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Oregon Family Magazine

A Bit of Magic!

11/30/2021 ● By Robyn Anderson
Do you believe in magic or magical creatures? Before you say, “no,” stop and think. Do you make a wish as you blow out your birthday candles, or pick up a penny for good luck? Does your nightlight scare away the monster under the bed? Maybe you suspect that Bigfoot really does live deep within the forest, or that mermaids splash around off the Oregon coast? Many of us practice magical thinking more than we might realize. But why does a belief in magic persist in our modern, scientific world?

When do we most often use magical thinking?

When we make a wish or believe in the power of a lucky object, we feel confident and hopeful. From an important test to a big game, a boost in confidence can help us be at our best!

Similarly, many of us have small things that we do to prevent bad luck—like throwing spilled salt over our shoulder or knocking on wood. Even if we know we’re being silly, we do these things just in case, to quiet the nagging voice in our heads asking, “why risk the bad luck?

All these small actions or thoughts can give us a sense of control—just as we see about 1,000 years ago in the Middle Ages.

Magic in the Middle Ages

The Middle Ages—dating from 500 to 1500—were full of uncertainty, mystery, and danger. In medieval Europe, the belief in magic and magical beings helped people explain why things happened, especially things that went wrong. Medieval people tried to use magic in their daily lives to control what happened.

Come visit the Museum of Natural and Cultural History’s newest exhibit, Magic in Medieval Europe, to explore the many ways magic was intertwined with everyday life. You’ll see a real unicorn horn (or is that a narwhal tusk?), mandrake root, and bezoar, and discover how people in medieval Europe tried to use these magical items. You can make your own house sprite but be sure to leave it a treat—an unhappy house sprite can cause loads of mischief! And, you can try using a medieval method to interpret your dreams, hopefully with more success than in Professor Trelawney’s stuffy classroom!

The Museum of Natural and Cultural History is open to the public Wednesday through Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and until 8:00 p.m. on Thursdays. Stay tuned to our website ( and follow us on social media for the latest on our winter lineup of online and in-person programs.