Wednesday, December 30, 2009


mirabilia: a Latin word meaning marvels, miracles, wonders.
"If all possible mirabilia are natural mirabilia, and if all nature is good, how can a magician err?"
—Jan R. Veenstra & Laurens Pignon, Magic and Divination at the Courts of Burgundy and France, 1998

(Thanks to Fred for suggesting the word.)

Sunday, December 27, 2009


"The word 'sunshine' is a magical word. It can turn a dark mood into laughter."
—Angela R. Novak Amado, Friendships and Community Connections Between People With and Without Developmental Disabilities (1993)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Almost Magic Words

We often notice references to "almost magic" words. Will these words eventually graduate to fully-magical status, or will their power flicker out over time? Here are some examples of words designated as "almost magic":
  • appreciate
  • architectonic
  • billion
  • contiguity
  • evolve
  • freedom
  • incentive
  • influence
  • information
  • liberty
  • mercy
  • mojo
  • pedigree
  • philosopher
  • polymers
  • sharing
  • stability
  • theory
  • Transylvania

Monday, December 21, 2009


"The very word forest is magical, suggesting an abundance of rich colors, shifting patterns of haunting light, textures and materials that practically ask to be touched, earthy and evocative smells, and mysterious thematic sounds. A forest changes with every step taken into it. It whispers much, but I always sense there is much more held back, much more to be discovered if I can only take the time to stop and stare and listen and sniff."
—Michael W. Robbins, The Hiking Companion (2003)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

World and Magic

(Click image to enlarge.)

* Inspired by Jeff Hawkins. Parchment texture by pareeerica.

Friday, December 18, 2009


"Egypt! What wondrous pictures are conjured up by that magic word! Scenes of white-robed priests moving in solemn procession through columned aisles to the sound of stately music; . . . of royal pageants wherein King and Queen, bedecked in silks and cloth of gold, embroidered with a mine of gems, pass through the crowded lines of their acclaiming subjects; scenes of light and life and colour, which cannot fail to rouse our admiration, even our awe; such are some of the pictures that rise before us at the sound of the mystic name." -- F. H. Brooksbank, Legends of Ancient Egypt (1914)

Thursday, December 17, 2009


"I thought I wouldn't write a poem, but just write what I wanted to without fear, let my imagination go, open secrecy, and scribble magic lines from my real mind—sum up my life—something I wouldn't be able to show anybody, writ for my own soul's ear and a few other golden ears."
—Allen Ginsberg, “Notes Written on Finally Recording Howl” (via Social Fiction)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Magic as the Essence of All the Arts

"Some speak of magic aspiring to be art, but it is really art that aspires to be magic. Magic is the highest art, pure art, art's ultimate accomplishment."
—Lee Siegel, Net of Magic

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Breaking the Curse of Cassandra

This is a talismanic mini-treasure chest I made for breaking a curse. Like her namesake in Greek mythology, my cousin Cassandra often complains of speaking the truth but being disbelieved. The box I prepared contains 30 parchments, each with a snippet from literature in opposition to the curse of Cassandra. They are all positive affirmations and earnest wishes -- essentially promissory notes. I didn't need the statements to come from literature (I don't even cite the sources on the parchments), but the scavenger hunt was fun, and the different type styles lend some nice variety to the pieces.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


The magic word zigazak originated in a Jewish fable. It is featured in Eric Kimmel's book Zigazak! A Magical Hanukkah Night.

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Spell that Won't be Broken

Though we say goodbye
We cast a spell that won't be broken:
"Let this night forever live in our dreams!"
—Walt Disney World's "Spectromagic" parade

Thursday, December 10, 2009


This is an Italian magic word from the animated film Opopomoz (2003), taught to a little boy by three mischievous devils.

Sator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas

See our previous post about this palindromic magic phrase.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Masquerade Wherein the World Lays Open Its Secret

"Whoever disguises himself in words turns into their interior and thus into that which they 'properly' are, into clouds."
—Rainer Nägele, Benjamin's Ground: New Readings of Walter Benjamin

Friday, December 4, 2009

How to Electrify with Words

In "The Creation Game®" card deck, magician George Parker notes that magic formulae aren't confined to fairy tales. He encourages us to "Notice how some words can rob you of your energy, while other phrases seem to instantly vitalize you. Block out words that drain you of energy. Use expressions that fuel you." Parker suggests that the best way to become a wizard of words is to bring conscious, artful awareness to everything you say. "Talk like a poet. Express yourself in a vivid, colorful and rich way. Observe how consciously chosen words have the power not only to electrify yourself, but also to transform other people."

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Words to the Snake

In traditional Finnish magic, "Word magic was used to get rid of snakes and other pests. One has to read 'words to the snake' which is a long spell, and recite very fast if one can remember the words. As snakes are deaf, this would fall on deaf ears, but maybe the fast recitation makes for a certain vibration that snake would feel." —Kati Koppana, Snake Fat and Knotted Threads: An Introduction to Traditional Finnish Healing Magic, 2003

Photo caption: "The asp plugs one ear with its tail while pressing the other ear to the ground, so it cannot hear the words the enchanter is reading from a scroll. British Library, Harley MS 4751, Folio 61r."

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Thanks to Mystic Medusa for discussing our entry on the magic word "amen" in our dictionary of magic words.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


"Emin" is a magic word for restoring a severed head, as dreamed by a seven-year-old in a nightmare involving a beheading scene: "We walked down the corridor very slowly so that our heads wouldn't fall off. When we were quite far I remembered the magic word EMIN, so I said EMIN to make our heads come back to life again. Then our heads were fixed on again so that we could run back to the place where Daddy had a new car" (qtd. in The Magic Quest by Anne Wilson, 1990, p. 9).

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Naught can be grander, than to live
Close by the magic word, forgive.
—Eva Ames, "Life"

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Magic Need Not Be Spoken

"I did not speak of magic; it need not be spoken to occur."
—Gregory G. Bolich, 12 Magic Wands

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Rabbit on the Other Side

"Rabbit has moved to the other side and by lurid light views the damage."
—John Updike

(Photo entitled "This is Who Comes for Magicians when they Die," by arlmoore)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Magic Word Dust

Carolina Valdez tweeted about "sprinkling a little magic word dust" over someone. Where do you find magic word dust? In old books and old bookshops, of course! (Click photos for sources.)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Become Whole blog explores the power of the magic word "no." (Thanks, Gordon!)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Magical Teardrops

Tauba Auerbach's "Listen/Silent" anagram reminds us of a poem by Thomas Moore:

When to sad Music silent you listen,
And tears on those eyelids tremble like dew,
Oh, then there dwells in those eyes as they glisten
A sweet holy charm that mirth never knew.

