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Simon Magus

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The original Evil Sorceror, from the New Testament

This work is a proposed Trope, Tropers can vote and offer feedback in the comments section below.
Proposed By:
LondonKdS on Aug 9th 2018 at 3:30:58 PM
Last Edited By:
LondonKdS on Aug 11th 2018 at 5:26:42 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

Simon Magus is a minor bad guy from the Acts of the Apostles who became something of a Breakout Villain and is one of the Ur Examples of the Evil Sorceror. In Acts Chapter Eight, he is described as a wizard who repented and converted to Christianity, but later offered the apostle Peter money to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit, at which Peter angrily cursed him and sent him away. This incident later caused his name to be given to the church offence of simony, which in its pure form refers to the sale of clergy and lay positions in the Church, but is more widely used to refer to any form of financial corruption or embezzlement in an ecclesiastical context.

In other apocryphal Christian texts and popular legend Simon's role was much expanded to make him an Evil Sorceror, an Arch-Enemy to the apostles, and a sort of Evil Counterpart or Evil Knockoff to Christ. In some legends, he travelled to Rome before any real Christians did, impersonated Jesus, did showy magic stuff, and had himself worshipped as a god. (Modern classicists believe that this legend derives from Simon being confused with an actual minor Roman god called Semo.)

There is also some reference to an early leader of Gnosticism being named Simon, which led later writers to approvingly or disapprovingly associate him with Simon Magus. There was a Gnostic group in Syria known as the Simonians, but whether there was any real connection between these two Simons remains unknown.

He is often particularly associated in legend with levitation, and a common story has him dying when Christians see him levitating and pray to God, causing him to lose his demonically-gifted powers and fall to his death. Another legend claims that he died after having himself Buried Alive, claiming that he would rise after three days like Jesus, but failing to do so and being found to have suffocated in his coffin.

He is often seen as a precursor to the Faust legend.

Simon appears as a character, or inspires a character, in the following works:

Comic Books
  • Simon Magus appears as a magic-using villain in a few Silver Age Justice League of America stories.
  • Astro City features a character named Simon Magus (who may or may not be the original - probably not) as a good but irritatingly self-satisfied magician who is something of a Doctor Strange Expy and later mutates into the series' Swamp Thing Expy.
Literature
  • One of W. S. Gilbert's Bab Ballads comic poems is "The Reverend Simon Magus", about a hypocritically corrupt and worldly Anglican clergyman.
  • In the Father Brown story "The Dagger With Wings" an occultist villain is claimed by himself in disguise to constantly levitate like Simon Magus.
  • The biblical Simon Magus is the main immediate villain in Resurrections, the third book in Roz Kaveney's Rhapsody of Blood Urban Fantasy series. He is an evil magician whose speciality is stealing peoples' body parts and using them to augment himself, with gruesome results.
Live-Action TV
  • The villain of the Space: 1999 episode "New Adam, New Eve" is a powerful entity known as Magus who initially pretends to be the Christian God, and later claims to have been the biblical Simon Magus.
Tabletop Games Video Games

Feedback: 3 replies

Aug 10th 2018 at 1:33:07 AM

Possibly. Or are new pages allowed in the Myth namespace?

Aug 11th 2018 at 5:26:42 PM

  • A Simon Magus is mentioned in Jackie Chan Adventures. But he's portrayed as a heroic wizard and museum-keeper who defeated Spring-Heeled Jack, so it's anyone's guess if the writers were just really uninformed or didn't intend to reference the New Testament at all.

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