ABRACADABRA. You've heard the word countless times in movies, books, stage magic, and even commercials mostly associated with magic and spells. What exactly does it mean?
The origin of the word is unknown adding to its mystique. In ancient times however, it was believed that if the word was engraved on an amulet, it was supposed to protect the wearer from illness and fever. The word is considered most powerful when it is written in the shape of an inverted triangle where one letter of the word is dropped in each succeeding line. Evil is supposed to dissipate or fade away just as the word does. In medieval times, ABRACADABRA was believed to ward off the plague when it was written on a piece of paper and worn around the neck tied with a piece of flax. It was worn for nine days and then tossed backward over the shoulder into a stream running east.
There are several explanations regarding the source of ABRACADABRA:
- It is derived from the name of a Gnostic god, ABRAXAS, who was ruler of the First Heaven and who held jurisdiction over the cycles of birth, death, and resurrection. The word ABRAXAS means "harm me not." It is also interesting to note that the symbol for ABRAXAS was adopted as a shield sigil by the Knights Templar. As a derivation of ABRAXAS, ABRACADABRA appears on old charms that were used as protection against the Evil Eye. The Evil Eye is one of the most feared supernatural powers and is believed to have roots as far back as 3000 B.C.E. It is thought to bring about terrible disaster, illness, and even death.
- It is derived from the Aramaic phrase abhaddakedhabhra meaning "disappear like this word."
- It is derived from the Hebrew phrase abreq ad habra meaning "hurl your thunderbolt even unto death."
- It is a corruption of the name of a long forgotten demon.
- It was invented by a third century C.E. physician, Quintus Serenus Sammonicus who served the Roman Emperor Severus. It was a term that was believed to cure fever.
Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. Magic and Alchemy. New York: Checkmark Books. 2006. 2.
Nozedar, Adele. The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Signs and Symbols. Hammersmith London: Harpers Collins Publishers ltd. 2008. 8-9.