Magic is almost omnipresent in cultural history. In the special exhibition, extraordinary objects from near and far shed light on this multi-layered topic: from the first indications in prehistory, to the most diverse manifestations of magical thinking in antiquity, the Middle Ages, and modern times, up to the ongoing ›magic boom‹, not only in popular culture.
Especially in uncertain times, humans have always striven to exert a positive influence on their own existence. The quest for love, success, or good health is universal. Of the various strategies humans use to achieve this, religion and magic are at the forefront and sometimes go hand in hand. Unlike religion, in which humans find themselves in the position of supplicant, magical action represents a learnable technique with which one is supposed to be able to conquer even the laws of nature in order to influence one's own fate in this world.
Archaeological evidence suggests that magical thinking already existed in prehistory. The first firm evidence can be found in the ancient cultures of the Mediterranean region in close association with certain gods. Starting from Babylon, Egypt, Greece, and Rome, numerous continuities of magical practices are traced up to the folk magic that still persists today. Evil-repelling amulets and talismans of various forms are supposed to protect against everyday dangers. For instance, deploying the blue eye against the evil eye is still widespread today. Grotesque pictures and magical symbols on the façade, building sacrifices, or special objects served to protect houses – and also churches. Magical curses were used to get rid of opponents and enemies, and love spells were used to bind a person to oneself, usually against their will. Finally, the human desire to know the future in order to influence it favourably is just as old as it is comprehensible, as illustrated by astrology still on offer everywhere today.
With the spirit of the Enlightenment and the emphasis on reason, magic was eventually considered outmoded. However, the belief in magic has not disappeared and is still much more widespread in our seemingly enlightened world than one would expect.