Lydia gave a lecture on sympathetic magick at a library in Toronto, Canada in 2016. This writing highlights what she discussed.
As Above, So Below
Sympathetic magick taps into the symbolic ordering of the universe. It is a principle upon which all forms of divination rely. For example, the tarot cards symbolically tell us a story that is thought to bear a resemblance to events in our own lives. And when we scry into a crystal ball, we may see something which reminds us of something else. This is what we mean by sympathetic—things relate to each other!
The famous hermetic maxim "as above, so below" suggests that events here on earth are imitative of events in the heavens. We can work magick by tapping into the commonalities between two different situations. Children certainly learn by imitating their parents! Manifesting by encouraging the universe to imitate magickal events is another basis of sympathetic thought.
Sympathetic magick is found in all cultures. It is hard to think of any form of magick or witchcraft which doesn't rely on these principles!
Prehistoric Art Is the Earliest Form of Sympathetic Magick
Sympathetic Magick in Prehistoric Times
The first sympathetic magick was probably conducted in prehistoric times. A common theory is that cave paintings were created in order to generate a better hunt for the tribe. There is a lot of evidence to back this idea up! We don't see many cave paintings which don't involve hunting. The animals in these paintings are commonly large animals which would have provided more than enough meat for human consumption. They include arrows and spears acting out the kill. These pictures are never pretty landscapes paintings merely to decorate cave walls!
Sir James Frazer and the Golden Bough
Sir James Frazer was a Scottish anthropologist who first used the term sympathetic magick in his writing. Now this term is a popular one in the world of occult studies. Sir James Frazer was born in 1854. In 1890, he published The Golden Bough which is his most famous work. It documents magickal and religious beliefs from around the world. Frazer was an influential anthropologist in the early stages of the study of mythology and comparative religion.
While there is no scientific proof that sympathetic magick works, we can find elements of it infused in so many different spiritual traditions. How could so many cultures possibly be wrong? Sir James Frazer was not a believer in magick as a powerful tool which works for manifesting our desires, but his term has been adopted by people who take magick and witchcraft seriously.
Gargoyles Frighten Away Evil Spirits!
Sympathetic Magick: Like Attracts Like
When we want to ward something off we would select frightening imagery. Gargoyles on buildings are intended to keep evil spirits away. Lions standing in guard in front of a building are a form of sympathetic magick. These symbolic representations are engaged in the art of imitating reality. It is a way of simulating an activity on a symbolic level. This may create an aura of a highly secure building which may psychologically impact people through the art of suggestion. Magick sometimes works on a subconscious level.
When we work with entities, deities, and beings we often select them based on qualities we wish to attract in ourselves or our situation. If we were to do a love spell we might petition a love goddess like Aphrodite. Aphrodite is a goddess known to be highly desirable to the opposite sex. We might wish to invoke her if we wanted to become more appealing ourselves. This might work well if we were hoping to achieve popularity with men!
The law of attraction is something many New Age gurus talk about. It has become popular over the years with many books published on creative visualization and how our thinking affects the good we can receive in our lives. This is perhaps another form of sympathetic magick.
Fetishes in African Magick
Fetishes Are Objects of Magickal Influence
Fetishes are objects which embody a spirit or in some way exerts a magickal influence. There is a symbolic value attributed to the item. The term comes from European explorers in West Africa who used it to describe various magickal artifacts.
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Bones are one type of fetish. When using bones in sympathetic magick we may wish to imitate some quality the animal has. Snake bones are a good choice if you are desiring rebirth in your life. Snakes are often associated with renewal and new life because they shed their skin entirely to be anew. This is part of the process of shape-shifting. We can instigate changes in our life by connecting with the spirit of different animals. A fox tail may give a person extra cunning. A lizard's tail may be considered good luck. Some species which can shed their tail in order to escape a predator!
Skulls and bones can connect us to the spirit of the deceased. Reddening bones is a common practice in some magickal traditions. This is frequently performed by those who are involved in ancestor worship. The color red mimics the life force because it resembles blood. This is a way to make the bones come alive again.
Rabbit's Foot for Good Luck
What Are Some Magickal Fetishes?
- An amulet can be a fetish to ward off bad luck.
- In Europe a heart shaped amulet would be used to prevent heart disease.
- A rabbit's foot is a popular good luck charm.
- Some athletes wear a lucky shirt or other item to improve their performance.
How Popular Is Sympathetic Magick?
Imitating an action is another form of sympathetic magick. There are various types of spells and rituals which utilize this.
A magick triangle could be created to eliminate an illness or get rid of an evil spirit. This triangle would be created by reducing the size of an inscription. In order to make something go away you imitate the process by starting off with a large word. You work your way down eliminating a couple letters in each line.
A witch's ladder is a type of knot magick which is imitative. You tie 40 knots into a cord focusing on your magical intent. In malefic magick it may be strangling the life out of an unlucky individual upon whom death is wished. If you believe in the threefold law you probably don't want to do this. More often this type of spell could be used for something less offensive. It could be done to stop somebody from doing something to work against you. The spell can be broken by untying the knots.
Burning an Effigy
Effigies in Sympathetic Magick
Effigy burning is a practice which has been around for thousands of years. Many different occurrences have been uncovered in ancient India, Babylon, Egypt, Greece and Rome. In Peru effigies were molded out of fat and grain. They would be burned on a road where the individual to whom misfortune was wished frequently passed. This was referred to as the burning of his soul.
Mexicans were burning papier-mache effigies of Donald Trump prior to his election in an Easter ritual. His anti-immigration views sparked outrage in Mexico. His idea of building a wall, paid for by Mexico, dividing Mexico from the USA to keep out drugs and illegal immigrants was not popular. Hundreds of people paraded around shouting out insults before the effigy was burned. This burning would be part of the holy week tradition. Typically an effigy of Judas or other unpopular political figures are burned during these celebration in other years.
Poppets are another form of effigy. We can stuff them with items of magickal significance to empower our working. We can link a poppet to an individual if we add a connection like a lock of hair, fingernail clipping, or drop of blood. Poppets are often used in healing spells. They can be stuffed with herbs pertinent to your magickal intent.
The Golden Bough
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Lydia Workman (author) from Canada on May 13, 2018:
Thanks for the compliments! Glad you learned something new. That's the best thing a writer can do, Catherine Giordano!
Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on May 13, 2018:
You have done a great job with this. I learned a lot about sympathetic majick. It is a fascinating subject. I even learned a new word--scry.
Lydia Workman (author) from Canada on March 09, 2018:
Thank you for reading, Rich!
Rich Staley on March 07, 2018:
Well written! "There is one common flow, one common breathing, all things are in sympathy" --Hippocrates
aaalhajjar on February 23, 2018:
Lydia Workman (author) from Canada on February 23, 2018:
Thank you, Kari Poulsen. So happy you enjoyed my article.
Kari Poulsen from Ohio on February 23, 2018:
I enjoyed this article. I think we all use sympathetic magick more than is realized.