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Exhibition at the Bible Lands Museum Looks at Jewish Magic through the Ages
A member of the media looks at an amulet during a preview of a new exhibition entitled "Angels and Demons, Jewish Magic through the Ages" at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem May 3, 2010. The exhibition, which opens to the public on Wednesday, examines the origins and development of magical practices in Judaism by focusing on beliefs, customs and the use of magical objects in daily Jewish life. REUTERS/Baz Ratner.
JERUSALEM.- Magic permeates our daily (Jewish) lives to such a degree that life without magic is close to impossible. An interesting fact is that most individuals are unaware that many items in their daily life and many daily actions and beliefs are magical in nature. Examples of this are endless: knocking on wood, tfu tfu tfu, Evil Eye (בלי עין הרע), not naming a child before birth, the amuletic power of the mezuzah, red ribbon bracelet, khamsas, jinxes… These and many more practices have ancient sources. Some have lost their meaning even though they are still used, for example, the magical formula ABRACADABRA, has its roots in the 3rd century CE, and is continuously used even today.

In this exhibition visitors examine the origins and development of magic in Judaism from the First Temple period to the present day by focusing on beliefs, customs and, particularly, the practical use of magic objects in daily Jewish life.

Belief that the world was filled with supernatural beings and forces such as angels, demons, spirits and the evil eye was common in the ancient world and, indeed, many people today hold to that conviction. These forces were attributed with many powers and were thought to be responsible for many of the good, but especially the bad things occurring to people on a daily basis. It was (and is) generally believed that such forces can be coerced into acting on behalf of the applicant. Depending on whether the goal of this coercion was for evil or good, we can distinguish between witchcraft (black magic) and magic (protective magic, or white magic).

Biblical laws strictly forbid the Jewish people from having anything to do with witchcraft (black magic):

"You shall not allow a sorceress to live". (Exodus 22:17)

“There must not be found among you anyone that … uses divination, a soothsayer, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a medium, or a wizard, or a necromancer". (Deuteronomy 18:10-11)

However, (white) magic - i.e. defense against the dark arts, the forces of evil and the damage they cause - was not forbidden in Judaism. This is clear both from biblical and rabbinical writings and from many of the preserved.

The exhibition is enhanced by artifacts on loan from the Golan Archaeological Museum, The Institute of Archaeology of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, The Israel Antiquities Authority and private collectors.

Jerusalem | Bible Lands Museum | Jewish Magic through the Ages |


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