Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sim Sala Bim

Gordon Meyer shares this quotation:
After a full evening send off with Dante's party we couldn't get close to the meaning of 'Sim-Sala-Bim.
—Theo Annemann, The Jinx #67
Here are a few tidbits about sim sala bim from our dictionary of magic words:

These magic words were made popular by the famous professional magician Dante/The Great Jansen. They also served as the name of his famous touring magic show. Professional magician Whit Haydn once used these words in his performances as a tribute to Dante. He explains: “Sim Sala Bim are nonsense syllables from a Danish nursery rhyme. Dante used them in his show, saying they meant ‘A thousand thanks.’ He said that the more applause, the bigger the bow, and the more thanks that the Sim Sala Bim would mean. Soon after moving to L.A. in the seventies, I bought a set of Dante’s rings from Ken Leckvold, who had bought them from Dante’s son. I really enjoyed performing with these rings, and eventually added Dante’s line as a magic word in my rope routine and silk to egg, sort of a tribute thing. I liked the Ali Baba/Aladdin kind of sound of the words.”

Sim salabim is spoken by a Turkish alchemist with magical powers in the early medieval folk play entitled Robyn Hode: A Mummers Play: “I have here a potion, brought from the east. It is called the golden elixir, and with one drop I will revive Robyn Hode with these magic words: ‘Sim Salabim.’ Rise up young man and see how your body can walk and sing.”

Dr. Herbert H. Nehrlich suggests that sim sala bim “is named after Ali Sim-sala-bim, a desert wanderer and—most importantly—a magician.”

Sim sala bim is “the Swedish equivalent of ‘abracadabra,’” and is known in other Scandinavian cultures as well.

After the Second World War, Kalanag, the stage name of professional German magician Helmut Schreiber, “toured the world with his spectacular, colorful illusion show Sim Sala Bim. . . . His show is now in the collection of the popular British magician, Paul Daniels.”

Sim Sala Bim is the name of a card trick by Kolin Tregaskes.

Professional magician Jade uses the magic phrase sim sala bim in Houdin’s Light & Heavy Chest illusion: “A box is easy to carry until—zap!—the magician Jade says the magic words. Suddenly, the box can’t be moved! In the front stage, you are invited to lift Jade’s magic chest. Then, with just the magic words, ‘Sim sala bim,’ Jade makes the chest too heavy to lift.”

Orson Welles uses Sim Sala Bim as magic words in the 1967 film Casino Royale.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Haunted Language

William Keckler has theory that so many poets explore the Underworld because our language is haunted by the ghosts of other cultures:
Poets tend to get lost in dictionaries more than other writers, I think. . . . Is it a coincidence that the poets who are obsessed with etymologies are often the poets skewed towards the Occult, or spiritual intelligences? . . . One could argue a rational basis for this seemingly irrational drift of thought. Linguistic analysis would say these poets were seeing hauntings within language because they're there. The ghosts of other cultures and their values (spiritual, political, praxeological) are still markers in the cultures which absorb them. Talking heads like the metal head that supposedly spoke oracles.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Simple Faith in a Word

"I speak of magic advisedly, for in a great deal of what has been said and written there is more of simple faith in a word or a vague idea than of real plan."
—Norman Thomas, "The Essential Condition of Economic Planning"

Friday, January 22, 2010


"The word explained, linked up, gave significance — that magical word Morocco!"
—Anthony Hope, The Secret of the Tower, 1919

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


"The word 'please' is a magical word, charged in every letter with some good, charitable, soothing, subduing electricity, whose gentle shocks blesses both the tongue that utters it, and the ear upon which it falls."
—O. P. Fuller, Annual Report of the Board of Education, Volume 33, 1871

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Poetry and Context

"The word that is magical in a particular line of poetry may be quite inert in a different sentence; the construction that is merely a bungle in one context may serve a powerful expressive purpose in another."
—Graham Goulden Hough, Style and Stylistics (1969)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


"The mere word 'fountain' is magical. At sight or sound of it, the Fountains of Youth, Forgetfulness and Immortality are brought to mind. "
—Esther Matson, "The Heart of the Garden," The Craftsman, Vol. 28, 1915

