Healing Magic

Healing magic has been around for millennia, and depending on which cultural group you’re looking at, can vary widely from place to place, and century to century.

That said, there do seem to be some common themes in healing magic, at least when we’re looking at documented writings. In many cultures, we can only speculate as to what was done as part of healing, but other groups – fortunately – have left us some of their information so we can build educated theories based upon this information. Let’s take a look at some of the best-known healing traditions and magical customs from around the world.

Folk Magic

Early folk magic lives on today in many parts of the US.
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In many parts of the world in centuries gone by, folk magic was an integral part of healing. Those traditions still live on in limited areas, and can often be found in the mountains of Appalachia, the Ozarks, rural parts of Italy, and the Scottish Highlands, just to name a few places. Today, folk magic lives on, often including magical and medicinal herbalism, traditions and customs passed down through generations and folk remedies.

While many of the early “cures” found in folk magic are rooted in protection against black magic, the devil, witches or evil spirits, keep in mind that for a long time, people assumed that illness was the result of nefarious metaphysical workings. If you wanted to heal someone who was sick, it was logical to focus on getting rid of whatever evil thing had caused him or her to fall ill.

It’s also important to note that, at least in the United States, early folk magic in the mountains was rooted in a strong belief in the Christian faith. While your great-great-granny in the Kentucky hollers might have been a folk healer or “cunning woman,” she would likely have been offended to be called anything but a good Christian.

Reiki: Japanese Healing Energy

Man receiving Reiki
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Perhaps one of the most popular healing modalities, Reiki originated in Japan. Focusing on the universal life force and energy found within living beings, someone trained in Reiki methods channels that life force, allowing the recipient to receive the healing energy. Reiki takes place on an emotional, spiritual, and physical level. By transferring Reiki energy into the recipient, the practitioner can help the individual heal through whichever issues are at hand.

Healing Sounds

woman being healed by sound therapy
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Many people believe that sounds can bring about healing.

Sound healing is essentially the use of frequencies and vibrations to heal physical and emotional ailments. Many people believe that each living organism has its own unique resonant frequency and that if we’re off-kilter physically or mentally, we can change these frequencies with sound healing.

Working With Deities of Healing

woman praying to forest
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In many magical traditions and belief systems, there are gods and goddesses associated with healing magic. You can make offerings to them, send them prayers, or hold a full ritual petitioning them for assistance.

Jewish Mysticism

Torah Scroll
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In the Jewish faith, it is believed that acts of healing are necessary in order for our species to continue. In the Dead Sea Scrolls, there is a partial surviving text that includes guidelines for how to fend off demons that would cause fever, chest pain, and even death in childbirth. Amulets, potions, spells and magical talismans would all have been part of a healer’s toolbox. Angels were sometimes called upon as well, for a speedy recovery. Rabbi Geoffrey Dennis says, “Along with conventional folk remedies involving diet, curative foods, exercise, and healthful practices, the Sages would prescribe the recitation of Scriptural verses and incantations, called refuot.”

Magical Crystals and Gemstones

Image © Patti Wigington 2009

Many people use gemstones and crystals because of their therapeutic properties. While it may sound strange that rocks and stones have healing powers, many people believe that each crystal or stone has its own vibrational properties that allow it to facilitate healing of the body and spirit. Particularly when it comes to healing emotional issues, crystals can come in handy for a variety of reasons.

Sacred Healing Herbs

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In many cultures, herbs are considered valuable for their healing properties. Sometimes use involves drying and burning plants as incense, concocting a tea or brew, or external application on the body. There are lots of great resources out there for anyone interested in herb use – be sure to check out our Recommended Reading List for Herbalism.

Faith Healing

mom praying over sleeping child
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We’ve all heard of faith healing, and it often involves physically touching the ill person, as well as prayer. In general, faith healing is seen as a combination of the skills of the individual practitioner and a gift from the divine. In the United States, faith healing often falls within a Christian worldview, and it is accepted that anyone who heals with the laying of hands upon the ill is simply working as an instrument of God.

In other countries, this may involve chants, dancing, drumming, and the invocation of deity directly into the healer, allowing it to pass through him or her and into the sick individual.

Talismans and Amulets

Image by Patti Wigington

Magical items of healing are certainly not limited to one faith group – amulets and talismans have been documented around the globe for thousands of years. This is an item, often a piece of jewelry, which is carried on the person for healing magic. Particularly if you’ve got a chronic condition going on, the talisman or amulet is a great way to bring about healing. Our About Healing Expert, Phyl Desy, has a great article on healing amulets, talismans, and fetishes.

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Your Citation
Wigington, Patti. "Healing Magic." Learn Religions, Mar. 4, 2021, learnreligions.com/healing-magic-2562359. Wigington, Patti. (2021, March 4). Healing Magic. Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/healing-magic-2562359 Wigington, Patti. "Healing Magic." Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/healing-magic-2562359 (accessed June 5, 2023).