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  • Paul Anthony Jones


(n.) black magic, witchcraft

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A word from the HH archives popped back up this week, and we thought you’d like to know a little more about goety.

Pronounced “go-ity” (think poetry without the R), goety has its roots in Ancient Greek—and it’s through those roots that we can probably be a little more specific about precisely what the practice of goety entailed.

The word itself is thought to derive from goiteia, a Greek term meaning “witchcraft” or “charm” (in the occultish sense). That in turn has its roots in goes, another Greek word meaning for “sorcerer” or “wizard,” which in turn probably comes from goaein, a Greek verb essentially meaning “to moan” or “bewail.”

What does moaning and bewailing have to do with black magic? Well, take a look at this explanation from the early 1600s:

Goetie worketh upon the dead by invocation, so called of the noyse that the practisers hereof make about graves.
St Augustine of Hippo, The Citie of God (trans. 1610)

That’s from an English translation of a French translation of a Latin Christian philosophy written by fifth century Roman African theologian who was born in what is now modern-day Algeria. Perfectly straightforward, clearly. But what we can take from all of that that is that goety apparently once referred not just to black magic, but to necromancy—and the noisy, wailing incantations practicers of such dark arts apparently make “about graves.”

It’s for that reason that the hallowed OED gives a fuller explanation of the word: “witchcraft or magic performed by the invocation and employment of evil spirits.”

Likewise, if something is goetical that it seems to have occurred by black magic, or with the help of evil spirits, while a goetic or a goetician is someone who practises goety.


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