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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Abracadabra

(L.). Most often encountered in modern times denoting nonsense words or meaningless talk and thus is used as a term of ridicule, but the word has a long history of use in ancient magical procedures. The Oxford English Dictionary ascribes it to Q. Severus Sammonicus who was a physician to the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (Caracalla) which dates it from about the 2nd century. It was used as an amulet and often arranged as under:

ABRACADABRA

ABRACADABR
ABRACADAB
ABRACADA
ABRACAD
ABRACA
ABRAC
ABRA
ABR
AB

A

This charm was said to ward off disease.

There have been numerous attempts to trace its etymology. One possible theory traces it to the Chaldee words, Abbada ke dabra which can be translated as “perish as the word.” Thus the amulet has the word diminishing as it is read down, so, by sympathetic magic, it was hoped the threat or disease would diminish or perish.

Helena P. BLAVATSKY suggests that Abracadabra is a corruption of the sacred Gnostic term “Abraxas” which is a still earlier corruption of a sacred and ancient Coptic or Egyptian word, a magic formula that meant, in its symbolism, “Hurt me not” (TG, 4).

P.S.H.

 

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