Hoc est enim corpus meum
This is itself my body

The evolution of language from one generation to the next appears to be responsible for our current use of this mangled Latin. It seems unfortunate that as time goes on, the magic words we learned as children metamorphose into monikers of deceit and ignorance.

It is likely that other mangled Latin phrases like "Hax pax deus amidax" intervened in the evolution of this term, but a widespread practice involving Latin seems to be a necessary precursor. The Latin mass started being used around 600 AD according to Joseph Zacchello (in Secrets of Romanism, p 210) and likely supplied the accurate Latin from which these manglings were created. If someone can find another prevalent use of Latin that sounds more like hocus pocus, msg me, and I'll introduce it in this writeup. The Latin of Virgil was not widely circulated as speech and so does not offer nearly as much potential for mangling.

When man discovered the general mechanisms by which fire exists, or by which trees grow, or by which the sun rises and sets, many of us decided that there were no spirits there any more. Apparently there is something that makes people feel that some degree of mystery is required for a thing to have a spirit. Fortunately, there is and will always be some degree of mystery in every single piece of existence, but for whatever reason, there's a point at which we stop seeing it. This seems to me to be the great tragedy of the frontal cortex. Of course we don't believe that understanding what makes our kids tick removes their souls. Why do we do this to non-human things?

The Latin from which hocus pocus appears to have derived is a quote of what Jesus Christ said at the Last Supper. Religions argue about whether he was speaking figuratively or literally. While I understand the two sides of the argument, I do not see the point of it. The man certainly shared himself with people and philosophers still argue about what a person is. Ultimately, I think the transubstantiation debate comes down to an argument about institutionalizing the idea of mystery. Maybe that isn't a bad idea.

Maybe hocus pocus is more than it's cracked up to be.

The term is now used as a cliche magical utterance, probably never used "seriously" by magicians pretending to do magic (or, if you like, actually doing magic). In fact, hocus pocus usually indicates deceit or some other kind of action based on ignorance. For example, some people would chuckle at the idea that parts of the Latin mass sound like hocus pocus because they believe that the church is guilty of great deceit. "hocus pocus" can also refer to processes that are not supposed to be understood by those that use them. This gives the term applications in religion, magic, computers, and technology.

From hocus pocus we get the Hokey Pokey which is something you do, according to the song, and then you turn yourself around. Doing the Hokey Pokey usually means singing the song and doing the dance, but during the song, it must mean something else because otherwise the instructions lead to infinite (or at least fatal) recursion. If you watch people singing and dancing, and you try to use their behavior as an indicator of what doing the hokey pokey means, it appears to mean nothing since they don't really do anything between putting a limb or other appendage in and turning themselves around.

Outside the context of the song, doing the hokey pokey often means sex, drugs, or other some other illicit activity. Often, such illicit activities have the kind of effect on a person that amounts to turning oneself around, or at least in a new direction, at least for a while. In this sense, the similarity to receiving communion is apparent since this sacrament is believed to transform the receiver. Nevertheless, doing the hokey pokey has more obvious effects.

It seems clear then, that the etymological path of this term goes from the sacred to the profane. I suppose this bothers some people, but it pleases me since I believe profanity is the opposite of the far more damaging silent anger. I wonder how prevalent such a path is among the evolution of things that evolve. Perhaps one might say that this is the hocus pocus of evolution.