Abracadabra

Abracadabra a magical word of factitious origin, like most alliterative incantations. It is found on one of the amulets under which the Basilidian heretics were supposed to conceal the name of God. It was derived from the Syrian worship, and was recommended as a magical charm against ague and fever. It is described by Serenus Sammonicus (the elder), who is usually classed, apparently without reason, among the followers of Basilides (q.v.). The word was written in a kind of inverted cone, omitting the last letter every time it is repeated. The lines of Serenus (De Medicina) which describe it are as follows:

"Mortiferum magis est, quod Graecis hemitritaeum Vulgatur verbis, hoc nostra dicere lingua Non potuere ulli, nec voluere parentes. Inscribis Chartae, quod dicitur Abracadabra, Saepius et subter repetis, sed detrahe summam, Et magis atque magis desint elementa figuris Singula, quae semper rapies, et caetera figes, Donec in angustum redigatur litera conum, His lino nexis collum redimere memento," etc.

Thus, A B R A C A D A B R A A B R A C A D A B R A B R A C A D A B A B R A C A D A A B R A C A D A B R A C A A B R A C A B R A A B R A B A

Different opinions have been advanced as to the origin and meaning of the word. Basnage ascribed it to an Egyptian, Beausobre a Greek, others a Hebrew origin, but Grotefend (in Ersch and Gruber, Encycl. s.v.) tries to prove that it is of Persian (or rather Pehlevi) origin. As Greek amulets are inscribed with ABPACADABPA, he considers it certain that the word ought to be pronounced Abrasadabra. He derives it from the Persian Abrasax (the name of the Supreme Being) and the Chaldee word דַּבּוּרָא (the utterance), so that the meaning of it is "a divine oracle." This explanation, Grotefend thinks, throws some light on other magical words which the Basilidians used in nearly the same manner as the Thibetans and Mongolians their Hommani Peme-Hum; as the Palendrones Ablanathanalba and Amoroma. — Lardner, Works, 8, 683; C. F. Ducange, Glossarium, s.v. SEE ABRAXAS.

 
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