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CALUMET . intercultural law and humanities review
ISSN 2465-0145 (on-line)
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Magia, la fede illegale. Religiosità folk e controllo sociale tra passato e presente
Guerrieri A.
This study investigates the relationship between the dominant religious culture (and thus the political powers that simultaneously support and are conditioned by it, to varying degrees) and the practice of witchcraft and black and white magic in Europe, both in the past (the Spanish Inquisition is used as an example) and present. Through a multidisciplinary analysis across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries informed by sociology and anthropology, as well as theology and law – the essay attempts to elucidate the connection between magic and religion in terms of organization, social acceptance, the concept of nature, the supernatural, divine agents and the conditions of their actions, liturgy and the function of prayer. Similarities are illustrated, as is the attempt by the majority religious culture to discredit and marginalize, if not remove, the magical minority culture, despite the clear presence of magical features—previously overt, now residual—in the majority religious culture. The stigma against “magic” still exists and often uses the argument that through the abuse of popular credulity – regulated in the Italian legal system by Art. 661 of the Criminal Code, analyzed briefly herein– individuals and/or unscrupulous organizations can take advantage of others’ cultural unpreparedness or psychological weakness for the purpose of personal enrichment, or for any purpose unworthy of protection by the State. This position, particularly when taken by Christian denominations, exhibits a clear ideological-religious connotation, which can be easily identified within its history and doctrines, and brings with it the risk of violating the religious freedom of minority religious groups. Even beyond the determination of civil or criminal offenses, the positivist idea that those elements deemed to be “magic” are part of a “primitive” human experience as opposed to religion and especially, science and modern technology, has long shown its limits. Despite our central location in the scientific age, both religion and magic still enjoy a large following, even if the numbers and level of cultural pervasiveness have decreased. Moreover, the claim to a “natural order” actually unites magic, religion and science under the illusion that a single epistemological paradigm has absolute value. Finally, to complete the discussion on the abuse of popular credulity, the essay addresses the legal-judiciary determinability of religious assumptions, through the analysis of a recent court case.


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