Jewish Magic and Superstition, by Joshua Trachtenberg, [], full text etext at Rabbi Joshua Trachtenberg, in his defensive yet illuminating book, writing of the age-long reputation of jews as practitioners of black magic and. From Sefer Raziel, Amsterdam, i7 JOSHUA TRACHTENBERG JEWISH MAGIC AND SUPERSTITION A Study in Folk Religion Submitted in partial fulfillment.

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And so it goes.

Jewish Magic and Superstition

As a later writer naively put it: Like his feminine counterpart, the estrie, he requires human blood in his diet—another version of the vampire. That the demons propagate their own kind duperstition have already seen. The next verse suggested as counter-magical, Lev. On the other hand there is the view of Menasseh b.

It possesses something of the personality and attributes of deity.

Amos Vos rated it really liked it Jun 01, TL7 rated it really liked it Sep 18, The shorter passages have been transcribed into Unicode. The formulas usually specify just when they are to be carried out.

Jewish Magic And Superstition: A Study in Folk Religion

But it is very unlikely that a conscious aspersion on the character of the mother lies at its root. Frequently the root term seems to have been chosen at random, having no apparent relation to the function of the angel as given, though it is likely that at the time of the creation of such names the word employed was intended to indicate the angelic character. There is one point that should be stressed in connection with this image-magic, which is true of all medieval Jewish magic.

We hear rather often of Jewish trade in drugs, throughout the Germanic lands. A curious parallel to this tale indicates the tragic use to which this reputation for sorcery could be put, and the tragic necessity which prompted such a use. They are to be found in all stations of life.

To gain understanding it was enough to recite a group of seven names seven times over a cup of old wine and drink it, though usually the procedure was more naive. This occurred in Posen at the end of the seventeenth century.

Israel was expressing not his own opinion but the judgment of Jewish folk-belief. He confessed that he feared none but his own child.


Jewish Magic and Superstition: A Study in Folk Religion by Joshua Trachtenberg

Christians did not hesitate to impute to their Jewish neighbors frequent resort to this technique, not only, as we have seen, with respect to the body of Christ, but of their Christian contemporaries as well. Its source may be sooner sought right at home, in Jewish tradition, which offers a clew that they have overlooked.

Still others were derived from the name of Greek and Roman Gods. Its debut was made in Sefer Raziel, u which, while largely ascribed to Eleazar of Worms, drew extensively upon Superstitioj mystic sources.

For one thing, the literature paints Jewish magic and its practitioners in totally different colors.

But just as woman, in herself imperfect, seeks perfection through union with man, so the demons seek to unite themselves primarily with woman, who represents the next degree of creation above them. Foreword by Moshe Idel 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.

Judah Low, who attained a great reputation as the alleged creator of the Golem of Prague: This prodigality of names to effect a single end owns a hoary precedent in the Geonic and Hellenistic magical literatures. The records of the early accusations are meaningless unless viewed against the background of medieval superstition.

These could have no meaning for Jews. But in general the dead were not regarded as malevolent; rather were they seen as wistful, harmless shades haunting the graves which shelter their bones. In medieval Germany she had developed into the demon-witch who gobbles up children. One day the head of the community met a large band whose leader sat astride a lion, using a snake for a bridle.

Satan was the ultimate source of magic, which operated only by his diabolic will and connivance. While the latter frankly recognized and employed the occult forces inherent in nature, recipes employing these forces slipped into Jewish practice by the back door, so to speak, disguised as bona fide invocations of the spirit world. When you disinter it, dip it carefully in water three times, so that it is washed clean, once in the name of Michael, again in the name of Gabriel, and the third time in the name of Raphael, and immerse it in some urine.


One can discover the latent import of a name only by a close study of the lives of individuals who have borne it. The injunction is frequently encountered to write the names, or the Biblical verses, or the spell upon a cake the preparation of which was often quite elaborateor upon a hard-boiled egg that had been shelled, and to devour it.

There was another category of names of God in use at an early time—the names and the attributes of God which appear in the Bible. In substantiation of his decision he recalled a legend of a pious man who was sorely grieved because a demon in human shape had enticed him into an indiscretion.

Menahem Ziyuni, in his commentary on the Bible written in supesrtition, displayed his knowledge of the full-blown witch doctrine: Among most peoples it is real enough—the name belongs to some supernatural personage, the word is significant in and for itself. Witches were seen as people flying on broomsticks and cavorting with the devil. The tendency was to repeat the Talmudic characterizations, but with a mechanical air, as though rehearsing a lesson rather than describing a living, terrifyingly contemporaneous phenomenon.

This conception was not limited, however, to the sphere of ritual. The simple act, by the rule of sympathy, produces its parallel effect. And it may be added that the material here presented still possesses a certain contemporaneity. Shimmush Tehillim is a medieval compilation of the uses to which individual psalms and trachtenbfrg may be effectively put; it promises the magci of an extended miscellany of physical and psychic desires and needs, and sheds an interesting sidelight upon the life of the medieval Jew, and the hazards to which he was exposed.

There remained yet another category, trachtenbery for by the rabbinic theory and known to Jews under their non-Jewish names R. Because of the great importance attached to this rite it was feared that the forces of evil would exert their utmost powers to prevent its consummation.