We like the idea of teardrops being a magical potion, glistening with enchantment of a shadowy (mirthless) yet sacred nature.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


"The word 'samba' is magical to such a degree that it becomes synonymous with poetry, beauty, love."
—Charles A. Perrone, Masters of Contemporary Brazilian Song (1989)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Jaba-Laba Ding-Dong

In the comic strip "Dog Eat Doug" (Nov. 7, 2009) by Brian Anderson, "Jaba-Laba Ding-Dong" is the magic phrase to turn someone into a giant Ho Ho cake. (Thanks, Gordon!)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Dreadful Magic Power of Taboo Terms for Effluvia

Our disgust of effluvia and coinage of taboo terms for body substances is inseparable from voodoo. Steven Pinker explains how words for effluvia possess a dreadful magic power:

"Effluvia have an emotional charge that makes them figure prominently in voodoo, sorcery, and other kinds of sympathetic magic. People in many cultures believe that a person can be harmed by mutilating or casting spells on his feces, saliva, blood, nails, and hair, and that a person can be protected from harm if those substances are cursed, buried, drowned, or otherwise ostentatiously discarded. The potency of these substances is people's minds also leads them to be used in medicines or charms, often in homeopathic or purified doses. The emotion of disgust and the psychology of sympathetic magic are entwined. The psychologists Paul Rozin and April Fallon have shown that modern Westerners respect the laws of voodoo in their own disgust reactions, such as recoiling from an object if it merely looks like a disgusting substance or has been in contact with one in the past. Word magic simply extends this chain of associations by one link, and gives the words for effluvia a dreadful power as well." (The Stuff of Thought, p. 345)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Poolo si Bagumbah

Poolo si Bagumbah is a magical phrase for making a zombie rise and obey one's commands in the interactive drama "The Curse of Whately Manor" by Frank Branham (1992).

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Magic Words Change as We Use Them

"Just as language will change as its speakers use it over decades and centuries, so the language that creates the world—the language that is the world—its Meaning, its Logos—can change as we use it, all of us human persons and others, and when it does the world in which we have our beings is remade."
—John Crowley, Daemonomania

Monday, October 26, 2009

In the Mouth of the White Squirrel

"But he found no word beneath the tongue of the reindeer, no magical word in the mouth of the white squirrel, not even so much as the beginning of a word."
The Writings of Lafcadio Hearn, 1922

Friday, October 23, 2009

Epigraphs as Magic Words

"On the next page the title again, and beneath it in small italics one of those little quotations ... many old books had, like a magician's distracting patter before his trick, more mysterious usually than the book that followed." —John Crowley, Love and Sleep

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Thanks to Jim H. Moreno for naming our Magic Words: A Dictionary as a favorite resource for spell casting in fantasy role playing games.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


“What was the word—the magic word? Brumagem—that was it—Brumagem. An enchanting word! . . . A word to be repeated over to himself softly and secretly at night at the same time as Damn and Corsets.” —Agatha Christie, Giant’s Bread (1930)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Handwritten magician's book, Batak Culture, Indonesia, 1800s. (Source)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Novelist's Magic Words

"Like a conjurer, a novelist should be able to take the rabbit out of the hat without letting his audience in on the way in which he did it."
John Steinbeck: The Contemporary Reviews

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Hippogriff's Magic Word

"If only you knew the magic word that the Hippogriff obeys," said the parrot, "you could say it, and then you'd understand all animal talk. Only, of course, I mustn't tell it you. It's one of the eleven mysteries."
—Edith Nesbit, Magic City

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Love and Magic

"Love is magic, Giordano Bruno said; magic is love. The magician and the lover are both venatores animarum, hunters of souls; by emblems and by arts, the magician draws down into his heart the powers of heaven, that is the star-persons through whom the whole of nature and the spirits of men and women are ordered, and have their meaning. He ranges these powers within him and asks: teach me to bind, with bonds like love's, the things of this world and the hearts of others. And they do, they can. And thus we become like gods."
—John Crowley, Daemonomania

(Photo by Love Not Fear)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Mum's the Word in Wales

"We are not told what is the magical word in Wales."
—E. Sidney Hartland, "The Indian Origin of Popular Tales," The Academy, Jan. 30, 1892

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Amy Harrington is dumbfounded that the word mojo was not included in her library's copy of Magic Words: A Dictionary. The answer is simple, Amy: mojo is a synonym for magic, not a magic word in itself. (See our introduction to the dictionary for a highly detailed discussion of what constitutes a magic word.) Mojo would make for a great entry in a thesaurus of magic words. It is indeed a great word, and here's how it might have looked as an entry in Magic Words: A Dictionary:

Hocus pocus, mojo, whatever you want to call it.
—Jim Harrison, Conversations with Jim Harrison (2002)

Mystique: Mojo possesses an aura of mystery carried across the ocean by West African shamans caught up in slave ships. The word does not refer to fakery or trickery1 but to the working of sympathetic magic. “Mojo can simply mean magic—a magic imbued with African flavor and with the need of indentured peoples to take some control over their lives. And yes, it’s tricky, powerful, and dangerous if not used wisely.”2 The word’s connotations of witchcraft make it a favorite of exotic street performers. For example, physicist Emanuel Derman recalls “a hip-looking, mustachioed, good-humored, short, dark guy who juggled, ate fire, swallowed swords, and often used the word mojo.”3 Mojo refers to the extra spark that helps one to “get that little bit more out of any situation.”4 In other words, “the mojo assists its carrier to view life positively, to create deliberately, to attract delicious life experiences, to have what she or he truly wants.”5

  • bewitchment
  • black magic
    “Mojo. Black magic.” —Lori Handeland, Rising Moon (2007)
  • charm or medicinal root bag
  • charming or cunning personality
    —Tony Rufo, The Complete Book of Pop Music Wit and Wisdom (2006)
  • folk magic
  • hex
  • hocus pocus
    “Legend has it that the apostle’s fossils are full of some kind of magic mojo, holy hocus pocus that could turn an entire army to mush.” —Greg Mandel, High Hat (2008)
  • magic
    “Some magic. Some mojo.” —Joey Anuff and Gary Wolf, Dumb Money (2000)
  • magician
    “Some people, like Yolanda, were mojos—could work magic without any extra help.” —Carol Fenner, Yolanda’s Genius (2001)
  • magic power
    “A magician worried his mojo was losing its potency.” —Vibe Magazine (April 1996)
  • magic spell
  • main, principal, master
    “The mojo portion of thanks to my wife.” —Jeff Wallach, Best Places to Golf Northwest (2004)
  • a mechanism for magic that unleashes the “sayso,” the power to survive a crisis
    —Carolyn Casey Craig, Women Pulitzer Playwrights (2004)
  • moxie
  • luck
  • Mercurial
    “A mojo man who changes his identity to suit whatever country he’s in.” —Annabel Johnson and Edgar Johnson, Gamebuster (1990)
  • mystical pixie dust
    —Ted Gioia, Delta Blues (2008)
  • personal energy, vitality, zest, verve, pizzazz, passion, feistiness
    —Gary Bertwistle, Who Stole My Mojo? (2008)
  • power
    “Mojo is power and magic and goodness—it’s an intangible thing that can’t be adequately described in words.” —Gary Erickson and Lois Ann Lorentzen, Raising the Bar (2004)
  • superstition
  • talisman
  • vendor of magical items (roots, herbs, animal parts)
    —Malachi Andrews and Paul T. Owens, Black Language (1973)
  • sorcery
  • witchcraft
  • wizardry

