Esoteric Encyclopedia

Esoteric Encyclopedia Entry of the Week: Abracadabra

Abracadabra is an incantation used as a magic word in stage magic tricks, and historically was believed to have healing powers when inscribed on an amulet. The word finds its roots back in 2nd century AD, although the exact origins of the word are still up for debate. One of the oldest records found comes from a Roman sage named Serenus Sommonicus from his Liber Medicinalis:

“The malady the Greeks call hemitritaeos is more deadly. None of our ancestors could name this disease in our own language, nor did they feel the need to. On a piece of parchment, write the so-called ‘abracadabra’ several times, repeating it on the line below; but take off the end, so that gradually individual letters, which you will take away each time, are missing from the word.Continue until the (last) letter makes the apex of a cone. Remember to wind this with linen and hang it around the neck. Many people say that the lard of a lion is effective . . .”

Sommonicus was physician to the Roman emperor Caracalla, and would prescribe malaria sufferers to wear amulets containing the word written in the form of a triangle as seen above. He believed that the power of the amulet could make lethal diseases go away. According to Wikipedia, other Roman emperors, including Geta and Alexander Severus, were followers of Sommonicus and may have used the “Abracadabra” incantation as well.

There are a couple of other theories as to the origins of the word…some believe it was derived from the word “abraxas” whose letters, in Greek numerology, add up to 365 (number of days in the year). Others believe that the word is derived from the Hebrew words for “father, son and holy spirit” (“ab, ben and ruach hakodesh”), but the most (phonetically) obvious seems to be that it was derived from the Aramaic phrase “avra kadavra” (not to be confused with “avada kedavra” from Harry Potter) which means “I will create as I speak”.

While Abracadabra is still slightly shrouded in mystery as to how it came to be, the power of the word has not lost it’s potency. Aleister Crowley wrote about it in his book, The Book of the Law, but called it “Abrahadabra” (the word in what he believed as the true spelling):

 Abrahadabra is a word that first publicly appeared in The Book of the Law, the central sacred text of Thelema. Its author, Aleister Crowley, described it as “the Word of the Aeon, which signifieth The Great Work accomplished.”[1] This is in reference to his belief that the writing of Liber Legis (another name for “The Book of the Law”) heralded a new Aeon for mankind that was ruled by the god Ra-Hoor-Khuit (a form of Horus). Abrahadabra is, therefore, the “magical formula” of this new age. It is not to be confused with the Word of the Law of the Aeon, which is Thelema, meaning “Will“.

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law“, the central philosophy of Themela, is not much different than the notion of “I will create as I speak”, and is not much different than the concept of the “Law of Attraction” in accordance to creating your own reality. While the code of conduct/morals/ethics of the individual may vary, the intention is the same…Abracadabra, Abrahadabra, or “as I will it, so shall it be”…they all dance a very similar dance, with an origin that is centuries old.

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