As a freckle-faced, barefoot youngling, I searched high and low for a magic word to free me from my mundane existence—to transport me worlds away from my rocky farm in southern Missouri. I stood on a little hill near my house at dusk, arms extended. I spoke, I whispered, I shouted at the moon–word after word with the fervent faith of a ten year old. My parents must have been concerned.
Later, as an Oh-too-dramatic Gothic teenager, I wrote mystical symbols on parchment and burned them at midnight under a full moon, watching the spirals of smoke ascend into the starry dome above me. I read poetry and marveled at the power of simple rhymes and ordinary words in extraordinary patterns.
Now as a writer, I’m still searching for magic in words—a phrase to unlock a heart, a story to free a mind. Do I call down the lightning or do I just describe the lightning bug?
So this A-Z blog-o-rama is an exploration of magic –words, magic phrases, objects, times and some things that may only be magical to me.
To start, let’s take one of the most familiar magic words—and happily a word that starts with A—Abracadbra.
If you can believe Wikipedia, the word was, and I quote that hallowed source of knowledge—“first recorded in a Latin medical poem, De medicina praecepta, by the Roman physician Quintus Serenus Sammonicus in the second century AD. It’s believed to have come into English via French and Latin from a Greek word abrasadabra (the change from s to c seems to have been through a confused transliteration of the Greek).” Very dull—unless you are afflicted as I am with the English teacher disease of Etymologia—the desire to know all the histories of all the words in all languages on all planets.
Abracadabra was believed to have healing powers if inscribed on an amulet as follows (also from Wikipedia though I’ve found the same many other places):
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
The formation makes a funnel to drain the disease or ailment away.
Even further back, Avra kehdabra is an Aramaic phrase meaning “I will create as I speak.” This melds nicely with the use of the word in magic shows and magic spells. And we can’t forget J.K. Rowling’s transmutation of the word into Avada Kedavra. As any good writer, she took something familiar and adapted it to suit her purposes. In short, Abracadabra has a history. The word is still associated with magic and transformation. And , like any so-called “Old Wives Tale”, a grain of truth may hide in it.
The word for tomorrow is Bibbety Bobbety Boo.
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