Prologue: Abracadabra Omnipotens

  • María Tausiet
Part of the Palgrave Historical Studies in Witchcraft and Magic book series (PHSWM)


Visitors arriving in Saragossa today will find themselves in a modern city, but one steeped in centuries of history, much of which now lies hidden. Although it suffered terrible destruction during the Peninsular War and — in more recent times — was further damaged by misguided ideas about what constituted ‘progress’, it nevertheless retains significant traces of its Roman origins: several sections of the city walls, an impressive amphitheatre, the thermal baths and, most notably, the rectangular perimeter of its old town and the two main streets that run north-south and east-west through its centre, forming the shape of a cross, a layout still clearly visible today, unusually so for a city of this size. The majestic Aljafería Palace, built in the eleventh century and converted into a Christian fortress after the Reconquest, bears witness to the rich Islamic culture that established deep roots in the city and whose influence continued to be felt for centuries. Stroll through the historic heart of Saragossa and you will see some of the loveliest examples of Mudéjar architecture to be found anywhere in the Iberian peninsula: the soaring towers of the churches of Santa Maria Magdalena, San Miguel, San Gil and San Pablo serve as vivid reminders of the minarets that were once such a defining feature of this urban landscape.2


Eleventh Century City Wall Superstitious Belief Visible Today Roman Origin 
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  1. 1.
    ‘Wherever there is religion there is magic, even though the magical stream does not always follow the main channel of religion; similarly, wherever there is magic there is religion, although it can be only one specific type of religion.’ Gerardus van der Leeuw, Religion in Essence and Manifestation, Princeton and New York, Princeton University Press, 1986, pp. 468–469.Google Scholar
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    See Guillermo Fatâs (éd.), Guîa Historico-Artistica de Zaragoza, Saragossa, Ayuntamiento de Zaragoza, 1982.Google Scholar
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    See Maria Tausiet, ‘Zaragoza celeste y subterrânea: Geografia mftica de una ciudad (siglos XV-XVIII)’, in François Delpech (éd.) L’imaginaire du territoire en Espagne et au Portugal (XVIe-XVIIe siècles), Madrid, Casa de Velazquez, 2008.Google Scholar
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    Sigmund Freud, Totem und Tabu. Einige Übereinstimmungen im Seelenleben der Wilden und der Neurotiker, Vienna, Hugo Heller & Cie, 1913.Google Scholar
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    See Randall Styers, Making Magic. Religion, Magic and Science in the Modern World, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2004CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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© María Tausiet 2013

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  • María Tausiet

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