© Judi Birnberg
Illusionists and magicians often exclaim, “Abracadabra!” as they perform their tricks. In earlier eras, the word served as a magic incantation to ward off evil spirits and aid in healing.
According to John Ciardi in A Browser’s Dictionary, the word was often written over and over on parchment, which was then folded in the form of a cross or other geometric shape, hung on a string, and dangled around the necks of ailing people. They were instructed to wear the talisman for a specific period of time and perform certain magical rites to bring about the desired healing. Chances are those afflicted were instructed not to open the folded packet. If they complied with all the steps,—abracadabra!—they would be healed.