The word mojo “emanated from West and Central African linguistic antecedents.”6 It originally referred specifically to the rosary of a slave elder7 and later referred to a magic spell cast by spitting.8 The word has also been traced to the West African mojuba, meaning “prayer or homage.”9

  • The Cuban drink mojito “is the diminutive of this loan-word [mojo] and means ‘little spell.’”10
  • In the film Juke Girl (1942), mojo refers to black magic and jomo to white magic. Similarly, in the culture of New Orleans, mojo is “bad magic” as opposed to juju, “good magic.”11
  • The African American novelist Chester Boman Himes (d. 1984) was dubbed “‘the Great Mojo Bojo’ (master of occult knowledge).”12
  • In the Marvel Comic Longshot #3 (Nov. 1985), Mojo is a spineless sorcerer from the Mojoverse.
  • The war cry “Mojo mojo mojo” is chanted by fans of the Odessa, Texas Permian Panthers football team.
  • In the parlance of jazz, mojo is a reference to drugs and sex.13
  • The “Mojo Triangle,” stretching from the Mississippi Delta, to Memphis, to Nashville, is the birthplace of jazz, blues, rock ’n’ roll, and country music.14
  • In the film The Powerpuff Girls (2002), Mojo Jojo is the name of a power-hungry villain.15

Variations and Incantations:
  • magic mojo
  • Mo-Jo
    “A Mo-Jo Spell could vanquish an enemy or return a lost love.” —California Astrology Association
  • Mo-Jo! Mo-Jo! Mo-Jo! Mo-Jo!
    —H. G. Bissinger, Friday Night Lights (2000)
  • Mojo, Mojo! O-m! O—o—m! O—hhhhhhhhhmmmm!!!
    —Mafika Pascal Gwala, Jol’iinkomo (1977)

In Literature:
  • “If we are able to accept the ancient magic of mojo and its ritualistic drums, why not the mysteries of Confucius and his oracles?” —Virginia Eggertsen Sorensen, The Man with the Key (1974)
  • “He became fully conscious in the midst of a dream, still asleep but aware of his state, and primed with the generally vapid knowledge of a thousand volumes of magical mystical mojo.” —Peter Luber, Oneironauticus (2008)
  • “A Hoodoo sun shines and a lucky mojo rain falls.” —Doctor Snake, Dr. Snake’s Voodoo Spellbook (2000)
  • “Some of this mojo rubbed off on us from our shamanic ancestors.” —Oscar London, From Voodoo to Viagra: The Magic of Medicine (2001)
  • “Mo-jo mo-jo / there’s a new lion in the kingdom” —Gregory Corso, Mindfield (1998)

  1. Alan Dundes, Mother Wit from the Laughing Barrel (1981)
  2. Nalo Hopkinson, Mojo: Conjure Stories (2003)
  3. My Life as a Quant (2004)
  4. Gary Bertwistle, Who Stole My Mojo? (2008)
  5. James Green, The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook (2000)
  6. Yvonne Chireau, Black Magic: Religion and the African American Conjuring Tradition (2006)
  7. Patrick Bellegarde-Smith, Fragments of Bone: Neo-African Religions in a New World (2005)
  8. Joseph E. Holloway, Africanisms in American Culture (2005)
  9. Joanne O’Sullivan, Halloween (2003)
  10. Jared McDaniel Brown, Anistatia Renard Miller, Dave Broom, Cuba: The Legend of Rum (2009)
  11. Lori Handeland, Midnight Moon (2006)
  12. Stephen F. Milliken, Chester Himes (1976)
  13. Doug Lennox, Now You Know: Big Book of Answers (2007)
  14. James Dickerson, Mojo Triangle (2005)
  15. Leonard Maltin, Leonard Maltin’s 2009 Movie Guide (2008)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Power in Knowing the Words

"We find amongst men of all degrees of civilization a deep-seated belief in the magic potency of words. This belief underlies all kinds of charms and incantations. It is not the magician who forces the demon to appear or produces the convulsion of nature, but the words themselves which the magician speaks. His power consists only in knowing the words."
—James Bradstreet Greenough & George Lyman Kittredge, Words and Their Ways in English Speech, 1915

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Magic Words

In his book Win the Crowd, magician Steve Cohen devotes an entire chapter to 'Magic Words.' These are not the classic words, such as abracadabra or presto, that magicians have used since time immemorial, but rather ordinary words and phrases that, when employed properly, can makes one's speech more powerful and allow one to influence others.

Cohen gives ten examples of speech patterns anyone can adopt to communicate more effectively. He notes that these magic words and phrases are already used by people everyday, albeit in a haphazard or unconscious fashion. It is the deliberate and intentional use of certain speech patterns that gives them their power.


(Photo by SFDenverLV)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Up and Away

"Up and Away" are the magic words of Emelyan, a Fool in Russian fairy tales.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Single Shocking Word

"Doctor Dee would sometimes think: All creation is a huge, ornate, imaginary, and unintended fiction; if it could be deciphered it would yield a single shocking word." —John Crowley, The Solitudes

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


"Pidiboff": a magic word from Manduck the Magician. (See fuller context here.)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Words of Transformation

"In the end, we may be in love with books, but it’s words that have truly won our hearts. It’s words that whisper into our ear and transform us, that make us believe in other worlds or new emotions we didn’t know existed; it’s words that keep us company in . . . planes, on subway trains, or our comfy couches. It is words, not books, paper, papyrus or vellum pages that transform our lives."

—Jeff Gomez, Print is Dead; Books in Our Digital Age, 2008. Via dj misc.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Don't You Believe?

"Magic," she said. "Don't you believe in magic?"
He inhaled tobacco smoke, and breathed it out in mystic calm.
"No," he said.
"But you think it works."
He said nothing.
-- John Crowley, Love & Sleep

[Woodcut of astrologer by Jorg Breu.]

