"'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
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Monday, July 27, 2009
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?"Catacomb is a word of necromancy. The word comes from the Latin catacumbas, the name of St. Sebastian's subterranean necropolis near Rome, Italy.
The letters spelled c-a-t-a-c-o-m-b.
—Wes D Gehring, The Charlie Chaplin Murder Mystery, 2006
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Friday, July 17, 2009
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
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
"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
—David Rothenberg, Wild Ideas, 1995, p. 140
Monday, July 13, 2009
Sunday, July 12, 2009
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
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Friday, July 3, 2009
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."