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Chapter Nine. How Does Magical Language Work? The Spells And Formulae Of The Latin Defixionum Tabellae

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Chapter Summary

This chapter examines the formulas in Latin defixionum tabellae from a double perspective, that of pragma-linguistics and ritual performance.The verbal performance of aggressive magic is multidimensional; moreover, spells with a different surface structure can have the same performative content. What kind of performative dimension does the defixio ritual involve? Uttering a magic formula is equivalent to performing an action that can be classified into one of four basic groups. The chapter notes that words can "change the world" or create a new reality. At first sight, the explicit performative utterances by which the manipulation or the committal of the victim is accomplished seem to be typical realisation-forms of what Searle called declarations.

Keywords: Latin Defixionum Tabellae; manipulation formula

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