The Story of Everything: A Synopsis of The Urantia Book
Paper 88: Fetishes, Charms, and Magic
Fetishism is the belief that spirits can enter objects, animals, or persons. Primitive fetishes included volcanoes, comets, pebbles, fire, holy water, trees, plants, fruits, animals, days of the week, numbers, saliva, hair, nails, skulls, umbilical cords, handicapped people, lunatics, intoxicants, poisons, bones, fireplaces, altars, and temples.
Odd customs arose from fetishism. Friday was considered an unlucky day. Three and seven were lucky numbers, but thirteen was unlucky. When animals became fetishes, taboos evolved around eating them. When geniuses were considered fetishes, talented humans often resorted to fraud and trickery to wield power and authority over other men. The Israelites believed that the spirit of God literally lived in their stone altars. Skeletal remains of saints and heroes are regarded with superstitious awe even in modern times.
Magical properties were attributed to human flesh, tiger claws, crocodile teeth, snake venom, bones, bodily secretions, effigies, black cats, wands, drums, bells, and knots. Names were esteemed so highly that many ancients had two: a sacred name which they did not reveal, and a common name for everyday use. Moses tried to control the fetish worship of the Hebrews by forbidding them to create images. This lessened fetish worship but greatly retarded art and the enjoyment of beauty. Moses' mandate against fetishes became a fetish.
Words become fetishes, especially those words considered to be words of God. When doctrines become fetishes they can lead to bigotry, intolerance, and fanaticism. Holy books have become fetishes, and the practice of opening a book at random to seek advice is a form of fetishism.
Totemism was a combination of social and religious observance. Totems have largely been replaced by flags and other national symbols. Modern fetishes include the insignias of priests, the symbols of royalty, and public opinion.
In the past, medicine men, priests, and shamans practiced public magic for the good of the whole tribe. Witches, wizards, and sorcerers might use personal magic to bring evil to their enemies or good to themselves. Chants and incantations were thought to be magical; gestures, dances, and mimicry were even more so. Magic was thought to be a way to secure insight into the future. Magic gained a powerful influence over primitive people, who feared magic so much that their own fears sometimes killed them.
Ancient magic served the human race as the cocoon of modern science. Incantations became prayers, astrology became astronomy, and the study of magic numbers led to the science of mathematics. Such words as spellbound, possession, inspiration, ingenious, thunderstruck, entrancing, and astonished all have roots in the belief in magical spirits. Today, superstitions linger even in the minds of civilized people; mankind is slow to leave magic behind.