Magic means different things to different people. For believers in the paranormal, for example, it refers to the manipulation of events, people, and objects through supernatural means to create a desired outcome. This type of magic may involve spells, rituals, charms, and other tools to alter the practitioner's environment. The word is also used to refer to tricks and sleight of hand that make it seem like things are appearing and disappearing, as though supernaturally.
The concept of magic has been present in human culture for thousands of years. Many cultures had versions of witches, wizards, warlocks, sorcerers, witch doctors, shamans, and other people who could supposedly harness supernatural powers for various tasks. Some religions incorporate a belief in magic, while other religions reject it as the work of the devil, perhaps because these religions arose in opposition to the traditional practice.
Most cultures assume that in order to practice magic in the supernatural sense, someone must have magical powers. These powers may allow the practitioner to talk to inanimate objects, communicate with the spirits, or harness energy in the spiritual world; beliefs vary, depending on the culture. Practitioners of magic also undergo extensive training to learn how to use their skills, and to learn when its use is appropriate; some cultures also differentiate between white or good magic and black or bad magic.
Historically, people who practiced magic often offered a variety of services to their community including health care, the removal of bad spells, the manipulation of weather for good crops, and so forth. These people became figures of veneration and respect because of their perceived abilities. They were also associated with less practical things like enchantments; many folk tales incorporate enchantments in which people are bewitched or tricked into doing things, for example.
While practitioners of magic were historically sometimes venerated, they were also feared. Many cultures experienced periods in which witches and other practitioners were hunted down and punished, tortured, or killed. People believed in the power of magic, feeling that the spells cast by someone could have a real-world effect, and sometimes blaming events like famines, plagues, and crop failure on witches and others.
Modern practitioners of magic can be found in many regions of the world. Some are traditional shamans and wisepeople who serve tribes and communities as their antecedents have for centuries, while others incorporate magic into the practice of their faith, like Wiccans. The practice of magic for these people may include spells, rituals, medication, the creation of magical objects, charms, and similar tools.
In the less mystical sense, magic is a discipline in which people learn to physically manipulate their environment to create illusions. Skilled magicians can appear to make flowers bloom in mid-air, cut women in half, conjure rabbits from top hats, escape from sealed tanks, and perform other feats. This practice does not involve the harnessing of supernatural forces; it requires hard, focused work and years of study to be successful.