However, there is one major difference between the two anthropologists – James Frazer was more interested about the origins. He believed that if we studied magic, one could also establish the origins of religion. Malinowski, on the other hand, was more interested in the function of magic, specifically within culture and society. The function of religion is that it “establishes, fixes and enhances all valuable mental attitudes, such as reverence for tradition, harmony with environment… and confidence in the struggle with difficulties and at the prospect of death” (Malinowski 89).
Thus, the significance of religion’s function is to reveal truth in a broad manner. Yet, magic serves more of a practical purpose culture. It helps bridge the gaps between the known and unknown regarding critical situations that are less worldly and more explicit. “The function of magic is to ritualize man’s optimism, to enhance his faith in the victory of hope over fear” (Malinowski, 90). In addition, Malinowski also states that magic has a greater purpose than just providing man with confidence over that which he doubts.
He also states that without magic, “man could not have mastered his practical difficulties as he has done, nor could man have advanced to the higher stages of culture” (Malinowski, 90). I hold this to be an extremely important statement. I not only agree that it was needed for the advancement of cultures, but my own interpretation and extrapolation is that since cultures are still experiencing growth, magic must still be present to aid mankind into the new, unknown realms of culture that have yet to be visited. In modern, Western society, magic still persists.
There are areas of anxiety or uncertainty where magic still proliferates. A student preparing for an exam might bring a lucky charm or a lucky pen which has been proven to be beneficial in previous exams. At casinos, gamblers may walk enter the building backwards or blow on a “hot” set of dice at the Craps table. Most importantly, as our culture enters a new technological and computer age, magic is still finding its way into society. Slot machines have the option of using a button or a mechanical arm to spin the reels of the device.
Some gamblers believe the mechanical arm should only be used when a high amount of money is being risked to help ensure greater luck and the button to be used when a less risky amount of money is being wagered. In my own home, I have caught myself using magic to turn off a television set. At random times, the television does not turn off completely – the power remains on, but the picture and sound are faded, forcing me to unplug the set from the outlet to fully turn off the television set.
At times, I noticed when I tried using the remote and pressed the ‘power’ button rapidly and repeatedly, after a minute the television would completely turn off without having to unplug it from the outlet and hence, my simple aim was achieved. Sometimes, however, I would find myself having to stay longer than a minute – I eventually gave up after two minutes and just unplugged the set. Afterwards, I found myself using different patterns of pressing the power button, almost in a rhythmic fashion and noticed that using sets of three (on-off, on-off, on-off, pause, repeat) worked better than sets of two.
I was convincing myself that I found the “magic touch” to solve this simple problem, whereas any television repair person would have thought it to be ludicrous to use magic to alter the behaviour of technology, something which is supposed to be fixed and determined. After reading James Frazer and Bronislaw Malinowski, as well as reflect upon my own experiences with magic, I have decided to dig my own rabbit hole and attempt to define the term “magic.
” Magic is any form of ritual, by use of supernatural or natural entities, to achieve a particular goal. It is individually possessed and is used for practical and personal experiences. Strict conditions or sequences are enforced to ensure proper initiation, yet, these conditions may be altered or improved upon. Magic is a necessity for mankind to bridge the gap between the known and unknown so that it can achieve higher forms of culture and adapt to unknown surroundings, such as technology.
My definition is broad since there are many different theories and concepts of magic that seem equally important and should not have been excluded. It is a complex term and for this reason is difficult to define in terms of black and white and may be better left as a shade of grey.
Word Count: 1386 Bibliography Frazer, James G. The Golden Bough. New York: MacMillan, 1963 . Malinowski, Bronislaw. “Magic, Science and Religion” in Magic Science and Religion. New York: Doubleday, 1954.