Talismans, Registers, and Magic Skills

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Religious Practise
Morning and Evening Rites
Refining the Vital Breath
Wandering About and Seeking Masters
Religious Discipline
Commandments of the Orthodox Oneness Sect
Commandments of the Complete Perfection Sect
Temple Regulations
Talismans, Registers, and Magic Skills
Divine Incantations
Finger Gestures
Pacing the Big Dipper
Magical Transformation Skills
Praying for Happiness and Offering Sacrifice
Summoning Spirits for Interrogation
Healing Diseases
Expelling the God of Plague
Names of the Three Fasts
Great Ritual Offerings to the Overarching Heaven
Lantern Rituals for the Destruction of Hell
Rituals of Purification and of Sacrifice to the Ancestral Souls
Rituals of Purification and Salvation
Rituals of Scattering Flowers and Communicating with Spirits through Lanterns
Rituals for Sending Petitions to the Heavens
Ceremonial Altars
Altars for Fasts
Altars for Ritual Offerings
Altars for Commandments
The Ancestral Altar of All Skills
Daoist Headdresses and Dress
Ritual Implements
Wooden Fish
Commandment Plaques
S-shaped Ornamental Objects
Magical Seals
Magical Staffs
Magical Swords
Shallow Pans
Inverted Bells
Horsetail Whisks
Large Cymbals
Ritual Specialists
High Priest
Cheif Cantor
Inspector of Fasts
Incense Attendant
Lantern Attendant
Scripture Attendant
Ceremonies to Celebrate the Birth of Spirits
Assemblies to Entice Spirits
Pilgrimage Times and Temple Fairs

Magical Skills ( 法術 Fashu ) play a very important role in the religious activities of Daoism. Magical Skills refer to a sort of operational system for invoking spirits or ghosts or for producing supernatural changes. They are called Daoist Arts, Daoist Skills, or Secret Skills ( 秘法 Mifa ) to indicate their mystery and secrecy. Sometimes they are called Great Magical Skills to indicate their exceptional uniqueness. Conducting Magical Skills is a chief religious behavior of Daoism, so that it plays an important role in Daoism.

Theoretically, Magical Skills are the demonstration of Dao whereas Dao is their foundation. Such an idea is expressed as follows: " Dao is the noumenon and Magical Skills are the phenomena", which means that Dao is the implicit underpinning of Magical Skills, and Magical Skills are functions and influences of Dao. The first volume of the "Great Collection of Daoist Skills" says that Magical Skills are the usage of Dao. Dao is immaterial while Magical Skills are capable of being touched; Dao is subtle and invisible while Magical Skills are demonstrable. So Magical Skills are not only an operational system to control spirits and ghosts or external things in mysterious ways, but also closely connected with the reverent belief in Dao. Moreover, Magical Skills depend on the personal cultivation and virtues of the master who conducts a certain magic art.

Dao can save man by Magical Skills

The function of magical arts lies in the idea that they are capable of controlling external things, or spirits and ghosts. So it is thought that man can free himself from natural or social forces with their magical power. Especially when man encounters disasters or gets in trouble, man hopes to rely on them to dispel disasters or ghosts, or even to solve their problems thoroughly. Daoists think that Dao is the pure and perfect noumenon of emptiness, and that magic arts are esoteric means of transformations and changes. Dao is immaterial, but it can save man with its magic skills. Man is intelligent and he can mingle himself with Dao. Since man can learn Dao, he can control change naturally. Magic arts, which are quite influential among the common people, meet the need of the people who attribute disasters or illnesses to supernatural forces, and puzzle and fear about the mysterious forces. Therefore Magical Skills are one of the chief means for the Daoists to provide their religious services. In ancient times, ordinary people got to know Daoism through magic arts, and revered Daoists because of the legends concerning their powerful magical skill. Some of the Magical Skills were encouraged by the rulers, who used to establish cults by divinization ( 神道設教 Shendao Shejiao ), as a means to control society in times of chaos when people were frightened by disasters.

Daoist magic arts, with their immense complexity, have formed an enormous system

They began in history and have been developing and changing. Generally speaking, with Dao regarded as essential, the elementary means of Daoist Magical Skills are talismans, Incantations ( 符, 咒 Fu, Zhou ), finger gestures ( 掐訣 Qiajue ), and Big Dipper pacing ( 踏罡步斗 Tagang Budou ), together with such magical instruments as swords, stone seals, magical water, and some medicines. There are several classes of magic arts, including praying for happiness and blessings, offering sacrifices to exorcise evils, summoning and invoking spirits for dispelling ghosts ( 考召 Kaozhao ), curing diseases, raising dead souls from suffering, destroying the Darkness ( 破幽 Poyou ), and doing divination and divinatory calculation ( 術數 Shushu ). Ritual Masters, on usual occasions, apply one or two skills, but on rare occasions will apply quite a few of them, follow certain procedures, and set up an altar. So the ceremony for carrying out some special Magical Skills is called "conducting of rituals".