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Magian Lessons In Natural History: Unique Animals In Graeco-Roman Natural Magic

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Chapter Summary

It is a common place among conservationists that 'charismatic mega fauna' probably offer the best hope of persuading the public to preserve nature as a whole. Animals tend either to be treated as the other, or as the same, depending on the food regime. With regard to Graeco-Roman culture, Lévi-Strauss' insight has had much less impact than one might suppose. That a parallelism between plants and animals or animal parts was perceived seems evident from the type of rules for collection casually mentioned by Pliny and other sources. The absurdity or irrationality of animal remedies is thus largely a mirag effect constructed by the generic rules of the Hellenistic Roman modes of ordering knowledge. It seems reasonable, then, to argue that the 'only animal' formula was applied in the 'Magian' tradition to animals already noted in the folk- tradition as sort-crossers.

Keywords: Graeco-Roman natural magic; Magian lessons

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