The practice of sympathetic magic is a form of imitation or correspondence magic. It is based on the belief that a person can be affected by something that represents them and has often been summarised using the statement ‘like produces like.’ There are two distinct parts of sympathetic magic: The Law of Similarity, which suggests that the magician can produce a desired effect by imitating it; and The Law of Contact/Contagion, which is the belief that whatever is done to an object representing a person, will affect the person that object is associated with.
Sympathetic magic can be used to attract love, prosperity or healing to one person, as well as curse or hex another. The name is derived from the term ‘sympathy,’ meaning to share the feelings of someone or something else. Magicians believe that tuning into the feelings of another person, or animal, is the best way of increasing the power of the sympathetic magic being performed. As with all other magic, belief plays a vital role in how well the rituals work, and the practitioner’s intentions determine whether the outcome will be good or evil.
One form of sympathetic magic that many people are familiar with is the use of poppets, or voodoo dolls in spells. The spells that are then performed, using the doll, can be done for either harm or healing. Many historians believe that Ancient Egyptians and Greeks also used these dolls in their rituals. An old Indian ritual for a person wishing their enemy dead would include making a small wooden image of them and then burying or burning it, chanting a spell to ensure their death. Poppets are used in a similar way for healing, with the practitioner uttering healing words and actions over a doll made in the person’s likeness. The poppet’s power is increased if it is imbued with a part of the person, such as or a lock of hair or finger nail trimmings or made with one of their personal items.
Magic can take many forms, and sympathetic magic has been portrayed in different artistic modes, dating back thousands of years. Hieroglyphics have been found that show where a tribe’s shaman would often draw a picture depicting the desired results of a hunt or the harvest, such as the entire village feasting on an animal killed by the tribe’s warriors. They would then use the pictures to perform rituals, to ensure the results would come true. The tribal priests would also use the drawings to connect with the animal’s spirit, attempting to assure them that their killing was as a means of survival and would be done mercifully. When performing these rituals, the priests would also dress in the skins of previously killed animals to make the connection greater.