Oriental Magic, by Idries Shah, is a study of magical practices in diverse cultures from Europe and Africa, through Asia to the Far East. Originally published in 1956 and still in print today, it was the first of this author’s 35 books. The work was launched with the encouragement of the anthropologist, Professor Louis Marin, who in his preface to the book stressed its “scholarly accuracy” and “real contribution to knowledge”.
The author examines a vast accumulation of materials on human beliefs, magical practices and ceremonies, from North Africa to Japan. Among much else, these include a conspectus of Jewish, Tibetan, Arabian, Iranian and Indian magic, an account of Sufism and its origins, legends of the sorcerers, examples of alchemy, talismans and magical rites found in the cultures studied, and topics such as love magic, the witchdoctors of the Nile Valley, the ‘singing sands’ of Egypt, subcutaneous electricity, and the prehistoric sources of Babylonian occult practices. There are also personal accounts of, for instance, Shah’s ‘training’ under a Ju-Ju witch doctor, a demonstration of Hindu levitation, and translations of what were considered secret alchemical and magical formulae.