Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Get the wording right

When action-based agency is rooted in speech, words operate more or less as things rather than (or in addition to) being carriers of meaning—in other words, they are ascribed conventional effects in context which may be separate from their actual semantics. A classic example is the vox magica, a meaningless jumble of syllables. Similar connections between words and the sacred realm are manifested in foreign words, often incomprehensible to some or all ritual participants, or in the requirement to repeat a phrase a specific number of times. One general indicator that a link to the divine realm occurs in the speech is the requirement that the speech be rendered correctly and completely. Evidence that a failed ritual was attributed to an improperly spoken oral rite is thus a clue that at least some of the ritual’s magical agency was based in the speech (the action). Here again, the words’ meaning is of secondary importance for the success of the rite; what matters is that the words are said correctly.—Forestalling Doom page 25

<idle musing>
That's the way some people treat prayer...and the way some people treat the Bible, too. But that's not Christianity, it's magic.
</idle musing>

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