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Secret of Love

"Love escapes concrete definition. Even the word 'love' is magical, bringing to us a host of emotional and physiological changes. The real secret, I suppose, is that love isn't any one thing at all, nor does it fit into any specific description. It can't be boxed, as flowers and candy can, nor can it be contained or restrained by those of us who desire to feel it, touch it, and taste it. And it's first a gift to each of us because we can't truly love those around us unless we have healthy and respectful love for ourselves."
—Gabriel McShane, Soul Chasing (2006)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Magic Eludes Comprehension

Φ: Magic is the negative of what one can know. . . . Magic happens to be precisely everything that eludes comprehension.
I: But then how the devil is one to teach and learn magic?
Φ: Magic is neither to be taught nor learned. It's foolish that you want to learn magic.
I: But then magic is nothing but deception.
Φ: Watch out—you have started reasoning again.
I: It's difficult to exist without reason.
Φ: And that is exactly how difficult magic is.
—Carl Jung, The Red Book

Friday, January 8, 2010


"Fresh snow reminds me of a magician's hankie covering the magic happening beneath. Soon it will be pulled back, and surprise! It is spring!" —Dr. Bill Gordon

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Zada Zadash Zadathan Abira

Gordon shares a magic formula:

"John Aburey, then a Fellow of the Royal Society, also recorded 'numerous' formulas for magic amulets, such as 'Write these characters + Zada + Zadash + Zadathan + Abira + in virgin paper, I believe parchment, carry it always with you, and no gun-shot can hurt you.'" —D. Michael Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, Signature Books, Salt Lake City, 1998, p 12.

Source cited by Quinn: Lawrence I. Conrad, et al., The Western Medical Tradition, 800 BC to AD 1800, Cambridge Univ Press, 1995, p 414.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Magic Blueprinting

Alvo Stockman has reinvented the mystical diagrams of the ancients into modern flowcharts, via his Magic Modeling Language. Peter Prevos discusses the concept of magic blueprints, but first explores how magicians have both used and avoided written language through the centuries:
The history of magic and the history of language go hand in hand. Language started with verbal communication, supported by dance, painting and rituals. Ancient shamans passed their craft on to the next generation in this very same way, initiating their apprentices step by step through one-on-one instruction via words, dance, painting and ritual.

Writing as we know it first developed about 6,000 years ago in present day Iraq. From then on, people wrote about every aspect of their lives, including magic. But, no writing about how to perform magic has ever been found in ancient documents. It seems that the pact of secrecy between magicians prevented them from committing their knowledge in permanent form. It is interesting to note in this respect that magicians have always been at the forefront of technology when it comes to creating the illusion of magic. When it comes to explaining secrets, however, magicians are a lot more conservative. The first magic book was published more than five millennia after the invention of writing! Since then, writing has been used prolifically by magicians to teach each other about their secrets and initiate new magicians.
Continue reading Prevos' discussion here.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Leaving Unsaid the Obvious

"A friend not only tells the truth, but leaves unsaid the obvious at an opportune moment."
Jayne Harnett-Hargrove

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Ipitty Bipitty

These are the magic words from the Bewitched television series. They began a spell for manifesting a Caesar salad: "Ipitty bipitty salad green, oil, vinegar, chi-chi-bean, I call on Caesar's eternal soul, here and now fill this bowl."

Friday, January 1, 2010

Collecting Magic Words

While we appreciated the DailyOM's advice to collect magical objects and thereby create "tangible enchantment," may we suggest that a collection of magic words can actively shape one's metabolism of life? Magic words can ground one in the present or awaken primal vestiges. Magic words can uplift oneself and empower others. Magic words can add color to life's gray areas, bringing attractions into the limelight and letting repulsions fade to black. As with talismans and other magical artifacts, one always knows a magic word by its profundity.

One's collection of magic words can be as tangible and public as a dictionary or as subtle and private as the syllable of a mantra. One's magic words can be finger-drawn onto foggy windows, emblazoned on clothing, spelled on the seashore at low tide, strung on necklaces, mentally projected onto clouds, attached to key chains, painted in edible ink onto rice paper, carved into bookends, hung on the wall, recorded in a journal, tattooed onto skin, whispered to a loved one.