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14.2A: Magic and Supernaturalism

  • Page ID
    8391
  • Supernaturalism refers to any belief system with supernatural forces, such as magic, and, in general, is prevalent in all societies.

     

    LEARNING OBJECTIVES

     

    Give examples which help distinguish between the very similar concepts of religion and magic

     

    KEY TAKEAWAYS

    Key Points

     

    • Supernatural forces are not bound to laws of nature; they work outside of them.
    • Mana is a classic example of a supernatural force that imbues objects with powers of authority.
    • The term religion is reserved for an organized cult with a priesthood and dedicated sites of worship or sacrifice, while magic is prevalent in all societies, regardless of whether they have organized religion or more general systems of animism or shamanism.

     

    Key Terms

     

    • mana: A form of supernatural energy in Polynesian religion that inheres in things or people.
    • Supernatural Forces: The supernatural is that which is not subject to the laws of nature, or more figuratively, that which is said to exist above and beyond nature.
    • supernaturalism: A belief in the doctrine of supernatural or divine agency as manifested in the world, in human events, religious revelation, miracles, etc.

     

    Supernaturalism

     

    Supernaturalism is perhaps the broadest classification of religious practices, encompassing any belief system dealing with supernatural forces. Supernaturalism asserts the existence of forces beyond human comprehension that frequently interfere, for better or worse, in human affairs. Most simply, the laws of nature do not bind the supernatural. These forces are considered impersonal because they are thought to come and go as they see fit, and can inhabit human and non-human objects alike. In popular culture and fiction, the supernatural is whimsically associated with the paranormal and the occult, which differs from traditional concepts in some religions, such as Catholicism, where divine miracles are considered supernatural.

    The concept ‘mana’ is a classic example of a supernatural force that imbues objects with powers and authority. For example, in Polynesian cultures, mana is the force that allows efficacy, or the ability to have an influence in the world. Similarly for Melanesians, mana primarily inhabits objects, like charms or amulets, which confer good fortune to whoever possesses them (though mana can also inhabit people or animals). Mana is not inherently good or evil; its impact depends on how it is used.

     

    Magic

     

    In many cases, it becomes difficult or impossible to draw any meaningful line between beliefs and practices that are magical versus those that are religious. In general, The term religion is reserved for an organized cult with a priesthood and dedicated sites of worship or sacrifice, while magic is prevalent in all societies, regardless of whether they have organized religion or more general systems of animism or shamanism. Religion and magic became conceptually separated with the development of western monotheism, where the distinction arose between supernatural events sanctioned by mainstream religious doctrine (“miracles”) and mere magic rooted in folk belief or occult speculation. In pre-monotheistic religious traditions, there is no fundamental distinction between religious practice and magic; tutelary deities concerned with magic are sometimes called “hermetic deities” or “spirit guides. ”

    image

     

    Woman floating above bed: Supernatural force allows this woman to float.