Electronic sympathetic magic

Sympathetic magic is a common magical belief that I believe underlies much of the thinking behind animist relationships to the world. Essentially, it holds that something that resembles something else holds a magical link to it, and that resemblance between a controllable thing and an uncontrollable one leads to the ability to control one with the other. Ginseng's health properties may well have been inspired by its shape as the "man root". The wild, but tamable, nature of bulls may have led to them as the symbol of tamable nature (and made Taurus the spring constellation), while the untamable nature of lions made them the symbol of untamable resistance and the wild (and made Leo the fall constellation). Etc. Images are a particularly powerful sympathetic magical element and it's possible to regularly observe people in all cultures creating mystical associations between images and their subjects.

A second common magical concept is the talisman, or amulet. These often have a sympathetic component as either representations of or pieces of something that is considered powerful.

The products of technology are no stranger to either of these ideas. From photography onwards technology has allowed for the rapid creation of highly identifiable images of objects, creating lots of raw material for associations, and industrial production cranks out all the talismans one can imagine. Thus, it's not surprising that there are technological items that are designed for the expression of sympathetic magic.

Here's a recent digital example (from Engadget) :

It's described (in Engadget) thus:

In addition to acting like a plain old storage device, the pendant promises to help you find your lost items just by loading photos of them onto the drive.

In other words, it's a dowsing rod for your stuff.

This goes well with last year's technomancy device. That device was more psychological and personal, but still a product of sympathetic magic, as its functionality depended on the similarity between the peace associated with the sound of water and one's desired mental state.

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This page contains a single entry by Mike Kuniavsky published on August 15, 2006 3:14 PM.

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