Magic needs rules

Magic requires rules. Here is what anthropologist Marcel Mauss has to say:

‘Far from being the simple expression of individual emotions, magic takes every opportunity to coerce actions and locutions. Everything is fixed and becomes precisely determined. Rules and patterns are imposed. Magical formulas are muttered or sung on one note to special rhythms …Gestures are regulated with an equally fine precision. The magician does everything in a rhythmical fashion as in dancing: and ritual rules tell him which hand or finger he should use, which foot he should step forward with. When he sits, stands up, lies down, jumps, shouts, walks in any direction, it is because it is all prescribed. Even when he is alone he is not freer than the priest at his altar… Moreover, words are pronounced or actions are performed facing a certain direction, the most common rule being that the magician should face the direction of the person at whom the rite is aimed.’

Marcel Mauss, General Theory of Magic [1950] tr. Robert Brain, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1972, p.58. Quoted in Ian Hunt 2002, ‘Escape Routine’ accessed at

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