Why Are We So Fascinated By The Secret Symbols Of Magic And Witchcraft?

symbols of magic & witchcraft

Tarot is the book with no fixed pages, each spread is a complex visual spell of powerful magic, patiently waiting for your intuition to be sharp enough to discover it. We are all the archetypes of the Tarot, we are the Magicians & the High Priestesses.

It is up to us to believe in the magic all around us, ready to grasp the possibilities that are ours for the taking. When we delve deeper we begin to discover the myriad symbols hidden among the glorious imagery of these most powerful symbols. In a psychic telephone reading it is the job of the reader to interpret the symbols of the tarot cards & align their meaning with actionable guidance for the questioner.

The origins of the Western concept of magic can be traced back to the ancient Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman cultures. During the mediaeval and early modern periods in northern Europe, the tradition developed further before spreading to other parts of the world through European exploration and colonialism after 1500.

The origins of the word magic raise concerns about how a single person’s religion can be another’s magic, & vice versa. When occultist Arthur Edward Waite commissioned artist Pamela Colman Smith to design a deck in 1909, the most famous – and influential – tarot was born. 

If you’ve only seen one tarot deck, it’s probably the Rider-Waite-Smith (often referred to simply as the Rider-Waite) – which is still the most popular in the world today. It was the first deck I was gifted & the deck I based my personal tarot deck on as I stepped in to each card to absorb the tarot symbols & meanings.

Colman and Waite were both members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a secret society dedicated to the study of the occult (other members included Bram Stoker and WB Yeats). Their deck reimagined and modernized tarot, reinterpreting imagery to create a deck that mirrored the reader.

In the accompanying book, The Pictorial Key to Tarot, Waite wrote, “The pictures are like doors that open unexpected chambers, or like a turn in the road with a wide prospect beyond.”

Pamela Colman Smith admitted in a letter that it was “a big job for very little money,” but her vibrant illustrations were instrumental in broadening tarot’s appeal.

Yet, if Stuart R Kaplan, founder and chairman of US Games Systems Inc, hadn’t come across the Rider-Waite deck at a toy fair in 1968, the Rider-Waite deck, and tarot itself, might have faded into obscurity.

Tarot is still popular today. While there are a few specialized tarot publishers, crowdfunding have made it easier for any artist with a vision to create their own deck, resulting in a diversity of interpretations and hundreds of different decks. You can see details of my personal deck The O’Mara Tarot right on my site.

Witchy Vibes

Secret symbols have always played a significant role in witchcraft. Pam Grossman, self-described witch, host of The Witch Wave podcast, and co-editor of Taschen’s Witchcraft, says, “The word occult means hidden, and the idea of your magic is important for two reasons.”

“First because there is a widespread belief that the less you share your magic, the more potent it is.” Spell books, particularly “grimoires,” a transliteration of the mid-nineteenth-century French word grammaire, were frequently illustrated with visual signs and symbols intended only for the creator. While some witchcraft symbols, such as the pentagram, are universal, others are more specific. Sigils, which Grossman describes as a mix of artistry and witchcraft, are perhaps the most personal of these. 

9 Words from the Magical Realm You Need to Know

Mascot

Mascot is derived from the Latin word masca, which meant “witch” in the Middle Ages. Masca was borrowed as masco into Provenal, a southern French dialect, and later as mascoto, a diminutive form of the Provenal noun meaning “charm” or “magic spell.” The diminutive became part of modern French as mascotte, meaning “good luck charm,” in the latter half of the 19th century, and was popularised in the title of Edmond Audran’s operetta La Mascotte, composed in 1880.

Voodoo

Many people associate this word with an old serial image of a witch doctor pinning pins into a doll while a helpless, unwitting victim writhes in pain miles away. Given the negative connotation of voodoo, it may come as a surprise to some that it is a religion that combines elements of Roman Catholic ritual with native African religions and magic.

Toadstone

Toadstones’ magic has been dispelled by modern science, but their history continues to fascinate. Bufonite, is an extinct fish of the genus Lepidotes that lived during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods—is the source of toadstones. 

Phylactery

The word phylactery is derived from the Greek phylaktrion, which means “amulet” or “safeguard,” and phylactery is sometimes used as a synonym for amulet.

Mojo

Despite the fact that mojo is a magical word with African voodoo roots that refers to spells, hexes, or charms, English speakers and writers aren’t afraid to use it.

Madstone

The madstone is an American version of the bezoar stone from the nineteenth century. (The word bezoar comes from the Persian word pd-zahr, which means “to protect against poison.”) Both are hard substances formed in an animal’s digestive system that, according to legend, can counteract poison’s effects (as from the bite of a venomous snake or a rabid dog).

Juju

Juju is a West African word that first appeared in English in the late 1800s and refers to a type of spiritual magic that can be used for good or evil. It comes from the Hausa language of northern Nigeria. The principle behind magic is that spiritual energy can be transferred to objects.

Mumbo jumbo

Mumbo jumbo has a long history dating back to Africa. It is thought to be derived from the Mandinka word maamajomboo, which refers to a masked dancer who performed at religious ceremonies. Francis Moore, a clerk with the Royal African Company, first used the term in his book Travels into the Inland Parts of Africa, published in 1738. Moore describes how he “was visited by a Mumbo Jumbo, an Idol, and a Mumbo Jumbo, an Idol, and an Idol, and an Idol, and an Idol, and an Id.

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