What Is the Fear of Magic?

Rhabdophobia is a Highly Personalized Phobia

Magician presents blank card
microgen/E+/Getty Images

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.

Causes of Rhabdophobia

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 Rhabdophobia

Symptoms of this phobia include:

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


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 in religious concerns. 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, 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

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, the fear of sharp objects 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.


American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th Ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Common-phobias.com, Rhabdophobia

Continue Reading