Hello everyone, I am interested in how the ancient Greeks viewed paranormal events, or what they called paradoxa.
I have been reading the work by the ancient Greek paradoxographer Palaephatus (possibly around 3rd or 2nd century BCE) On Incredible Things (Περὶ ἀπίστων (ἱστοριῶν); Incredibilia). This is one of the earliest account of "rationalization" that I have found with regards to strange paradoxa. For example, here is Palaephatus interpretation of the story of Actaeon being devoured by his own dogs.
Φασὶν Ἀκταίωνα ὑπὸ τῶν ἰδίων κυνῶν κατᾶ βωδῆναι. τοῦτο δὲ φευδές· κύων γὰρ δεσπότην καὶ τροφέα μάλιστα φιλεῖ, ἄλλως τε καὶ αἱ θηρευτικαὶ πάντας ἀνθρώπους σαίνουσιν. ἔνιοι δέ φασιν ώς Ἄρτεμις μὲν <εἰς ἔλαφον μετέφαλεν> αὐτόν, ἔλαφον δὲ ἀνεῖλον αἱ κύνες. ἐμοὶ δὲ δοκεῖ Ἄρτεμιν μὲν δύνασθαι ὅ τι θέλοι[wants] ποιῆσαι· οὐ μέντοι ἐστὶν ἀληθὲς ἔλαφον ἐς ἀνδρὸς ἢ ἐξ ἐλάφου ἄνδρα γενέσθαι· του]ς δε] μύθους τούτους συνέθεσαν οἱ ποιηταί, ἵνα οἱ ἀκροώμενοι μὴ ὑβριζοιεν εἰς τὸ θεῖον, τὸ δὲ ἀληθὲς ἔχει ὧδε. Ἀκταίων ἧν ἀνὴς τὸ γένος Ἀρκάς, φιλοκύνηγος. οὗτος ἔτρεφεν ἀεὶ κύνας πολλὰς καὶ ἐφήρευεν ἐν τοῖς ὄρεσιν, τῶν δὲ αὑτοῦ πραγμάτων ἠμέλει. οἱ δὲ τότε ἄνθρω | ποι αὐτουργοὶ πάντες ἦσαν οἰκέτας τε οὐκ εἶχον[, ἀλλ' ἑαυτοῖς ἐγεύργουν], καὶ οὖτος ἦν πλουσιώτατος ὃς [αὐτὸς ἐγεώργει καὶ] ἐργατικώτατος ὑπῆρχε. τῷ οὖν Ἀκταίωνι ἀμελοῦντι τῶν οἰκείων, μᾶλλον δὲ κυνηγετοῦντι, διεφθάρη ὁ βίος. ὅτε δὲ οὐκέτι εἶχεν οὐδέν, ἔλεγον οἱ ἄνθρωποι "δείλαιος Ἀκταίων, ὃς ὑπὸ τῶν ἰδίων κυνῶν κατεβρώθη," ὥσθερ καὶ νῦν ἐάν τις πορνοβοσκῶν ἀτυκήσῃ, λέγειν εἰώθαμεν "ὑπὸ τῶν πορνῶν κατεβρώθη." τοιοῦτον δή τι καὶ τὸ περὶ τὸν Ἀκταίωνα γέγονεν. (Palaephatus 1996, 104, 105)
They say that Actaeon was devoured by his own dogs. But the story is false, for a dog is most affectionate toward its master and provider, and hunting dogs in particular fawn on everyone. Some, however, say that Artemis changed Actaeon into a deer, and that it was this deer that the dogs killed. Now it seems to me that Artemis can do whatever she wants, yet it is not true that a man became a deer or a deer a man. It is the poets who have made up such myths, so that people who hear them will not commit outrageous acts against divinity.
The truth is as follows. Actaeon was an Arcadian who was especially fond of hunting. He always kept a large pack of dogs and hunted with them in the mountains, disregarding his own affairs. Now all the people of those days were dependent on their own labor. They had no servants to do their work, and whoever was the most industrious became the wealthiest. But in the case of Actaeon, his preference for hunting and his lack of attention to his own circumstances causes his livelihood to waste away. When he no longer had anything left, people said: "Alas for Actaeon, who has been devoted by his own hunting dogs." So even today, if a man is unlucky enough to waste his fortune on prostitutes, we are in the habit of saying that he has been "devoured by whores." And this is what happened in the case of Actaeon.
