What can archeology teach us about magic? It turns out, a whole hell of a lot! I wasn’t sure what to expect from “Magic: A History: From Alchemy to Witchcraft from the Ice Age to the Present” by Chris Gosden. I don’t know who I thought would write the history of magic, but an archeologist just wasn’t what I was expecting. That said, Gosden was the right person for the job.
Gosden defines magic as “human connections with the universe, so that people are open to the workings of the universe and the universe is responsive to us. Magic is related to, but different from, the other two great strands of history, religion or science: the former focuses on a god or gods, the latter a distanced understanding of physical reality. Magic is one of the oldest world-views and yet is capable of constant renewal, so that a modern magic can help us to explore our physical and ethical connections to the world in a time of profound ecological crisis.”
With this as a guide, Gosden starts in 40,000 to 5,000 BCE and ends in spiritualism, Aleister Crowley, and the Golden Dawn. During this, Gosden spans the globe, exploring archeological sites for insights into the magical practices of the early Neanderthals, China, Africa, Greece, the Americas, and more. Obviously, a single book can contain only so much detail, but considering the breadth of time and extensive geography covered, “Magic: A History” is an impressive work that had to have involved a migraine inducing amount of research.
For years now I have longed for a complete history of magic, and now Chris Gosden has done the hard work required to make my desires a reality. “Magic: A History” fills a void that has existed for far too long and is an essential book for anyone interested in the evolution of magical practices.
You can learn more here.
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