The importance of magic to social relationships

Craig T. Palmer, Lyle B. Steadman, Chris Cassidy, Kathryn Coe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Many anthropological explanations of magical practices are based on the assumption that the immediate cause of performing an act of magic is the belief that the magic will work as claimed. Such explanations typically attempt to show why people come to believe that magical acts work as claimed when such acts do not identifiably have such effects. We suggest an alternative approach to the explanation of magic that views magic as a form of religious behavior, a form of communication that promotes or protects cooperative social relationships. We suggest that all forms of religious behavior involve persons communicating acceptance of a supernatural claim and that this act communicates a willingness to accept nonskeptically the influence of the person making such a claim. Thus, religious behavior communicates a willingness to cooperate with the claim maker and others who accept his or her influence. We suggest that magic, which can be distinguished by the communicated acceptance of the claim that certain techniques have supernatural effects, also promotes cooperation. Different types of magic, including sorcery, love magic, and curing magic, can be shown to communicate different types of messages, such as a threat to use violence to punish unsocial behavior, sexual desire, or concern for a person's well-being. Ethnographic examples are used to support this hypothesis. This approach requires no assumptions about whether the practitioners of magic do or do not believe that the magical acts work as claimed. It attempts only to account for the identifiable talk and behavior that constitute magical acts by examining the identifiable, and often important, effects of these acts on the behavior of others.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)317-337
Number of pages21
JournalZygon
Volume45
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

religious behavior
human being
willingness to cooperate
acceptance
Social Relationships
Magic
love
well-being
threat
violence
cause
communication
Religion
Person
Willingness
Acceptance
Supernatural
Well-being
Communication
Ethnographic

Keywords

  • Belief
  • Communication
  • Cooperation
  • Magic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies
  • Cultural Studies
  • Education

Cite this

Palmer, C. T., Steadman, L. B., Cassidy, C., & Coe, K. (2010). The importance of magic to social relationships. Zygon, 45(2), 317-337. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9744.2010.01083.x

The importance of magic to social relationships. / Palmer, Craig T.; Steadman, Lyle B.; Cassidy, Chris; Coe, Kathryn.

In: Zygon, Vol. 45, No. 2, 06.2010, p. 317-337.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Palmer, CT, Steadman, LB, Cassidy, C & Coe, K 2010, 'The importance of magic to social relationships', Zygon, vol. 45, no. 2, pp. 317-337. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9744.2010.01083.x
Palmer CT, Steadman LB, Cassidy C, Coe K. The importance of magic to social relationships. Zygon. 2010 Jun;45(2):317-337. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9744.2010.01083.x
Palmer, Craig T. ; Steadman, Lyle B. ; Cassidy, Chris ; Coe, Kathryn. / The importance of magic to social relationships. In: Zygon. 2010 ; Vol. 45, No. 2. pp. 317-337.
@article{18ae8f71efcf463abfae9db88771d517,
title = "The importance of magic to social relationships",
abstract = "Many anthropological explanations of magical practices are based on the assumption that the immediate cause of performing an act of magic is the belief that the magic will work as claimed. Such explanations typically attempt to show why people come to believe that magical acts work as claimed when such acts do not identifiably have such effects. We suggest an alternative approach to the explanation of magic that views magic as a form of religious behavior, a form of communication that promotes or protects cooperative social relationships. We suggest that all forms of religious behavior involve persons communicating acceptance of a supernatural claim and that this act communicates a willingness to accept nonskeptically the influence of the person making such a claim. Thus, religious behavior communicates a willingness to cooperate with the claim maker and others who accept his or her influence. We suggest that magic, which can be distinguished by the communicated acceptance of the claim that certain techniques have supernatural effects, also promotes cooperation. Different types of magic, including sorcery, love magic, and curing magic, can be shown to communicate different types of messages, such as a threat to use violence to punish unsocial behavior, sexual desire, or concern for a person's well-being. Ethnographic examples are used to support this hypothesis. This approach requires no assumptions about whether the practitioners of magic do or do not believe that the magical acts work as claimed. It attempts only to account for the identifiable talk and behavior that constitute magical acts by examining the identifiable, and often important, effects of these acts on the behavior of others.",
keywords = "Belief, Communication, Cooperation, Magic",
author = "Palmer, {Craig T.} and Steadman, {Lyle B.} and Chris Cassidy and Kathryn Coe",
year = "2010",
month = "6",
doi = "10.1111/j.1467-9744.2010.01083.x",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "45",
pages = "317--337",
journal = "Zygon",
issn = "0591-2385",
publisher = "Wiley-Blackwell",
number = "2",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - The importance of magic to social relationships

AU - Palmer, Craig T.

AU - Steadman, Lyle B.

AU - Cassidy, Chris

AU - Coe, Kathryn

PY - 2010/6

Y1 - 2010/6

N2 - Many anthropological explanations of magical practices are based on the assumption that the immediate cause of performing an act of magic is the belief that the magic will work as claimed. Such explanations typically attempt to show why people come to believe that magical acts work as claimed when such acts do not identifiably have such effects. We suggest an alternative approach to the explanation of magic that views magic as a form of religious behavior, a form of communication that promotes or protects cooperative social relationships. We suggest that all forms of religious behavior involve persons communicating acceptance of a supernatural claim and that this act communicates a willingness to accept nonskeptically the influence of the person making such a claim. Thus, religious behavior communicates a willingness to cooperate with the claim maker and others who accept his or her influence. We suggest that magic, which can be distinguished by the communicated acceptance of the claim that certain techniques have supernatural effects, also promotes cooperation. Different types of magic, including sorcery, love magic, and curing magic, can be shown to communicate different types of messages, such as a threat to use violence to punish unsocial behavior, sexual desire, or concern for a person's well-being. Ethnographic examples are used to support this hypothesis. This approach requires no assumptions about whether the practitioners of magic do or do not believe that the magical acts work as claimed. It attempts only to account for the identifiable talk and behavior that constitute magical acts by examining the identifiable, and often important, effects of these acts on the behavior of others.

AB - Many anthropological explanations of magical practices are based on the assumption that the immediate cause of performing an act of magic is the belief that the magic will work as claimed. Such explanations typically attempt to show why people come to believe that magical acts work as claimed when such acts do not identifiably have such effects. We suggest an alternative approach to the explanation of magic that views magic as a form of religious behavior, a form of communication that promotes or protects cooperative social relationships. We suggest that all forms of religious behavior involve persons communicating acceptance of a supernatural claim and that this act communicates a willingness to accept nonskeptically the influence of the person making such a claim. Thus, religious behavior communicates a willingness to cooperate with the claim maker and others who accept his or her influence. We suggest that magic, which can be distinguished by the communicated acceptance of the claim that certain techniques have supernatural effects, also promotes cooperation. Different types of magic, including sorcery, love magic, and curing magic, can be shown to communicate different types of messages, such as a threat to use violence to punish unsocial behavior, sexual desire, or concern for a person's well-being. Ethnographic examples are used to support this hypothesis. This approach requires no assumptions about whether the practitioners of magic do or do not believe that the magical acts work as claimed. It attempts only to account for the identifiable talk and behavior that constitute magical acts by examining the identifiable, and often important, effects of these acts on the behavior of others.

KW - Belief

KW - Communication

KW - Cooperation

KW - Magic

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=77955813136&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=77955813136&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2010.01083.x

DO - 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2010.01083.x

M3 - Article

AN - SCOPUS:77955813136

VL - 45

SP - 317

EP - 337

JO - Zygon

JF - Zygon

SN - 0591-2385

IS - 2

ER -