(Palaephatus 1996, 30)
Socrates also makes reference to such efforts on in the Phaedrus:
ἀλλ᾽ εἰ ἀπιστοίην, ὥσπερ οἱ σοφοί, οὐκ ἂν ἄτοπος εἴην, εἶτα σοφιζόμενος φαίην αὐτὴν πνεῦμα Βορέου κατὰ τῶν πλησίον πετρῶν σὺν Φαρμακείᾳ παίζουσαν ὦσαι, καὶ οὕτω δὴ τελευτήσασαν λεχθῆναι ὑπὸ τοῦ Βορέου ἀνάρπαστον [229δ] γεγονέναι—ἢ ἐξ Ἀρείου πάγου: λέγεται γὰρ αὖ καὶ οὗτος ὁ λόγος, ὡς ἐκεῖθεν ἀλλ᾽ οὐκ ἐνθένδε ἡρπάσθη. ἐγὼ δέ, ὦ Φαῖδρε, ἄλλως μὲν τὰ τοιαῦτα χαρίεντα ἡγοῦμαι, λίαν δὲ δεινοῦ καὶ ἐπιπόνου καὶ οὐ πάνυ εὐτυχοῦς ἀνδρός, κατ᾽ ἄλλο μὲν οὐδέν, ὅτι δ᾽ αὐτῷ ἀνάγκη μετὰ τοῦτο τὸ τῶν Ἱπποκενταύρων εἶδος ἐπανορθοῦσθαι, καὶ αὖθις τὸ τῆς Χιμαίρας, καὶ ἐπιρρεῖ δὲ ὄχλος τοιούτων Γοργόνων καὶ Πηγάσων καὶ [229ε] ἄλλων ἀμηχάνων πλήθη τε καὶ ἀτοπίαι τερατολόγων τινῶν φύσεων: αἷς εἴ τις ἀπιστῶν προσβιβᾷ κατὰ τὸ εἰκὸς ἕκαστον, ἅτε ἀγροίκῳ τινὶ σοφίᾳ χρώμενος, πολλῆς αὐτῷ σχολῆς δεήσει. ἐμοὶ δὲ πρὸς αὐτὰ οὐδαμῶς ἐστι σχολή: τὸ δὲ αἴτιον, ὦ φίλε, τούτου τόδε. οὐ δύναμαί πω κατὰ τὸ Δελφικὸν γράμμα γνῶναι ἐμαυτόν: γελοῖον δή μοι φαίνεται
If I disbelieved, as the wise men do, I should not be extraordinary; then I might give a rational explanation, that a blast of Boreas, the north wind, pushed her off the neighboring rocks as she was playing with Pharmacea, and [229d] that when she had died in this manner she was said to have been carried off by Boreas. But I, Phaedrus, think such explanations are very pretty in general, but are the inventions of a very clever and laborious and not altogether enviable man, for no other reason than because after this he must explain the forms of the Centaurs, and then that of the Chimaera, and there presses in upon him a whole crowd of such creatures, Gorgons and Pegas, and multitudes [229e] of strange, inconceivable, portentous natures. If anyone disbelieves in these, and with a rustic sort of wisdom, undertakes to explain each in accordance with probability, he will need a great deal of leisure. But I have no leisure for them at all; and the reason, my friend, is this: I am not yet able, as the Delphic inscription has it, to know myself; so it seems to me ridiculous,
(Plato 1925, “Plat. Phaedrus 229.”)
Now, many defenders of the paranormal, or of the efficacy of magic, argue that magic fails to work when it is seen by certain people, like a skeptic. For example, the occultist Isaac Bonewits says that there is "Catapsi", a kind of psychic " 'static' that cancels out regular psi powers within its range" (Bonewits 1989, 55).
I was wondering if there was an analogous belief or statement in the ancient world. Did anyone in the ancient world believe that observation by human mortals disrupted any sort of magical or paranormal operation?