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

'Twixt Six O'Clock and Now

"My brave spirit," said Prospero—that was the magician's name—"this time, 'twixt six o'clock and now, must be spent by us both most preciously."
—Mary Maud, Shakespeare's Stories

(Photo by ian.crowther)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Euphemisms are Anti-Magic Words

Our use of euphemisms is proof of a deep-seated belief in the magic of words. Steven Pinker explains:

"Taboo speech is part of a larger phenomenon known as word magic. Though one of the foundations of linguistics is that the pairing between a sound and a meaning is arbitrary, most humans intuitively believe otherwise. They treat the name for an entity as part of its essence, so that the mere act of uttering a name is seen as a way to impinge on its referent. Incantations, spells, prayers, and curses are ways that people try to affect the world through words, and taboos and euphemisms are ways that people try not to affect it." (The Stuff of Thought, p. 331)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Left-Handed Magic Word

Magician and tech wizard Gordon Meyer shares the fact that abracadabra is "one of the few 'one-handed passwords' that technologists such as myself collect. That is, it can be typed entirely with the left hand on a qwerty keyboard."


Speaking of abracadabra, don't miss our article "The Abracadabra of Faery" in the Aug. 2009 issue of Witches & Pagans magazine. Here's the introduction:

Delving through dusty old tomes in search of ancient expressions of enchantment, I noticed that one command in particular seemed to trace directly back to Faery. I was searching for subtle, mysterious, transformative words, whose vibrations seemed to transcend the laws of physics. One such mystical word proved time and time again to be the name of a great lady Faery. Small wonder that her name has endured as the best-known and best-loved magic word in recorded history.

Her name is that spine-tingling thing that gives you goose bumps. It’s the instant of a wish coming true. It’s opening your eyes and seeing that the workaday world has transformed into something holy. It’s that moment of clarity when everything suddenly “clicks,” and you see that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. These clicks and ticks can trigger a resounding chime, signaling the fullness of time. And yet it is that very same chime of the clock that can disintegrate a dream. Energy builds and builds to a breaking point. Then it diminishes. This is the cosmic process of creation and destruction, of waxing and waning, reflected by great Faery name Abracadabra. The Lady Abracadabra’s name is pure dazzle, and it has never lost its spark over the centuries. Nor has it lost connection to its Faery roots, even in “generic” form — in 1933, Neil Bell referred to “an invocation as remote from reality as the abracadabra of faery.”

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Cloud Dispelling

This passage reminded us of Kenton Knepper's delightful instruction on cloud busting in his Wonder Words program:

"Sorcerers, being lords of weather and wind, are called 'cloud-dispellers' (oblako-progonniki) and 'cloud-preservers' (oblako-chraniteliniki). For a sorcerer, therefore, invested with such power, it was a simple matter, by means of a magic word, to make the wind veer in any desired direction, to throw dust into the air, and cause the wind to carry dust to any person he chose, so that the victim 'might become crooked, wrinkled, be blown asunder and desiccated." —James Hastings, Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics Part 6, 1908, p. 466

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Magic Expletives

"There is was, the old Magic Word, clear as a bell, booming like a foghorn. 'Magic-Word you, you mother-Magic-Word-er.'"
—Joseph Di Prisco, Confessions of Brother Eli, 2000

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Words within Words

"Any word containing a magic word must be a magic word."
Ergodic Theory and Dynamical Systems, 1983, p. 544

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Higitus Figitus Migitus Mum

Higitus Figitus migitus mum,
—Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, Disney's The Sword in the Stone

  • Higitus Figitus zoomacazam
  • Hockety pockety wockety wack, abracabra dabra nack
  • Ali-i-ca-fez bal-a-ca-zez malaca-mez meripides
  • Higitus Figitus zumbabazing

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sometimes They Work Wonders

"Before I send him up in the hills I'm going to give him a magic word."
"That's a good idea," said the Professor. "Sometimes they work wonders."
—Heywood Broun, Seeing Things at Night, 1921

Friday, August 21, 2009


The word of YHVH is refined
As silver and gold are refined.
When these letters came forth, they were all refined,
Carved precisely, sparkling, flashing.
All of Israel saw the letters
Flying through space in every direction,
Engraving themselves on the tablets of stone.

The Zohar, quoted in People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks, 2008. (Via DJMisc)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Monday, August 17, 2009

Flash Bam Alakazam

I was walking along minding my business
When love came and hit me in the eye
Flash! Bam! Alakazam!
Out of an orange colored sky.

—Milton DeLugg & Willie Stein, “Orange Colored Sky,” 1950

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Ancient Civilizations

"The names of these cities call up, like an incantation, the memory of the civilisations which grew in them to greatness and sank in them to decay: Mesopotamia, a great heart of civilisation which is cold today, but which beat so strongly for five thousand years that its pulses were felt from Siberia to the Pillars of Hercules and influenced the taste and technique of the Scandinavian bronze age; the Assyrians, who extended the political marches of Mesopotamia towards the north, and turned them into a military monarchy that devastated the motherland and all other lands and peoples from the Tigris to the sea; the Hebrews, discovering a world-region in their hill-country overlooking the coast; the Sabaeans, whose queen made the first pilgrimage to Jerusalem, coming from Yemen across the Hedjaz when Mekka and Medina were still of no account ; the Philistines and Phoenicians of the Syrian sea-board, who were discovering the Atlantic and were too busy to listen to the Hebrew prophets in their hinterland; the Ionians, who opened up the Black Sea and created a poetry, philosophy, science, and architecture which are still the life-blood of ours, before they were overwhelmed, like the Phoenicians before them, by a continental military power; the Hittites, who first transmitted the fruitful influences of Mesopotamia to the Ionian coasts—a people as mysterious to their contemporaries as to ourselves, maturing unknown in the fastnesses of Anatolia, raising up a sudden empire that raided Mesopotamia and colonised the Syrian valleys, and then succumbing to waves of northern invasion. All these people rose and fell within the boundaries of Turkey, held the stage of the world for a time, and left their mark on its history. There is a romance about their names, a wonderful variety and intensity in their vanished life; yet they are not more diverse than their modern successors, in whose veins flows their blood and whose possibilities are only dwarfed by their achievements."
—The Armenian Herald, 1918

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Milton's Time-Warping Incantations

"[John Milton's] poetry acts like an incantation. Its merit lies less in its obvious meaning than in its occult power, and there would seem at first to be no more in his words than in other words. But they are words of enchantment. No sooner are they pronounced than the past is present and the distant near. New forms of beauty start at once into existence, and all the burial-places of the memory give up their dead."
—Thomas Babington Macaulay, Essay on Milton

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Druther is a magic affirmation, from a late 19th century pronunciation of "I'd rather."

"If I had my druthers every one, I'd have my wooden druthers, too." It sounded like an incantation, or the first couple lines of a poem maybe. It seemed, in the dark and under the moon, like lyrics from a very old song, translated too many times into too many tongues to be traced to ground.
—E. R. Stuart, "Wooden Druthers," The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, 2000.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Rabbit Cadabra

Rabbit Cadabra brings the classic magician’s white bunny into the famous magic word abracadabra. The hare is a traditional Trickster archetype in folklore.

