I’ve seen several books where a replica of an object, through supernatural or scientific means, reflected its state onto the original object. These replicas were called simulacra, and I’m wondering if this is an accepted usage of the word.

  • 1
    simulacrum - noun (pl. simulacra, simulacrums) - 1. An image or representation of someone or something; 2. An unsatisfactory imitation or substitute. (lexico.com/en/definition/simulacrum) May 6 '21 at 0:32
  • 1
    Yeah, as above, dictionaries are usually a good guide for whether a word meaning is accepted, as they tend to follow the mood of the speaking population.
    – ralph.m
    May 6 '21 at 0:34
  • 1
    So a sacrum simulacrum is a coccyx copy, or conceivably a cocked-up coccyx copy. ;) May 6 '21 at 1:06

The basic meaning of "simulacrum" is "image" (sometimes with the connotation "mere image").

The specific concept that you describe, of "simulacrum" being used to refer to some instrument of sympathetic magic, is not a usage that I can find in any dictionary. Something not being in the dictionary doesn't exactly mean that it is not "accepted" usage, although it indicates that it's probably not a very common usage.

Works of speculative fiction often use words in specialized ways rather than according to their general usage. I'm not sure what the history of this usage is. The earliest example that I know of is in the novel The Magician's Apprentice by Tom McGowen (1987), where the term "simulacrum" is used to refer to a wax statue made in a person's shape and containing a bit of that person's blood and hair that supposedly can affect the state of the person. I don't have an exact quote, but you can see a summary of the work that covers this point here: "The Magician’s Apprentice", Jestress's Forgotten Books and Stories (blog by Tracy Christenson).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.