The Magician and his World(s)

The meaning and use of the terms "magic", "magician" and "magical" differs considerably depending on the perspective and the context. For example one speaks of magic beliefs and practices, of magic artefacts, of the magic of a moment or the magic that determines the development of a situation ("there must be magic involved") as well as of magical healing effects. The charismatic pianist in his exceptional mastery of his instrument and his capability to induce varying moods by his play is also called a magician as the stage illusionist who fascinates and puzzles the audience by his conjurer-performance. Furthermore there is the figure of the magician who is said to be dealing with occult powers. This latter meaning describes the topic of the field study, which was conducted during the period from 2004-2007.

The aim of the study was to give an overview of current magical practices and their underlying belief systems in the German-speaking area. For this purpose accounts in the specialist literature and on websites were analyzed. However, the main aim of the study was to survey and analyze extensive subject-based individual interviews with practicing magicians. The subject focuses of these interviews were:

  • Biographical embedding
  • Adaptation of magical corpuses of knowledge
  • Magical practice and forms of evaluation
  • Social milieu / Magical networks
  • World interpretation and world view
  • Ethics / Value orientation

Eleven discussion partners who practiced magic could be recruited. There was a rather large spectrum of represented magical disciplines, ranging from representatives of white magic orders ("Servants of the Light") with a focus on ritual magic to members of Satanic orders ("Current of Seth"). The majority of interview partners were people who had practiced magic for many years; some of them can be regarded as key figures in the German-speaking scene of magicians.

A central finding of the study was that no typical magician-personality could be identified. Common features of the male and female magicians are a strong individualism, premature occupation with ideological and philosophical questions, tendentially uncommon interests during adolescence, a moment of rebellion and non-adjustment (in different forms and to different degrees), as well as a fascination by the "hidden sides of life", the borderlands of life and the "darker sides" of existence. Furthermore personal evidence of experiences and events that seem to be only insufficiently explained by current scientific models, does also play an important role.

From a perspective of differential-psychology a dimensioning of the magician-personality could be worked out. By means of the thereby deduced heuristic it is possible to identify the different approaches and motive-structures which are guiding the magic practice. Five typified aspects of the figure of the magician were worked out. Those have to be understood as mutually non-exclusive orientations of human agency and they can lead to magic practice as a form of acting: 1) the magician as an artist, 2) the magician as a social-utopist, 3) the magician as a scientist, 4) the magician as a "fully-functioning person" and 5) the magician as a seeker of wisdom.

Project Leader: PD. Dr. Michael Schetsche

Staff Member: Dr. Gerhard Mayer


Mayer, Gerhard (2008): Arkane Welten. Biografien, Erfahrungen und Praktiken zeitgenössischer Magier. Würzburg: Ergon.
[Arcane Worlds. Biographies, Experiences and Practices of Contemporary Magicians]

Mayer, Gerhard (2008). Die Bedeutung von Tradition und Geheimnis für praktizierende Magier des 21. Jahrhunderts: Ergebnisse einer Interviewstudie. Aries, 8 (2), 117-138.
[The Meaning of Tradition and Secrecy for Magical Practitioners in the 21st Century: Results of an Interview Study]

Mayer, G. (2009). Magicians of the 21st Century. An Attempt at Dimensioning the Magician's Personality. Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft, 4(2), 176-206.

Mayer, Gerhard (2010). Moderne magische Praxis. Modelle - Techniken - Schulen. Grenzgebiete der Wissenschaft, 59(2), 99-134. 
[Modern Magical Practice. Models - Techniques - Schools]

© 2007 IGPP  (imprint)
last revision: 21 jun 10