impassable line of demarcation between the worlds of man, of beast, and of spirit. Behind the demonstration there lurks, we may be sure, the wish, if not the expectation, that the person of the victim might experience the fate thus visited upon his double.

Jewish thought could not have been unaffected by such a heightening of mystical sensitiveness in such close trachtfnberg the more so because it was already acquainted with a closely related doctrine.

Consequently every innocent Jewish act which by its strangeness laid itself open to suspicion was considered a diabolical device for working magic against Christians. The very intensity of Jewish study of the Bible, and the centrality in Judaism of the doctrine of direct revelation, facilitated the subjection of this book to the fate of the others.

Since all creation is engaged in the quest for perfection, all things striving to attain the next higher degree of being, the demons, too, are perpetually seeking to acquire the body of man, their greatest desire being for that of the scholar, the highest type of human.

Briah Bat rated it liked it Oct 01, Woe betide him if it had slipped his memory!

Jewish Magic and Superstition: A Study in Folk Religion

There were names given to Angels in the bible and Talmud but during medieval times there names proliferated. First published more than sixty years ago, Trachtenberg’s study remains the foundational scholarship on magical practices in the Jewish world and offers an understanding of folk beliefs that expressed most eloquently the everyday religion of the Jewish people.


This prodigality of names to effect a single end owns a hoary precedent in the Geonic and Hellenistic magical literatures. The spirits guarded their names as jealously as ever did a primitive tribe. He confessed that he feared none but his own child. It seems more than probable that this last version contains the clew to the whole business. Nor should several families with a common name reside in one dwelling. Not satisfied with the possibilities thus provided, the vowel points, too, were altered and transposed in order to create new variations of the Great Name, and such forms as yahavaha, ye- havha, yahvah, yeheveh, etc.

We have then this parallel: To illustrate the strength of this belief in the tenacity of mis- ortune I may cite this tale: Jared rated it it was amazing Jan 02, Provocation, it is true, might stir jweish up to strike back at their enemies. A teacher of mine, out for a stroll, was suddenly confronted with a black cat from which he shied away nervously.

So strong an impression did it make that in Geonic times there arose the custom of circumcising infants who died before their eighth day, at the grave, and there giving them a supersfition. But if more varied charges did not enter the record, we may be certain that they existed in the mind of the people.

Amos Vos rated it really liked it Jun 01,