The word sorcery derives from sorcerer, from the Latin sors: lot, share, fortune, condition, &c. Its etymology suggests an uncanny ability to alter or determine fate and fortune (cf. wyrd). The OED defines sorcery as “The use of magic or enchantment; the practice of magic arts; witchcraft.” Sorcery is often conflated with witchcraft, especially when maleficia or compacts with demons or the Devil are connoted. The Greek word goetia (γοητεία) is usually translated as “sorcery” or “witchcraft,” distinct from μαγεία, “magic.” More recently, since the late 20th century, sorcery sometimes denotes especially practical, “operative” or “low” magic, or magic involving material components. Following is a chronologically sorted list of quotations about sorcery that demonstrate some of its semantic patterns and variété.
Then [Medea] sang songs of incantation, invoked the daemons of death, the swift hounds of hell that whirl around the air everywhere and fall on living creatures. On her knees she called them three times in song, three times in prayer. She put herself into a sinister mood, and with her own evil eye she put a curse on the eye of Talos. She gnashed at him her devastating fury and hurled forth images of death in an ecstasy of rage.
—Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica, ~300 BC
A sorcerer is one who, by commerce with the Devil, has a full intention of attaining his own ends.
—Jean Bodin, 1580
The belief of which we are treating manifested itself under two different forms, sorcery and magic. The magician differed from the witch, in this, that, while the latter was an ignorant instrument in the hands of the demons, the former had become their master by the powerful intermediation of a science which was only within the reach of the few, and which these beings were unable to disobey. [The author clearly misunderstands witchcraft, but I have included the quote in order to demonstrate the conflation of sorcery with witchcraft and demonology. Later he writes, “During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the power of the witches to do mischief was derived from a direct compact with the demon, whom they were bound to worship with certain rites and ceremonies, the shadows of those which had in remoter ages been performed in honor of the pagan gods.”—J.M.]
—Thomas Wright, Narratives of Sorcery and Magic, 1852
Whilst the word Sorcery has always seemed to me to be singularly elastic, it suggests to my mind an impression identical with that conveyed by Magic, with which I take it, in general, to be synonymous. Therefore, by sorcery I understand, and intend to convey, all those doctrines concerning the nature and power of angels and spirits ; the methods of evoking shades of departed persons; the conjuration of elementary spirits and of demons; the production of any kind of supernormal phenomena; the making of talismans, potions, wands, etc.; divination and crystallomancy; and Cabalistic and ceremonial rites.
—Sax Rohmer, The Romance of Sorcery, 1914
The muhotuhotu tree is used in various ritual contexts. […] It is said that toward the end of the dry season the leaves of this tree tend to fall off simultaneously, leaving the boughs suddenly bare. In the same way, when muhotuhotu is used as medicine, diseases, misfortunes, and the effects of witchcraft/sorcery will “fall off” the patient treated with it.
—Victor W. Turner, The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure, 1969
Sorcery is the art of using material bases to effect magical transformations. The advantage of using such material bases is that the power residing in them can be built up over a period. Four main types of material base are used. Those which contain reserves of a particular type of power such as fetishes, talismans, spirit traps and amulets; those which act to carry some effect to its target like powders, philtres, wax images, and knotted cords; those which act as a basis to receive divinatory impressions; and those which act as an anchor for some aetheric form which can be sent like a magical weapon.
—Peter J. Carroll, Liber Null & Psychonaut, 1987
According to the ‘Longman Concise English Dictionary’ a sorcerer is “a person who uses magical power, with the aid of evil spirits.” This definition assumes that sorcery is an act of magick which requires the aid of spirits or demons to enable it to work. It also implies that sorcery is an act of ‘Black Magick’ as the type of spirit that the sorcerer works with is evil. To clear up any ambiguity that might arise from such definitions, the following definition will be understood in connection with Chaos and sorcery: The art of using material bases to enhance a magickal conjuration, the outcome of which is determined by the sorcerer’s will. Peter J. Carroll in his book “Liber Null and Psychonaut” has used a similar definition, which is also relevant in the context of Chaos and sorcery: “Sorcery is the art of using material bases to effect magical transformations.” The material bases which the sorcerer will use are to a large extent determined by the type and nature of the act of sorcery chosen by the Chaos Sorcerer to achieve the desired effect.
—Nicholas Hall, Chaos and Sorcery, 1992
Sorcery (also known as Results Magic, or Spell-casting) is generally understood as the use of magical techniques and perspectives to bring about a change in one’s material environment. Traditionally, the use of magical techniques for direct results has been thought of as ‘Low’ magic, whilst the quest for spiritual growth, uniting with one’s ‘Higher Self’ or attaining transcendence from the material world was, of course, ‘High’ magic. This distinction perpetuated the division of the world into matter v spirit, subjective v objective, reflecting a general philosophy (shared by science & religion) which regarded the demands of the everyday world as being inferior to abstract metaphysics.
Phil Hine, “An Introduction to Sorcery,” year unknown although he says much the same in Prime Chaos, 1993
The word sorcery is said to have originated sometime in the 14th century and hails from the Latin sortiri, which means, “to cast lots.” According to Webster’s New Encyclopedia of Dictionaries, it means “witchcraft; magic; enchantment.” The Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines it as “magic—an extraordinary power or influence seemingly from a supernatural source.” However, a more insightful definition is offered by Nicholas Hall, author of the book, Chaos and Sorcery, who refers to is as “the art of using base materials to enhance a magical conjuration, the outcome of which is determined by the sorcerer’s will.”
—Gerina Dunwich, Dunwich’s Guide to Gemstone Sorcery, 2003
The Principal Methodology of the Sabbatic Arcana is Sorcery, and therefore it is necessary for me to define what is meant by ‘Sorcery’ in this context. Its meaning as employed in the Cultus Sabbati is in agreement with its correct definition via the roots of etymology: ensorcel/ensorcellment = encircle, meaning ‘to bewitch’ or ‘to bind by witchcraft’. Hence this implies the method of ‘encircling’ or ‘binding’ as a means of control and influence within the manipulative procedures of Magickal Power. […] Sorcery embodies the technique of ‘Binding’ as the means of controlling Magical Forces, and hence may best be defined via a definition of that technique: The act of Binding is the deliberate limitation of a Force or State of Entity by Will, Desire and Belief, in order to give that Force or State of Entity a specific Form or Icon, and hence give its Power a focus and an intensity imminent to self-realisation.
—Andrew D. Chumbley, Opuscula Magica Volume II, 2011
I would assert that the Secret Tradition of Sorcery exists as both a Reality and as a Belief. Its Reality is in the fact that in every century certain men and women are born with an innate knowledge and passion for the Arte Magical, far outreaching that of their contemporaries. Its belief lies in the minds of everyone; in the myths of clandestine sabbats and ancient primeval cults; in the collective fantasies of Gods, Demi-Gods and devils. The Belief held in the minds of the Many has its realization in the Flesh of the Few.