Apotropaic Magic

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This’ll be the second post in the Pagan Blog Project series I somehow convinced myself I wanted to take part in. Hopefully, it will be of some use.

Following the agreed-upon alphabetic format, this is my second post with a topic beginning with the letter A. [If you want to see the first A post, the one I wrote about ancestors, it’s right here.] For my second A post, I want to talk about apotropaic magic. What the Hades does that mean? And how do you even say that?

Apotropaic (ah-POE-troe-pay-ick) is the English rendering of the Greek word apotrepein. This translates “to turn away” or “to push away,” so apotropaic magic would be magic designed to turn away or push away something.

Traditionally, apotropaic magic is used to deflect other magic, or for protection against evil that is “sent” toward or against something or someone else. It’s a specific kind of defensive magic, one with a long history in our world.

Ancient Egyptians used apotropaic magic to protect against everything from evil spirits to a spouse’s wandering eye. Official state rituals turned any potential evil away from the kingdom as part of every new year’s celebration. Private rituals could invoke fierce gods like Bes and Taweret to protect children from danger; like Sekhmet to scare off plagues; or Neith to dissolve nightmares. Apotropaic heka (as ancient Egyptians called the entire magical corpus of tools, words, and rituals used for magic) included amulets; “magic wands” made of ivory; statues; images carved into household objects like beds, headrests, and chairsincantations; or curses spoken to ancestors or dangerous spirits.

Apotropaic magic wasn’t limited to Egypt, nor did it start there. We know of many apotropaic practices and rituals from the rest of the Ancient Near East, and also the rest of the world. Nor is it something that was only done in antiquity. Everything from throwing salt over your shoulder because your Irish grandmother told you to do so, to the blue glass eyes hanging in a Turkish coffee shop (or on your cell phone screen?), reminds us that apotropaic magic is alive, well, and functioning all over the world, right now.

Apotropaic magic: It’s what we use to kick ass, or warn someone or something that we’re all out of bubblegum, when necessary.

kickass

There’s always evil to be smashed, so why not engage in some of your own apotropaea? What sorts of apotropaic magic do you practice?

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