Rabbit-Cadabra is a picture book for children, featuring a vampire rabbit and characters from the Bunnicula series of books by James Howe (1993).

(Photo of a sign in Vienna, by marcelgermain.)

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Difference Between a Psychologist and a Magician

Q: What's the difference between a psychologist and a magician?

A: A psychologist pulls habits out of rats.

(via Futility Closet)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


"Tad said loudly, 'AHDAHMAH!' He felt a surge of power run through him as he had never known."
—Jerry Blair, The Tree of the Nevee

In the Kabbalistic tradition, Ahdahmah is "a word for the element of earth, intimately associated with 'Adam,' the primordial human" (Jerry Blair, The Tree of the Nevee, 2002).

Monday, August 3, 2009

Magically Delicious

Comedian Michael Ian Black tweets: "Shouldn't we be concerned about a food that's 'magically' delicious? I'm not sure I want deliciousness to come from magic."

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Sain Sanat Salasta Ilmi

Sain sanat salasta ilmi: "The words I laid open!" (from the Finnish epic saga Kalevala. Photo by xjyxjy).

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Magic: A Hard Word to Say Out Loud

"'Magic is sort of a hard word to say out loud, I think."
"It is if you mean it. A little shaming to say. Like 'sex.'"
"Like sex?" She laughed.
"I mean it's a thing you want to keep at a distance. Even though it means a great deal to you, even because it does. It's just agreed on, under the rules of politeness. It won't be seriously discussed."
"You sound like you think it works," she said.
He leaned toward her and began to speak a little more urgently. "Magic comes in more than one kind," he said. "There's illusion, like you said; Houdini. And wonder-working, wave a hand, get what you want—that kind is restricted to stories. But there are other kinds, that were really practiced. For centuries. It doesn't seem likely that people would have gone to so much trouble for so long if what they did didn't work at all."
—John Crowley, Love and Sleep

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Paul McFedries' "Word Spy" illuminates the new sense of the word magicology. (Thanks, Gordon!)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Boombye Boomba

From Philippine folklore, Boombye Boomba is a magic phrase that animates a wand for violent purposes:
"Oh, it is only a stick, but if I say 'Boombye, Boomba' it will beat you to death."

At the sound of the magic words the stick leaped from his hands and began beating his friend until he cried:

"Oh, stop it and I will give back everything that I stole from you."

(Mabel Cook Cole, Philippine Folklore Stories, 1916)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Why does the word ghost contain a silent h? "The h is not sounded, as it was only added under the impression that such a mysterious word needed the mysterious breathing of an h to produce its effect. The same applied to the spelling aghast, originally written agast; but it does not apply to ghoul, a grave robber, in which the gh is derived from an Arabic guttural" (Paul D. Hugon, The Modern Word Finer, 1927, p. 142).

Pictured is a silent H from Calico Ghost Town, California (thanks Leo Reynolds).

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


"So what's the magic term or terms?"
The letters spelled c-a-t-a-c-o-m-b.
—Wes D Gehring, The Charlie Chaplin Murder Mystery, 2006
Catacomb is a word of necromancy. The word comes from the Latin catacumbas, the name of St. Sebastian's subterranean necropolis near Rome, Italy.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Chinese Magic

A magic vendor's sign in Zhouzhuang, Jiangsu Province, China, photographed by Cheri Ehrlich.

Friday, July 17, 2009


"Razahbelsijah" is a "mystic word" noted in encyclopedias of Freemasonry. Does it have a literal meaning? If you happen to know, let us know!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Akos Pakos

In a fifteenth-century German-Jewish manuscript, a magical formula of mystical names is spelled out. “One of the incantations in it . . . contains the names ‘Akos Pakos,’ the earliest literary occurrence of the terms which, with slight orthographic variations, have become the hallmark of pseudo-magic in a dozen European tongues—our Hocus Pocus” (Joshua Trachtenberg, Jewish Magic and Superstition, 1939).

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Making Words Magic Again, in a Hall of Mirrors

"To make words like magic again, we forget what they mean. Say any one of them over and over again so that it is just a sound thrumming inside you, drilling its emptiness into your soul. Sentences as sounds precede their sense as purpose. It seems to be only the human beings who name things. The people. The place. The not-human. The voice. The change. Accident or design? The world is still the same and not the same. It is language that wants it to be one or the other. The name must hold. And the thing is gone as soon as we have identified it. Left with only the name, we hold empty words. These incantations and syllables swirl around the elusive subjects of reality. If only words could be more than words! Trap any one of them in a corridor of parallel mirrors, and the single name immediately echoes to infinity. Inside the scale of that sound is a region of magic, where what is awesome pushes through the confines of reason."
—David Rothenberg, Wild Ideas, 1995, p. 140

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Word Illusions

From Kenton Knepper's essay "Words, Mentality, and Their Power in Magic":
Words are symbols. As symbols, they are representative only. Words are not of course the actual things they represent. Yet, we speak as though what is said is a literal, and therefore physical, fact. Words have within them the essence of illusion. Magical performers understand the need to apply these word illusions from everyday life to their performances.
Continue reading here.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Magic, Science, and Religion

"He began to think that even though magic, and science, and religion did not all mean the same thing, they all meant in the same way." —John Crowley, The Solitudes

Thursday, July 9, 2009


"Foom" is the sound of a magician conductor transforming his orchestra into rabbits (MAD Magazine #55, June 1960, page 8). (Via the Don Martin Dictionary.)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

One-Letter Words of Power

“The simplest and, in some senses, the most powerful of the words of power are the words of one letter.” —Bill Heidrick, “Magical Correspondences”

Sunday, July 5, 2009


"In Tantra, there is a principle called 'varna,' which holds that sound is eternal and that every letter of the alphabet is a deity." —Kerr Cuhulain, Full Contact Magick: A Book of Shadows for the Wiccan Warrior

Friday, July 3, 2009

Wordless Magic

How can one express "what language is incapable of putting into words?" Does relinquishing logical language foster unity with all living things? The Theatre of the Absurd has an innate distrust of language, preferring wordless communication through "shapes, light, movement and gesture." The aim is "to create a ritual-like, mythological, archetypal, allegorical vision, closely related to the world of dreams."