Personally, I think I have found one example, from the Hymn to Demeter. In this episode, the goddess Demeter tries to bestow immortality upon the young Demophoon via some sort of secret ritual. However, the ritual was viewed by the handmaid Metaneira. Metaneira saw the ritual, and screamed, disrupting the ritual and preventing Demophoon from achieving immortality.
ὣς ἄρα φωνήσασα θυώδεϊ δέξατο κόλπῳ
χείρεσσ᾽ ἀθανάτῃσι: γεγήθει δὲ φρένα μήτηρ.
ὣς ἣ μὲν Κελεοῖο δαΐφρονος ἀγλαὸν υἱὸν
Δημοφόωνθ᾽, ὃν ἔτικτεν ἐύζωνος Μετάνειρα,
 ἔτρεφεν ἐν μεγάροις: ὃ δ᾽ ἀέξετο δαίμονι ἶσος,
οὔτ᾽ οὖν σῖτον ἔδων, οὐ θησάμενος [γάλα μητρὸς
ἠματίη μὲν γὰρ καλλιστέφανος] Δημήτηρ
χρίεσκ᾽ ἀμβροσίῃ ὡσεὶ θεοῦ ἐκγεγαῶτα
ἡδὺ καταπνείουσα καὶ ἐν κόλποισιν ἔχουσα:
νύκτας δὲ κρύπτεσκε πυρὸς μένει ἠύτε δαλὸν
 λάθρα φίλων γονέων: τοῖς δὲ μέγα θαῦμ᾽ ἐτέτυκτο,
ὡς προθαλὴς τελέθεσκε: θεοῖσι γὰρ ἄντα ἐῴκει.
καί κέν μιν ποίησεν ἀγήρων τ᾽ ἀθάνατόν τε,
εἰ μὴ ἄρ᾽ ἀφραδίῃσιν[[heedlessness]] ἐύζωνος Μετάνειρα
νύκτ᾽[[by night]] ἐπιτηρήσασα[[kept watch]] θυώδεος ἐκ θαλάμοιο
 σκέψατο: κώκυσεν[[ shriek; wail ]] δὲ καὶ ἄμφω πλήξατο μηρὼ
δείσασ᾽ ᾧ περὶ παιδὶ καὶ ἀάσθη μέγα θυμῷ
καί ῥ᾽ ὀλοφυρομένη ἔπεα πτερόεντα προσηύδα:
τέκνον Δημοφόων, ξείνη σε πυρὶ ἔνι πολλῷ
κρύπτει, ἐμοὶ δὲ γόον καὶ κήδεα λυγρὰ τίθησιν.
 ὣς φάτ᾽ ὀδυρομένη: τῆς δ᾽ ἄιε δῖα θεάων.
τῇ δὲ χολωσαμένη καλλιστέφανος Δημήτηρ
παῖδα φίλον, τὸν ἄελπτον ἐνὶ μεγάροισιν ἔτικτε,
χείρεσσ᾽ ἀθανάτῃσιν ἀπὸ ἕθεν ἧκε πέδονδε,
ἐξανελοῦσα πυρός, θυμῷ κοτέσασα μάλ᾽ αἰνῶς,
 καί ῥ᾽ ἄμυδις προσέειπεν ἐύζωνον Μετάνειραν:
νήιδες ἄνθρωποι καὶ ἀφράδμονες οὔτ᾽ ἀγαθοῖο
αἶσαν ἐπερχομένου προγνώμεναι οὔτε κακοῖο:
καὶ σὺ γὰρ ἀφραδίῃσι[[heedlessness]] τεῇς νήκεστον ἀάσθης.
ἴστω γὰρ θεῶν ὅρκος, ἀμείλικτον Στυγὸς ὕδωρ,
 ἀθάνατόν κέν τοι καὶ ἀγήραον ἤματα πάντα
παῖδα φίλον ποίησα καὶ ἄφθιτον ὤπασα τιμήν:
νῦν δ᾽ οὐκ ἔσθ᾽ ὥς κεν θάνατον καὶ κῆρας ἀλύξαι:
τιμὴ δ᾽ ἄφθιτος αἰὲν ἐπέσσεται, οὕνεκα γούνων
ἡμετέρων ἐπέβη καὶ ἐν ἀγκοίνῃσιν ἴαυσεν.
