mundane magic


Every waking hour we experience magic. It appears contemporary and is extremely mundane, and while we inevitably fail to recognize it as such, it is there and it is magic. Every 30 or so minutes (depending on local regulations) a new organized burst of magic comes to pass by means of public media – simultaneously sprinkling pixie dust over thousands of people, largely unbeknownst to them (as to them it is just humdrum). It’s a sort of modern voodoo, a ritual of pagan descent, homoeopathic and contagious magic, a veritable spell that enchants us over and over again, hiding under the banal (thus allegedly benevolent) silhouette of advertising.

Shampoo-conditioner with pearl extract and cashmere oil” the TV proclaims, and you just know that you have to purchase this product of modern cosmetic science in order to have cashmere-soft hair and the complementary pearly shimmer.

All-natural whole-grain crackers” the ad reads, and you are convinced that you have to eat a pack a day of these little miracle-workers, in order to balance your intestinal flora.

A venerable occurrence of sympathetic magic, this demonstrates both contagious and homoeopathic magic in a split second.

– Properties are transferred by means of contiguity.
– Like yields like.

(By the way, what is “pearl extract”?)

Peoples have been known, throughout history and geography, to consume a divine being – indirectly, by means of an effigy – in order to imbibe a portion of its deific spirit. This tradition has found multiple incarnations and variants, but it is inevitably tied to the transfer of qualities, typically perceived as virtuous, from an entity, which possesses them in higher concentrations, to an individual (or a group), who desires to acquire them.

The qualities may include strength, courage, speed, endurance, youth, beauty, among others.

While one can hardly speak of divine shampoo, or holy whole-grain crackers, the homoeopathic link is, indeed, quite evident in modern marketing approaches and product (and brand) perception. Naturally, consumption in the case of cosmetic products is reduced to regular application (thus – combined with contagion magic), however, in the case of comestibles, it is, indeed, a matter of direct consumption. In fact, recent healthy-living crazes can, without a doubt, be distilled down to bouts of Mother-Gaia-centric practical magic. It’s a simple equation: consume (foodstuffs from) Mother Gaia (herself – the embodiment of purity and Nature), and you shall become as pure and natural a being as Nature herself.

While in some cases the consumption of goods can be viewed as a means of obtaining properties, pertaining to their ingredients (hair as soft as cashmere, skin as smooth as silk/milk, etc.) – homoeopathic magic, there is also strong evidence for contiguity-based pattern of inheritance (or acquisition). This can most easily be seen in the ever so popular field of wellness – especially when one takes a look at the many, mostly scientifically-unproven (or disproven), weight loss and “rejuvenation” products. More often than not, the claims behind their miraculous potency are directly tied to stories of indigenous peoples who are known for their longevity, endurance and – you guessed it! – non-obesity.

What can be observed in such instances is a real-life metaphor, where the {random exotic} berry stands for the {random exotic} tribe, whose abs are always visible, who never get tired, and who only need a handful of food, in order to function an entire week. (Also, the berries suppress appetite!) Here, contagious magic does its wonderful job, by taking the berries as a vector, which, in turn, having been consumed (touched) by the exotic tribe, will act as a carrier of this “virus” of well-being and slenderness, to anyone, willing to act as a receptacle. This is not direct, but mediated contagion, but still, it is believed to fulfill its purpose, since the vector is on the one hand a carrier of the effect, while also being a cause – albeit unproven.

Another instance of magical contagion – probably the most obvious of all – can be observed in plain old celebrity endorsement. Yes, we will all agree that a reason celebrity-endorsed brands utilize the celebrity is to gain credibility – i.e. “this product actually works, otherwise [popular sports star] would never use it!” However, one should not easily dismiss the product’s vector quality; here, once again, it could be a cause-and-vector relationship (“Maybe she’s born with it?”), but without the product acting as a carrier, the celebrity endorsement would lose its spark and the brand would get away with just anyone (“Maybe it’s Maybelline.”)

Branding works.

It works magic!


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