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Abracadabra

Abracadabra is a popular phrase, now commonly used as an incantation by magicians. In ancient times, however, the word was taken much more seriously as an incantation to be used as a cure against fevers and inflammations. It was first mentioned in this capacity in De Medicina Praecepta by Serenus Sammonicus[?], physician to the Roman emperor Caracalla, who prescribed that the sufferer from the disease wear an amulet containing the word written in the form of an inverted cone:

               A B R A C A D A B R A

                A B R A C A D A B R

                 A B R A C A D A B

                  A B R A C A D A

                   A B R A C A D

                    A B R A C A

                     A B R A C

                      A B R A

                       A B R

                        A B

                         A

This, he explained, diminishes the hold of the spirit of the disease over the patient. Other Roman emperors, including Geta[?] and Alexander Severus, were followers of the medical teachings of Serenus Sammonicus and are likely to have used the incantation as well.

Some scholars have argued that the incantation has its source in the Jewish mystical teachings of the Kabbalah, and that the word itself is a corruption of two Hebrew words: ha-brachah, meaning "the blessing" (used in this sense as a euphemism for "the curse") and dabra, an Aramaic form of the Hebrew word dever, meaning "pestilence." They point to a similar kabbalistic cure for blindness, in which the name of Shabriri[?], the demon of blindness, is similarly diminished. Other scholars are skeptical of this origin and claim that the idea of diminishing the power of demons was common throughout the ancient world, and that Abracadabra was simply the name of one such demon.

See also: Abraxas and Avada Kedavra



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