Term Paper: Magic as a Central Theme

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[. . .] Moses went from the burning bush back to Egypt almost forty years after he had left it. He confronted Pharaoh for his evil treatment of the Hebrews and demanded that Pharaoh let them go. Famously, Pharaoh did not acquiesce until Moses had orchestrated the pass over night when all of the first born of Egypt were killed except for those who followed the instructions Moses gave them from God to paint the lintels of their doors with blood. Because of that action, the angel of death knew to pass over those houses. This is again, Hurston relates through her characters, magic. Moses has the power that God enhanced to call the angel down on the Egyptians. The Israelites leave with all of Egypt's gold, but they are quickly followed by Pharaoh. Of course the magic of Moses led them across the Red Sea where the armies of Egypt were vanquished and Moses led the people into the desert beyond.

It is interesting that through the entire book Hurston gives the credit of the "magic" that occurs to Moses and not to the Jewish God. Of course, like many researchers into the Moses story, she may not have believed the story of God, but she did seem to believe in the power of Moses' rod. This is the same type of thinking that occurs in the article from Osahon regarding the true nature of the Hebrews and where Judaism truly originated. The magic came from the power that Jethro showed Moses, and though Hurston talks about a belief that Moses power was enhanced by God, Osahon and other African researchers see the power of the magic generated by the man.

The greatest and most memorable use of the rod happened when the tribes were out in the desert, and a plague of snakes rose up and made them all sick. The Bible says this happened because the Israelites were disobedient to God. However, the myth that surrounds the act ascribes the snake pestilence to the land, and the healing to Moses powerful rod. The caduceus is the symbol of medical professionals around the world because of Moses healing during that time. Hurston also talks, in her introduction to the book, about the many cults that have grown up around this action of Moses. The highest god in the Haitian pantheon is fashioned after Moses and called "the serpent god" (Hurston). Moses is revered because the Israelites were dying from the bites of the serpents and Moses acted as God told him (Num 21: 8-9). The legends tell much the same story, but the magical thinking that pervades much of the Hurston narrative ascribes the power to Moses and not to God. Actually this may be the wrong interpretation. Moses was the conduit of the magic, but that is not to say that the different researchers from Africa do not believe that the true power came from God. Because of their belief though, the Haitians who hail Moses as the serpent god probably believe that he was the source of the power, and that he was something more than a man.


Hurston's book has many themes that could have been examined from her use of spoken language to the relation of the book to U.S. slavery, but she infused the book with the magical presence of Moses. In the book, the providence that guided Moses is certainly supernatural, but it is not often seen as an external guiding force, but something internal to Moses himself. It is interesting to see how Hurston has used the Moses myths that are known around the world, and tied them to the acts that are portrayed in the Torah and the Bible. Hurston never really says what her own beliefs are but this fictionalized version of Moses' life does show the magic he lived with and commanded.

Works Cited

Elrod, Eileen R. "Moses and the Egyptian: Religious Authority in Olaudah Equiano's Interesting Narrative." African-American Review 35.3 (2001): 409-427. Web.

Hurston, Zora N. Moses: Man of the Mountain. New York: Harper Collins, 2008. Print.

Mark, D. "Moses, Man of the Mountain -- Zora Neale Hurston." A Noble Theme, 2011. Web.

Osahon, Naiwu. "The Jews Lied Against Africa to Ascend." Modern Ghana, 2009. Web.

Rio, Knut. "Handling Sorcery in a State System of… [END OF PREVIEW]

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