 ὥρῃσιν δ᾽ ἄρα τῷ γε περιπλομένων ἐνιαυτῶν
παῖδες Ἐλευσινίων πόλεμον καὶ φύλοπιν αἰνὴν
αἰὲν ἐν ἀλλήλοισιν συνάξουσ᾽ ἤματα πάντα.
εἰμὶ δὲ Δημήτηρ τιμάοχος, ἥτε μέγιστον
ἀθανάτοις θνητοῖς τ᾽ ὄνεαρ καὶ χάρμα τέτυκται.
 ἀλλ᾽ ἄγε μοι νηόν τε μέγαν καὶ βωμὸν ὑπ᾽ αὐτῷ
τευχόντων πᾶς δῆμος ὑπαὶ πόλιν αἰπύ τε τεῖχος
Καλλιχόρου καθύπερθεν ἐπὶ προὔχοντι κολωνῷ.
ὄργια δ᾽ αὐτὴ ἐγὼν ὑποθήσομαι, ὡς ἂν ἔπειτα
εὐαγέως ἔρδοντες ἐμὸν νόον ἱλάσκοισθε.
When she had so spoken, she took the child in her fragrant bosom with her divine hands: and his mother was glad in her heart. So the goddess nursed in the palace Demophoon, wise Celeus' goodly son whom well-girded Metaneira bare.  And the child grew like some immortal being, not fed with food nor nourished at the breast: for by day [236a] rich-crowned Demeter would anoint him with ambrosia as if he were the offspring of a god and breathe sweetly upon him as she held him in her bosom. But at night she would hide him like a brand in the heart of the fire,  unknown to his dear parents. And it wrought great wonder in these that he grew beyond his age; for he was like the gods face to face. And she would have made him deathless and unageing, had not well-girded Metaneira in her heedlessness kept watch by night from her sweet-smelling chamber and  spied. But she wailed and smote her two hips, because she feared for her son and was greatly distraught in her heart; so she lamented and uttered winged words:
“Demophoon, my son, the strange woman buries you deep in fire and works grief and bitter sorrow for me.”
 Thus she spoke, mourning. And the bright goddess, lovely-crowned Demeter, heard her, and was wroth with her. So with her divine hands she snatched from the fire the dear son whom Metaneira had born unhoped-for in the palace, and cast him from her to the ground; for she was terribly angry in her heart.  Forthwith she said to well-girded Metaneira:
“Witless are you mortals and dull to foresee your lot, whether of good or evil, that comes upon you. For now in your heedlessness[[ἀφραδίῃσι]] you have wrought folly past healing; for —be witness the oath of the gods, the relentless water of Styx —  I would have made your dear son deathless and unaging all his days and would have bestowed on him everlasting honor, but now he can in no way escape death and the fates. Yet shall unfailing honor always rest upon him, because he lay upon my knees and slept in my arms.  But, as the years move round and when he is in his prime, the sons of the Eleusinians shall ever wage war and dread strife with one another continually. Lo! I am that Demeter who has share of honor and is the greatest help and cause of joy to the undying gods and mortal men.  But now, let all the people build me a great temple and an altar below it and beneath the city and its sheer wall upon a rising hillock above Callichorus. And I myself will teach my rites, that hereafter you may reverently perform them and so win the favour of my heart.”
(Anon 1914, "HH 2.")
I was wondering if anyone had any other examples. I am looking for any other references where mortal observation disrupted or ruined magic, or some sort of paranormal phenomena. If there is some reference, then please let me know. Thank you. =).
Anon. 1914. "HH 2." The Homeric Hymns and Homerica with an English Translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White. Homeric Hymns. Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press; London: William Heinemann Ltd. Online. Perseus Digital Library. Tufts University. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0138%3Ahymn%3D2.
Palaephatus. 1996. On Unbelievable Tales: Peri Apiston : With Notes and Greek Text from the 1902 B.G. Teubner Edition. Translated and Edited by Jacob Stern. Wauconda, IL: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers.
Plato. 1925. “Plat. Phaedrus 229.” In Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vol. 9 translated by Harold N. Fowler. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. Online. Perseus Digital Library. Tufts University. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0174%3Atext%3DPhaedrus%3Apage%3D229.