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

What Knot

"Then you just say the magic word . . . 'what knot' . . . 'what knot.'"
Bill Severn's Big Book of Magic‎

Monday, June 29, 2009

Corny Magic

How magic become corny, one letter at a time:


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Words Spoken with Force

"Words spoken with force create particles."
Mei-mei Berssenbrugge

(Thanks to William Keckler)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Zing Zang Zoom

"Zing Zang Zoom" is the magic phrase of a new Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus show. The director explains: "We created the story of a young magician (the 'zingmaster') and the magic words 'Zing Zang Zoom' he uses, and the audience learns how to use them during the course of the show to create all sorts of wonderful, magical occurrences and create the different circus acts."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


"Time is the magic word," suggests Monotone, an indie rock band from the Netherlands. They might be right:

"Did you catch that magic word? Time."
—Ross Campbell, How to Really Love Your Teen (2004)

"Protected by the magic word 'Time.'"
—Wilfred Burchett, "South of the 17th Parallel" (1955)

"The magic of Time, the greatest of all magics."
—Michael Scott, The Alchemist (2008)

But here's our favorite:

"This is the truly special magic of time: The mystery can be fully revealed and still remain mystery."
—Tarthang Tulku, Dynamics of Time and Space (1994)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Singing an Inner Song

"I believe that everybody is singing an inner song, and the question isn't whether we are or not — we are! — the question is whether this is a song of power or a song of weakness; whether it is a song of love or a song of hatred. That's the question."

Eugene Burger, from his interview in The Magic Circular (May 2009)

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Pbth is a magic word "so powerful, you cannot spell it, and it can dispel the worst of insults or even the dreaded evil eye. . . . Just put two lips together, stick out your tongue, and blow. It's so easy that kids use it all the time" (Joann Hankamer).

(For other strange and unusual voweless words, don't miss our dictionary of all-consonat words.)

Friday, June 19, 2009

One Talismanic Word

"Van Wyck Brooks has remarked that every writer possesses in his vocabulary one talismanic word which suggests the essential secret of his personality."
The South Atlantic Quarterly

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Silence as a Word of Great Power

Thomas Merton, the celebrated Trappist monk, suggested that "The contemplative waits in silence and when he is 'answered,' it is not so much by a word that bursts into his silence. It is by this silence itself suddenly, inexplicably, revealing itself to him as a word of great power" (Contemplative Prayer, qtd. in Spiritual Gardening by Pegg Streep).

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Generous and Stingy

Generous and stingy are both magic words. Here's proof:

"In one experiment, [Duke University economist Dan] Ariely gave a group of volunteers t-shirts with the word 'generous' printed on them and gave another group shirts that said 'stingy.' It turned out the the people behaved according to the word on the shirts they were given, even when the word was printed inside the shirt so that no one else could see it." (Source.) (Thanks, Gordon!)

Monday, June 15, 2009


Si-gä'-hah is an Iroquois storyteller's magic word for "tying" an interrupted folk tale, as if symbolically making a knot in the thread of the narrative so as to mark the place in the story. "If any one for any reason wished to sleep or to leave the room, he must request the narrator to tie the story, 'Si-gä'-hah.' Failing to say this, and afterwards desiring to hear the remainder of the tale, the narrator would refuse him, for if he related it at all it must be from the beginning through, unless tied. Thus si-gä'-hah was the magic word by which a legend might be told as a serial" (Harriet Maxwell Converse, "Myths and Legends of the New York State Iroquois," New York State Museum Bulletin 125, Dec. 15, 1908).

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Magic Hinges

The Bookshop has a thousand books,
All colors, hues, and tinges,
And every cover is a door
That turns on magic hinges.

—Nancy Byrd Turner, as quoted in Night Light: A Book of Nighttime Meditiations, by Amy E. Dean, 1986. (via DJMisc)

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Blankichisserando is a sibyl’s “word of necromancy” for opening a door into a sanctum sanctorum in Maud Howe Elliott’s Sun and Shadow in Spain (1908). The word's origin is surprisingly mundane: it is based upon the French blanchisserie, meaning “laundry.”

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Ruth comes from the Hebrew Rut and means “compassion,” “friend,” or “mercy.” Ruth is the name of a Moabite woman from Jewish and Christian scripture.
“‘Ruth.’ He had not thought a simple sound could be so beautiful. It delighted his ear, and he grew intoxicated with the repetition of it. ‘Ruth.’ It was a talisman, a magic word to conjure with. Each time he murmured it, her face shimmered before him, suffusing the foul wall with a golden radiance. This radiance did not stop at the wall. It extended on into infinity, and through its golden depths his soul went questing after hers. The best that was in him was out in splendid flood. The very thought of her ennobled and purified him, made him better, and made him want to be better.” —Jack London, Martin Eden (1909)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Sunday, June 7, 2009


The magic word boohbah, representing the power of imagination, is featured in the educational computer program “Boohbah” (2003) to stop action or make things happen.

Friday, June 5, 2009


Ri-too-ri-lal-lural is "the magic word of words" from fairyland.* It is to be pronounced "by persons of innocent hearts, who have not reached the age of twenty, who never use bad language, speak ill of their neighbours behind their backs, or eat fish with their knives."

*Whispers from Fairyland by Edward H. Knatchbull-Hugessen, 1875

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


(Larger version available at source.)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Eikaj-Ohuna is a "magickal word from the Chaldean oracle of numbers and letters," created through the tossing of dice. (Michael Bertiaux, The Voudon Gnostic Workbook, 2007)

Sunday, May 31, 2009


Push is a magic word for expecting mothers, unless they're practicing "hypnobirthing":

"My water broke, and then came the moment when he was supposed to utter that magic word 'push.' But he didn't."
—Laura Wides-Munoz, "No Pendulums Needed: How a Reporter Became a Fan of Hypnobirthing"

Friday, May 29, 2009

A Surfeit of Magic Words

What if there are "too many words before something happens and, especially, too many words after the magic has happened"? Eugene Burger has the answer.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Word as Creative Potency

Over at Social Fiction, Wilfried shares this excellent passage on the magical power of words from The Winged Serpent:

The singing of songs and the telling of tales, with the American Indian, is but seldom a means of mere spontaneous self-expression. More often than not, the singer aims with the chanted word to exert a strong influence and to bring about a change, either in himself or in nature or in his fellow beings. By narrating the story of origin, he endeavors to influence the universe and to strengthen the failing power of the supernatural beings. He relates the myth of creation, ceremonially, in order to save the world from death and destruction and to keep alive the primeval spirit of the sacred beginning. Above all, it seems that the word, both in song and in tale, was meant to maintain and to prolong the individual life in some way or other that is, to cure, to heal, to ward off evil, and to frustrate death. Healing songs, and songs intended to support the powers of germination and of growth in all their manifestations, fairly outnumber all other songs of the American Indian. The word, indeed, is power. It is life, substance, reality. The word lived before earth, sun, or moon came into 'existence. Whenever the Indian ponders over the mystery of origin, he shows a tendency to ascribe to the word a creative power all its own. The word is conceived of as an independent entity, superior even to the gods. Only when the word came up mysteriously in the darkness of the night were the gods of the Maya enabled to bring forth the earth and life thereon. And the genesis of the Uitoto opens, characteristically enough, in this way: "In the beginning, the word gave origin to the Father." The word is thought to precede the creator, for the primitive mind cannot imagine a creation out of nothingness. In the beginning was the thought, the dream, the word. The concept of the word as Creative Potency lives on, even in the simplest song of hunting or of harvest, of battle, love, or death, as sung by the contemporary Indian.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Whole History of Magic

"If we wish to sum up the whole history of magic in a sentence, we may say that men first regarded magic as natural, then as marvelous, then as impossible and absurd." —"Magic: Its Origins and Relations to Science," Studies in History, Economics and Public Law (1905)

Don't miss Stuart Cumberland's ruminations on "Where has the Mystery Gone in Magic and Mentalism?" (thanks, Gordon).

