Jewish Magic and Superstition: A Study in Folk Religion

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University of Pennsylvania Press, Jan 16, 2004 - Religion - 356 pages
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Alongside the formal development of Judaism from the eleventh through the sixteenth centuries, a robust Jewish folk religion flourished—ideas and practices that never met with wholehearted approval by religious leaders yet enjoyed such wide popularity that they could not be altogether excluded from the religion. According to Joshua Trachtenberg, it is not possible truly to understand the experience and history of the Jewish people without attempting to recover their folklife and beliefs from centuries past.

Jewish Magic and Superstition is a masterful and utterly fascinating exploration of religious forms that have all but disappeared yet persist in the imagination. The volume begins with legends of Jewish sorcery and proceeds to discuss beliefs about the evil eye, spirits of the dead, powers of good, the famous legend of the golem, procedures for casting spells, the use of gems and amulets, how to battle spirits, the ritual of circumcision, herbal folk remedies, fortune telling, astrology, and the interpretation of dreams.

First published more than sixty years ago, Trachtenberg's study remains the foundational scholarship on magical practices in the Jewish world and offers an understanding of folk beliefs that expressed most eloquently the everyday religion of the Jewish people.

 

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Contents

THE LEGEND OF JEWISH SORCERY
1
THE TRUTH BEHIND THE LEGEND
11
THE POWERS OF EVIL
25
MAN AND THE DEMONS
44
THE SPIRITS OF THE DEAD
61
THE POWERS OF GOOD
69
N THE NAME OF
78
THE BIBLE IN MAGIC
104
AMULETS
132
CHAPTER PAGE
153
NATURE AND MAN
181
MEDICINE
193
DIVINATION
208
DREAMS
230
ASTROLOGY
249
GLOSSARY OF HEBREW TERMS
333

THE MAGICAL PROCEDURE
114

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About the author (2004)

Joshua Trachtenberg (1904-59) served in the American rabbinate for nearly three decades. He is the author of The Devil and the Jews. Moshe Idel is Professor of Jewish Thought at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His numerous publications include Kabbalah: New Perspectives, Messianic Mystics, and Hasidism: Between Ecstasy and Magic. He received the Israel Prize for excellence in the field of Jewish philosophy in 1999.

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