Posted by Jay Livingston
Anthropologists of the 19th and early 20th centuries noted that primitive people believe in a peculiar power, mana, inherent in powerful persons and ghosts. In their “magical thinking,” primitives also believe that this power be transmitted from the person to inanimate objects they have touched or possessed. An object imbued with the mana of the king or chief becomes very valuable indeed. Someone else can acquire that power by acquiring the object, though he himself must be person of some importance lest the mana of the object overwhelm him.
This belief about magical objects whose powers can be acquired is of course characteristic of primitive peoples. It is so alien to us in the modern world we find it hard to really grasp, understand, or sympathize with this mentality.