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).

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Magnetic Words

"Magic and magnetic, one and the same."
—Paschal Beverly Randolph, After Death: the Disembodiment of Man, 1886
With the power to allure, magic words are indubitably magnetic. Thanks, Gordon, for pointing out this grand, virtual refrigerator with hundreds of magnet words you can rearrange.

Magic Texts

(Click to enlarge. See full set of classic textbooks here.)

We're imagining a curriculum featuring all of the intriguing books depicted here. The titles of these texts suggest that both words are numbers are magic. They open enchanted gates leading to "lands of pleasure" and "gifts of promise" that are "better than gold." Had these been our own textbooks . . . who knows? Perhaps we would have gone on to compile our own dictionary of magic words!