The law of magic and the magic of law


Mon, 15/06/2020 - 10:30 to 12:30


Dr. Avigail Manekin-Bamberger

Why did ancient Jews expel demons by using legal divorce? And why were oaths and adjurations essential for performing magical acts?

In the Buber colloquium I focused on the interplay of ancient Jewish law and magic. I argue that the modern dichotomy between law and magic, which typically distinguishes between “high” and “low” religion, or elite and non-elite forms of cultural expression, is misleading. In practice, Jewish legal terms were often invested with a more “magical” meaning than has been perceived, whereas legal formulations constituted an essential part of magical texts. Moreover I demonstrated how blurring the artificial boundaries between the legal and the magical helps us see specific legal institutions with finer detail and nuance, as well as offer a new perspective on Jewish society in late antiquity.

The second part of the colloquium consisted of a fruitful and lively discussion on how to further understand the intersections between law and magic through various disciplines, such as literary theory, philosophy, anthropology, history and more.