Understanding Rhabdophobia or the Fear of Magic

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Rhabdophobia, or the fear of magic, is a highly personalized phobia that means different things to different people. Some people are afraid only of magick, the purportedly real version in which spellcasters make things happen according to their will. Others fear illusions, or stage magic, in which the magician uses trickery to make it seem as though odd things are happening. Still, others are afraid of a very specific type of stage magic known as geek or bizarre magic.

In addition to the fear of magic, rhabdophobia can also mean the fear of being criticized or punished, beaten or hit with a stick or rod.

With regard to the types of phobias, rhabdophobia is usually a specific phobia.


People develop phobias for different reasons, including:

  • Suffering a traumatic event
  • Having a genetic or heredity predisposition
  • Having a certain brain chemistry
  • A combination of any or all of the above


Symptoms of this phobia include:

  • Intense anxiety
  • Dread
  • Panic
  • Shortness of breath
  • Excessive sweating
  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth
  • Shaking

Types of Magic Fears

The Fear of Magick

Practiced throughout history by a wide range of spellcasters, magick is the practice of making things happen or influencing external events by sheer force of will.

Although science maintains that there is no such thing as magick, numerous religious groups disagree. But the belief in magick and its power, as well as whether it is good or evil, varies dramatically between sects. Some religious groups see all forms of magick as evil, perhaps even of the Devil, while others differentiate between white and black magic.

The fear of magick is generally based on religious concerns (similar to doomsday phobias, death phobias, and numerical phobias). Those who are undergoing a crisis of faith may be at higher risk for this fear. Additionally, those who believe they have been hexed or cursed are likely to fear the results.

Although a belief in magick is sometimes a sign of disordered thinking (irrational beliefs), most therapists respect the religious beliefs of their clients. Treatment for this type of phobia often involves spiritual counseling as well as traditional therapy.

Stage Magic Fear and Phobia

Although small children are often frightened by stage magicians, most people outgrow this fear as they learn to separate fantasy from reality. Nonetheless, a phobia is possible at any age. The fear of stage magic is often, though not always, rooted in a fear of magick. Although you might realize that the magician is merely an illusionist, you may feel frightened when you are unable to figure out the trick.

In many cases, simply becoming educated about stage magic is enough to relieve the fear. Although each magician puts his or her unique spin on a trick, most stage illusions fall into one of a few basic categories.

Understanding how a simpler version of the trick works can help relieve the anxiety associated with stage magic.

Geek Magic

Also known as bizarre magic, geek magic is a subset of stage magic that blends traditional illusions with modern-day freak show elements. Common elements include fire eating, lying on a bed of nails, and sword swallowing. Geek magic may trigger other phobias such as the fear of needles (trypanophobia), the fear of sharp objects (aichmophobia), or the fear of blood. It is always wise to send a friend ahead to preview the performance to determine whether it is likely to trigger your fears.

If you do not have a fear of magic, learning about this fear may seem almost silly to you. Yet this fear is not funny to someone who has a true magic phobia. The definition of a phobia states that the particular fear plays a limiting role in a person's life. In other words, the fear interferes with at least some things in the person's life for irrational (to those of us without rhabdophobia) reasons.

Treatment and Coping

Treatment for phobias usually includes a combination of different therapies. This may include the use of medications. Psychotherapy options such as cognitive therapy, and alternative treatments such as hypnosis and herbal therapies. Coping skills are also extremely important in helping a person overcome a phobia.

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By Lisa Fritscher
Lisa Fritscher is a freelance writer and editor with a deep interest in phobias and other mental health topics.