James Frazer's ethnology of religion entitled The Golden Bough, published in 1890 and again in 1922, offered a thorough review of the cross cultural variation in ideas related to magic, myth and religion that were known to Europeans at the time. Taking an evolutionary approach to spirituality, he proposed that human belief progressed through three stages: primitive magic, which was displaced by religion, which in turn was replaced by science.
There are two types of known magic: imitative and contagious.
- Imitative Magic
Imitative magic (also known as Similarity Magic) Is a form of magic in which an object, act, etc. that is similar to the desired goal can be used to influence an outcome(e.g. a rain dance to bring rain to dry crops). This is a religious cult practiced in the Caribbean and Southern USA (mostly by afro-americans, immigrants and descendants), combining elements of Roman Catholic rituals with traditional African magical and religious rites, and characterized by sorcery and spirit possession.. Voodoo, an example of similarity magic, has a negative connotation because of the misconception that it is associated with evil. In this practice, the Voodoo doll is used as a symbolic representation of another person. A person that practices Voodoo magic may stick pins into a doll in order to inflict harm or put a curse on another individual; it is thought that by harming the Voodoo doll, one can manipulate the physical or emotional state of the person that the doll is meant to represent.
However, the use of Voodoo is not purely negative. Voodoo is often used to heal relationships or other personal issues. An example of this is found in the book Mama Lola: A Voodoo Priestess in Brooklyn by Karen McCarthy Brown. Brown studies the priestesses daily practices, and finds that Mama Lola uses imitative magic to help people's lives. In one instance, she helps a young women's relationship with her husband. The husband is cheating on his wife, so Moma Lola tells her to write his name on a piece of paper, tear it up, and speak his name. By doing this, he will hear her and come back to her.
- Contagious Magic
Contagious magic is often associated with witchcraft and sorcery. Witchcraft uses magic by casting spells, sometimes affiliated with spirits. Despite the stereotypes of European American witchcraft, most witchcraft is quite tame and does not involve the hurting of others. Contagious magic is still practiced today throughout the world. Many people still use puppets (much like voodoo dolls) or make symbolic offerings (images, money, candles and representations of babies or body part or a myriad of other public displays of devotion (the supplicants to the which are made with someone's personal possessions in order to draw positive energy into that person's life. The ability that a Navajo Witch has to cause you physical pain because they have a piece of your hair is an example of contagious magic.