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Never Underestimate

"Never promise what you are not sure you can deliver and never underestimate the power of your magickal word." —Church of the Ancient Mysteries

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Kan-dee-gram is a magical phrase for creating a zombie messenger in the interactive drama "The Curse of Whately Manor" by Frank Branham (1992). The phrase is a play on candygram.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


[He talked] such a curious, gentle, primeval cadabra that it drew her toward some violent unknown whirlpool and made her hum and shake.
—Barbara Trapido, Temples of Delight (1990)
Cadabra is that flash when your mind is blown, like a hit of a powerful drug—“Sniff, cadabra,” as novelist Rachel Timms puts it. The word has an aura of necromancy to it, with its similarity to cadaver. It has all the impact of the longer word abracadabra, but without any dilly-dallying—it goes straight for the punch.

Scholar William Isaacs explains that cadabra can be broken up into two root words: “Ca translates to ‘as.’ Dabra is the first person of the verb daber, ‘to speak’” (Dialogue: The Art Of Thinking Together, 1999). So cadabra means “as I speak,” equivalent to “upon my command."

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Its first half referring to dreamlike imagery, this mouthful of a nonsense word is pronounced three times, in a clear voice, by a fairy in Edward H. Knatchbull-Hugessen’s Tales at Tea-Time (1872). The word transforms a misshapen hag into a sylph.

Friday, May 15, 2009


Nabba-Gadobba is a pseudo-Babylonian magic word invented by humorist Peggy Sherman. In her “Fact Free Fables,” Sherman explains that: “Court jesters in ancient Babylon used the word ‘Nabba-Gadobba!’ when they performed the age-old trick of transforming a handful of women’s undergarments into a pair of dodo birds. The exclamation rapidly fell from existence with the rest of the empire.”

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Magic Epitaph

Shall we all die?
We shall die all;
All die shall we –
Die all we shall.

–Epitaph, St. Winwalloe's churchyard, Gunwalloe, Cornwall

via Futility Closet

Monday, May 11, 2009


He, that concealed things will finde,
Must looke before him, and behinde.
—George Wither, Collection of Emblemes, Ancient and Moderne (1635)

via Unurthed

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Magic Words in Politics

Here's an interesting rumination on nefarious magic words in politics (via Gordon).

Saturday, May 9, 2009


The word aim has assumed the force of focused intent and is used to invoke emotional, psychological, and physical powers. How-to manuals and self-help gurus alike advise those seeking personal power to activate their aim.
“When he was a boy, another boy had taught him magic words for hitting a bird with a stone: ‘Aim, aim, got my aim—if I miss you I’m not to blame.’” —Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera (1988)

Thursday, May 7, 2009


The first part of this Kabbalistic phrase recalls the syllables of "abracadabra." Ahbahrahkahdevarahhanevee "is a phrase that declares to the All, including the spiritual hierarchies and elementals, that the identity of the speaker, the words or acts that follow, or the very life of the speaker subsequent to the utterance, is not of the mundane, but wholly dedicated to the 'Great Work,' to use a common phrase of western magical tradition" (Jerry Blair, The Tree of the Nevee, 2002).

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Sundials and Math-magical Spells

From an intriguing essay on how computers are descended from sundials:
Magic came before programming, programming came before mathematics, but the goal was always the same: to manipulate causal relationships in some sphere of extra-human intelligence. The sun, after all, was the first power towards which the celestial programmer directed his spells. Programmers executed spells in a self-defined medium and slowly these spells turned into code, into mathematics. But at least as late as Pythagoras the difference between programming, magic, mathematics were impossible to tell.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


“If you feel in any dangerous or awkward position, and your intentions misunderstood by the inhabitants of the country, pronounce at once the magic word ‘Bunkum!’ which will confuse and humbug them as it has many people before them, and probably set you clear of your troubles.” —Edward H. Knatchbull-Hugessen, Tales at Tea-Time (1872)

Friday, May 1, 2009

Gind'ise gina

Gind'ise gina is the "master word of magic," traced back to the founder of the Songhay empire, Sonni Ali, "a great warrior and an even greater magician" (Paul Stoller, The Cinematic Griot: The Ethnography of Jean Rouch, 1992).

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Like an apparition, an apperception unexpectedly comes into focus. It's that "a-ha" moment when a new idea integrates into one's body of knowledge.

"Apperception. This is indeed a word to conjure with—a word much used and much abused, but when rightly understood it is of great importance to teaching."
—Dean George C. Enders, "The Nazarene Teacher," Herald of Gospel Liberty, Feb. 18, 1915

Monday, April 27, 2009


Iffu-Pleaseus is a pseudo-Latin magic word invented by humorist Peggy Sherman. In her “Fact Free Fables,” Sherman explains that: “The most famous example of a magic word persisting through the ages is found in the Latin word ‘Iffu-pleaseus,’ first used in magic shows to elicit a particular response from a participant in the audience. Today, hundreds of years later, we still use the Americanized version of ‘iffu-pleaseus’ and still refer to it as ‘the magic word.’”

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Sacred Vowels

Scholar of magic Caroline Tully explores how the tellers of sacred stories in classical and Hellenistic Greece tapped into the mystical power of vowel sounds. "Vowels spoken in just the right way made magical ritual more precise. Seemingly unintelligible strings of vowel-chants were thought to be effective because of an innate power inherent within them which reflected elements of the cosmos or the gods themselves. Written vowels were even licked or eaten, such was their power. They were also combined with visual imagery by being arranged in patterns such as squares, triangles, wings or diamonds, recitation of which may have added iconographic power to their already potent nature." See Tully's full discussion on the importance of words and writing in ancient magic.

Interestingly, the mystic arrangement of vowels goes on to this day—orthographers arrange vowels geometrically. In the examples shown, note the circle, cube, and triangle motifs. Such diagrams would be right at home in a magical scroll of old.

