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Friday, February 17, 2012

Abra-Abra-Cadabra! I Want to Reach Out and Grab Ya

I ran across a fascinating entry in a book called Literary Curiosities this morning. It details the incredible history of the word abracadabra, which, I'm ashamed to admit, I thought was soley the property of children's birthday party magicians. It's crying out to be shared:

Abracadabra, a cabalistic word used in incantations, and supposed to possess mystic powers of healing, especially when written in this triangular shape:
The paper on which this was written was to be folded so as to conceal the writing, stitched with white thread, and worn around the neck. It was a sovereign remedy for fever and ague. Possibly the virtue lay in the syllables Abra, which are twice repeated, and which are composed of the first letters of the Hebrew words signifying Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, --Ab, Ben, Rauch Acadosh. The earliest known occurrence of the word is in a poem of the second century, "Praeceta de Medicina," by Q. Serenus Sammonicus. It is now often used in the general sense of a spell, or pretended conjuring, jargon, or gibberish.
Unfortunately, the book doesn't mention how effective the abracadabra bandana actually is in combating flu and colds. Up next week? The fascinating history of hocus-pocus!

Walsh, William S. Handy Book of Literary Curiosities. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1966. Print.

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