A magical spell consisting of a single
word, which was popular in medieval times to get rid of
illness, misfortune or demons. The word is inscribed on
an amulet (see amulets) or written out on paper in a
magical inverted triangle, in which one letter of the word
is dropped in each succeeding line, until nothing is left.
The evil is supposed to fade away just as the word does.
The diminishing word technique is used in many other
spells for the same purposes.
In medieval times, abracadabra was believed to ward
off the plague. The triangle was written on a piece of paper,
which was tied around the neck with flax and worn
for nine days, then tossed backwards over the shoulder
into a stream of water running toward the east.
The word’s origin is unknown. It is said by some to
have been invented around 208 by Quintus Serenus Sammonicus,
physician to the Roman emperor Severus, as a
cure for fever. Some hold that Sammonicus merely borrowed
a formula that was much older.
According to others, the word comes from the old
Aramaic phrase, abhadda kedhabhra, “disappear like
this word,” or the Hebrew phrase abreq ad habra, “hurl
your thunderbolt even unto death.” It is also said to be
derived from the name Abraxas, the Gnostic god who
appears on charms against the evil eye dating from the
second century. Another possibility is that it is the name
of some long-forgotten demon. Increase Mather dismissed
it as a “hobgoblin word” that had no power at
all. Aleister Crowley, on the other hand, said it is a
magical word of great power and that its true form is