Can you begin to imagine the amount of time spent by the human race in pursuit of magic? I am not speaking metaphorically here. I mean can you imagine the sum total man-hours devoted to actively invoking, incanting, intoning, beseeching, divining, scrying, summoning, chanting, conjuring, and casting? And though, so far as we know, not a single minute of all that feverish sorcery yielded the intentional result with greater efficiency than chance, magic continues, and will continue, probably forever. And do you know why? Well, setting aside the fact that the whole endeavor is damn poetic specifically because of its futility, fascinating because of its baroquely fanciful trappings, pathos-packed because of its provenance, and let’s face it, pretty hilarious on the whole, there is another, simpler reason; one which I believe will be self-evident if you take a gander at what I’ve set out for you below…

1: A photographic reconstruction of various stages in a complex medieval spell to preserve the chastity of a high-born maiden while her betrothed is away at the wars.

The magician fills in one of the 12 signs of the Zodiac on the magic circle that he has drawn on the floor.

A censer is waved over the circle by the magician.

The veiled girl enters carrying in her left hand a rose (symbolizing human love) and in her right hand a lily (symbolizing the mortality of man).

The girl, directed by the magician, lays her flowers in front of the skull in homage to the magical power that is about to be invoked.

Having removed the girl’s veil, the magician starts to wave his wand and to intone incantations in dog Latin.

The girl holds the herbs rosemary and verbena next to her heart.

The magician hangs a small box of herbs around the girl’s neck, while she kneels before him.

2: A meeting of a coven of white witches in Hertfordshire, England, in June 1964.

The high priestess is lighting an incense burner and consecrating salt and water.

She is drawing a magic circle with her knife (athame), which she then “purifies” by swinging an incense burner over it.

The witches, holding their knives above their heads, recite an invocation before entering the magic circle.

During an initiation ceremony, the ritual sword is pointed at a blindfolded initiate.

After prayers and incantations addressed to the Mother Goddess, the witches begin to dance.

(And dance…)

As you can see the simple answer is- Because its fun! I mean come on! In what other context do sad old dudes get to prance about waving wands over nubile flower-carrying virgins, flanked with skulls and incense and sheer fabrics? At what other point in their lives do most older women get to heft daggers and dance around naked together and point longswords at blindfolded initiates? The occult is just too damned fun to disapear. Not so much for the goats and chickens, granted, but for humans? A really swell time.

Seriously, you just try taking it away from desperate middle-aged naked people with swords, I dare you.


All images and accompanying text from the book The Supernatural by Douglas Hill and Pat Williams, published in 1965.

Hope you enjoyed.