What is Magic? Difference between White and Black Magic

What is Magic?

  • Magic is often distinguished from the forms of religious belief and practice by the greater emphasis given to manipulation rather than supplication as a means of controlling the supernatural.
  • Magical beliefs and actions are defined as characteristically giving greater attention to the induction of more or less automatic supernatural responses, usually by means of a particular combination of actions.
  • In accordance with this somewhat forced distinction, magic is formalistic; it “consists of a variety of ritual methods whereby events can be automatically or mechanically influenced by supernatural means”.
  • In performing magic human beings are expressing their beliefs that they may directly affect nature and one another, for good or ill, by their own efforts.
  • Magic involves a specific ritual procedure that, if done correctly, will compel a specific and predictable result.
  • When people believe their action can compel the supernatural to act in some particular and intended way, anthropologists often refer to the belief and related practice as magic.
  • When the goal of action is empirical and the means are supernatural, we call the action magic.
  • Max Weber uses the term “magic” to refer to religious action believed to be automatically effective whether the goal is empirical or non-empirical.
  • Malinowski defined magic as the use of supernatural means to try to obtain empirical ends, but he distinguished “magic” from religion.

Difference between White and Black Magic:

White magic is used for the benefit of an individual or a group. Many societies have magic rituals designed to ensure good crops, the replenishment of game, the fertility of domestic animals and the avoidance and cure of illness in humans. As we found the witch doctor and the shaman among Juang of Orissa often employ magic to effect a cure. Trobriand Islanders regards magic as indispensable for their deep-sea fishing which was risky both in the sense that lives might be lost and in the sense that the costly fishing expedition might not return with many fishes; but the Islanders did not use the magic in their freshwater fishing, which involved no risk. Black magic on the other hand, always believed does harm and is often directed against persons in the magician’s own society. Thus magic to inflict disease is “black”. White magic is always approved of; black magic is sometimes approved of, sometimes disapproved of, depending upon the circumstances. Among the Dobuans of the Western Pacific, black magic used to protect property rights and hence to punish theft.


Rabindranath Tagore Vishwabharti UniversityGandhi-Irwin Pact: March 5, 1931
Brief Life Sketch of Sri Aurobindo GhoshRound Table Conferences 1930-1932
Gandhi Views on UntouchabilityCabinet Mission Plan 1946
Swami Vivekananda & Ramakrishna MissionAdministration of Chola Empire
Administration of Gupta EmpireUnderstanding Indian History– NIOS

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