Vowel Diagrams

For more on seemingly-impossible all-vowel words, see our dictionary of all-vowel words and Magic Words: A Dictionary.

Thanks, Pam, for the heads-up!

Friday, April 24, 2009


The magic word Gabbatha was a favorite of legendary magician Theodore Annemann, famed editor of the magic newsletter The Jinx. (Annemann closed a great many of his editorials with the word.) Of Aramaic origin, Gabbatha can be translated as "elevation" (in the New Testament, Gabbatha appears as the name for the raised platform of Pilate's judgment seat) and the word can be spoken as an entreaty to exalt or ennoble oneself (similar to the Latin Excelsior, "ever upward"). Another meaning for the word is "open space," which recalls Ali Baba's cave of wonders—the mythologized feminine principle.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Zotz is a magic word in the William Castle film Zotz (1962). The word zotz, said in the presence of a mysterious, ancient coin, can cause pain or make people, machines, and animals to move in slow motion.

Neon Summons

"Catch sight of the reflection of a neon sign & it will spell out a magic word that summons strange dreams." —Jaap den Dulk

(Photo by yiucho)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Here's a technique for creating a magic word to focus one's intent:

1. Write out your intent, such as PASS MATH TEST

2. Remove all letters on their second and subsequent occurrences: PAS MTH E

3. Rearrange the remaining letters to create a magical word, such as PASMETH

(See full discussion here.)

Monday, April 20, 2009


Did you know that template files (.tpl.php) are prounounced tipple-fip? "I have never used that pronunciation but I'm going to start," says tech analyst Darrin. "Sounds like a magic word."

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Obfuscatory Language

"Science, more so than magic, has attempted to obfuscate with language its own irrational foundations." —fadereu on twitter

Saturday, April 18, 2009


There’s that magic word believe.
—Bill Althaus, The Examiner (2004)
All magic involves belief, since “seeing is believing,” as the saying goes, and we “wouldn’t have believed it if we hadn’t seen it.” There is a cultural given that without belief, no good things, no love, no Santa Claus, no God will exist for oneself.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Magic Everywhere

Martha Brockenbrough's daughter complained that "There' s no magic in this land. It's all in the fairytale land. This isn't FAIR! I want MAGIC!" Martha contemplates how magic is to be found every single place one looks.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Magic Words in Everyday Life

Magician Gordon Meyer has discovered a way to track "how people discover and speak about magic in their everyday life. As Eugene Burger (and others) have observed, magic is thoroughly ingrained in every aspect of our society. To find it, all you have to do is look."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Word Magic

"The word magic still exists and will exist as long as man is a human being; for if evolution is a fact there will always be effects whose causes are not yet discovered." —Eduard Herrmann, "Thought Reading and Thought Transference"

Monday, April 13, 2009

Signs and Wonders

(Image source.)

"The magic sign speaks primarily to the imagination, even though it might require some intellectual grasping." —The Thomist, 1958

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Magic via Imagination

"The first step into magic is the human imagination. The world of the mind and the world of matter are both real, but in different ways. In fact, if one is more important than the other, it's probably the world of the imagination, where the world of human artefacts, well, all of it, actually originates. The basic paradigm of science tends to rule out consciousness, imagination, because they're not repeatable in empirical laboratory conditions. So it struck me that perhaps through magic there might be a different way to interact with the mind. This might in fact have been what magicians were talking about all along." —Alan Moore, via Phantasmaphile

Friday, April 10, 2009

Mesopotamian Magic

"Magic language is usually distinguished from ordinary language. There are, in principle, three ways to achieve such a distinction. The first is to use a sacred language. The second is to use poetic, heightened language. . . . A third possibility is almost restricted to magic or ritualistic uses of language, and that is Mumbo-Jumbo. All three possibilities are used in Mesopotamian magic."
—I. Tzvi Abusch, Mesopotamian Magic, 1999

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


This sing-song magic word of fairy lore echoes the tradition of ritually-chanted angelic names. The word is meant to be said three times while one lies flat on the ground. For those who are kind to animals but uncertain of the syllables, a long chain of glowworms will spell out this word as if “it were in gold letters upon the earth.” The effect of the word is a revelation of glamour—the unveiling of an enchanted woodland. As Edward H. Knatchbull-Hugessen describes it Tales at Tea-Time (1872),
The word had scarcely passed his lips for the third time before an occurrence took place which filled him with astonishment. A veil seemed to have been suddenly withdrawn from his face, and the whole scene before him had marvelously changed. Immediately before his eyes, within a few yards of the spot where he had lain down, appeared a forest, full of magnificent trees spreading out their branches towards the skies, heavy with luxuriant foliage. . . . Amid their branches a myriad birds poured forth the sweetest and most entrancing melody.

Monday, April 6, 2009


“‘The tint is, perhaps, slightly pale. But the body is unquestionable. And as for the bouquet–’ Ah, that magic Bouquet! How vividly that magic word recalled the scene! The little beggar boy turning his somersault in the road—the sweet little crippled maiden in my arm—the mysterious evanescent nursemaid—all rushed tumultuously into my mind, like the creatures of a dream: and through this mental haze there still boomed on, like the tolling of a bell, the solemn voice of the great connoisseur of wine! Even his utterances had taken on themselves a strange and dream-like form.” —Lewis Carroll, Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (1889)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Sigils, Ancient and Modern

"Nothing definitive has been written concerning the relationship between mysticism and technology." —The Bent World: Essays on Religion and Culture, 1979
Sigils are the mystical circuitry diagrams of old, and it would seem the world of science isn't immune to their influence. Compare the iconography of the logo of Space Technology Laboratories (pictured left; uncropped image here) to the occult sign of Azazel (right). (Azazel, by the way, is "the most mysterious extrahuman character in Jewish sacred literature.") Both images economically intersect arrows, plus signs, x-signs, zig-zags, and curves.

Indeed, it is believed that sigils inspired the design of modern circuit boards. No wonder, then, that artists like Theo Kamecke use circuitry to create sculptures evocative of ancient Egyptian magic.
"In point of fact, the devices that you see in this era, the ones that rely on electrical impulses and circuitry, they are an outgrowth of the original, primal magical urge." —J. A. Wynn, Tales of the Fall, 2008

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Merlin's Backwards Speech

DC Comics magical hero Merlin the Magician employs backwards speech to transform himself into a cannon shell.

Backwards speech figures into several magical incantations, sometimes to encode and conceal the speaker's intention, sometimes to reverse the flow of time. Backwards speech can also indicate wrongdoing, as in this reversal of the magic phrase "alah-kazam":

Mazak Hala is a "wicked incantation" spoken by an old soothsayer with a long white beard and holding a twisted staff in 4 Hundred and 20 Assassins of Emir Abdullah-Harazins by Joseph DeMarco (2004).