Thursday, February 5, 2009


conjure [CON-jər]
transitive v. 1. to summon (a devil or spirit) by magical or supernatural power; to influence as if by magic; 2. to call to mind; evoke.
intransitive v. 1. to perform magic tricks, especially by sleight of hand; 2. to practice black magic.

[Derives from Old French conjurer, to use a spell, from Late Latin conirre, to pray by something holy, from Latin, to swear together]

In most contemporary uses, conjure is used in association with a magic act, even if the performer is not a magician. Here is a recent example from Marketwatch:
Bankers who can create multilayered collateralized securities can certainly create special stock grants, defer compensation, conjure synthetic pay structures or even pay the government back early.

Also common is to use conjure as a synonym for "bring to mind," even when that doesn't involve any kind of magic trick. This example comes from a news item regarding on the job injuries:
For most of us, the words 'emergency medical services' conjure images of paramedics, firefighters, and police officers rendering care and transporting patients to the hospital by ambulance.

In its most common noun forms, conjuration and conjurer, the word is always associated with magic or the occult ("matters involving the influence of supernatural powers"). Conjuration is a magic spell or the act of calling on spirits to perform magic. One who engages in conjuration is a conjurer.

The conjuration of the ghosts or souls of the dead for the purpose of divination is called necromancy. A séance is "a meeting in which a spiritualist or conjurer tries to communicate with the dead."

Conjuration is often associated with repelling negative spirits away and protecting an individual, a place or a group. In Christianity and in Islam, conjuration (especially as black magic) is considered evil. For keepers of these faiths, conjuration is a form of devil worship, because conjurers summon demons or other evil spirits in order to cause harm to people or things, to obtain favors from them, or simply to enter servitude to such beings.

Despite the objection of traditional Muslims, conjuration is common in the Middle East, particularly in the Arabian peninsula and Iraq. It is practiced to settle personal grudges, for healing, for personal enhancement and for foretelling the future. The western image of a fortuneteller comes from this part of the world, by way of the Gypsies.

Capitalizing on its popularity, some TV shows and satellite channels in the Middle East are dedicated to conjuration. Viewers phone in to ask the resident conjurers to aid them in some way -- by showing them how to make charms, for example, or how to conjure by themselves. Though it is obvious that what is going on is conjuration, the conjurers tend to portray themselves as men of religion to add an air of respectability.

Islamic imams, worried about TV conjuration, have condemned the practice, proclaiming these shows are even more dangerous than going to a conjurer, because they teach viewers how to conjure, which makes them lose touch with their faith. The imams say that when Dajjal ("the false prophet in Islam who will arrive on Earth before Judgment Day") arrives, Muslims who have practiced conjuration will not be able to differentiate between the false prophet and the true prophet.

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