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set formula, spoken or sung, for the purpose of working magicmagic,
in religion and superstition, the practice of manipulating and controlling the course of nature by preternatural means. Magic is based upon the belief that the universe is populated by unseen forces or spirits that permeate all things.
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. An incantation is normally an invocation to beneficent supernatural spirits for aid, protection, or inspiration. It may also serve as a charm or spell to ward off the effects of evil spirits. In black magic an incantation may be the means of summoning or materializing the powers of darkness.
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(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The recitation of a spell. In the working of magic, words are power. Written words can be powerful, but spoken words are even moreso. An incantation is actually far more than a simple recitation—it is a command. Prayer is a request, while an incantation is a command for something to happen, made with the absolute assurance that it will happen.

In Ceremonial Magic, the magician is trying to summon spirits or entities to do his bidding. They are reluctant to appear. The only way he can make them do so is to use various Names and Words of Power, which are delivered in the most authoritative manner. The words, as the words of any incantation, must be spoken with familiarity, firmly, and in a certain rhythmic manner. Rhyme and rhythm are most important in the working of magic, especially with incantations. If the actual incantation is not written as a rhyme, then it should be spoken with a regular, definite beat.

Incantations are often long and repetitive. This is so the magician performing the incantation can gradually build up his or her energy through the rising inflections and the sonorous, rhythmical, often rhetorical use of the words. Doing an incantation should charge the magician with energy—he or she should feel it building and building until the words are almost being shouted. There should be a rising state of intense excitement that explodes with the final declaration. Richard Cavendish says of the magician, "He has now `summoned up' a spirit from his inner self. At the climax the full force of his magical power gushes from him, he loses all consciousness of his normal self and becomes the mental picture which he only saw before."

It is important to be thoroughly familiar with the incantation. For this reason, it is not good magical practice to simply repeat, parrot-fashion, words that are written in a dead or unknown language. It is necessary to know the language in order to give the correct pronunciation and the necessary inflections. For example, the Ecumenical Council of 1963 voted to allow the Roman Catholic mass to be said in languages other than Latin, but stipulated that the Latin was to be retained for "the precise verbal formula which is essential to the sacrament." Incantations are done as part of working magic, although not all magic calls for them. Sometimes Witches use incantations in the magic they do.

The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism © 2002 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a verbal formula supposedly having magical power, according to the superstitious ideas of early antiquity, and used to achieve some aim, such as a good harvest or change in the weather. In its origin, the prayer is closely related to the incantation: through the incantation people tried to compel the appearance of what was desired, while in prayer they turned to a spirit or god with a request.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Any particularly arbitrary or obscure command that one must mutter at a system to attain a desired result. Not used of passwords or other explicit security features. Especially used of tricks that are so poorly documented that they must be learned from a wizard. "This compiler normally locates initialised data in the data segment, but if you mutter the right incantation they will be forced into text space."
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