Public Versus Private Sorcery
As with all magic, sorcery is based on the assumption that the cosmos is a whole and that hidden connections therefore exist among all natural phenomena. The sorcerer attempts through his knowledge and power to control or at least influence these connections in order to effect the practical results he desires.
Complex sorcery goes beyond mechanical means and invokes spirits. The distinction between invocational sorcery and religion is sometimes fuzzy, but in the main the sorcerer tries to compel rather than implore the powers that be to do his bidding.
Often sorcery has an integral function in society. In some societies it is closely related to religion. A priest or priestess of a public religion may perform ritual acts to make rain, ripen the harvest, procure peace, or secure success in the hunt or victory in war. So long as these acts are public and social in intent, sorcery may be a handmaiden of religion. When the sorcerer’s acts are performed privately for the benefit of individuals rather than of society they are antisocial and do not form a part of religion. In some cults the distinction is not clear but usually society distinguishes legally between public, religious sorcery and private sorcery—approving the one and outlawing the other.
— Jeffrey B. Russell, A History of Witchcraft, p. 18
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