Saturday, October 30, 2010

Which Came First?

which came first
the blessing or the curse
—vox anon, "hemorrhaging"

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Nicander, Melchior, Merchizard

Three magic words to make even an old, weak horse run like a champion:

"You turn his face eastward and you whisper into his ear, three times, the words: 'Nicander, Melchior, and Merchizard.'" —Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose

Nicander is the name of an Egyptian saint. Melchior is the name of one of the Three Magi. Merchizard remains a mystery.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Bam-boo-zalem is the word “bamboozle” transformed into an Arabesque magical incantation. It appears in Theodore Annemann's classic magic newsletter, The Jinx, Dec. 1939.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Mane, Tekel, Peres

This passage about a code written in invisible ink refers to mysterious words from the Book of Daniel:
Slowly, as if an invisible hand were writing 'Mane, Tekel, Peres,' I saw some marks emerge one by one on the white side of the sheet as William moved the the lamp, and as the smoke that rose from the top of the flame blackened the recto; the marks did not resemble those of any alphabet, except that of necromancers. —Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose
Mane, Tekel, Peres can be translated as "numbered; reckoned up; carried away."

Monday, October 18, 2010

Deciphering Codes

"The first rule to deciphering a message is to guess what it means."
—Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Across Miles of Milky Starlight

The way you speak to me
Across these miles of milky starlight
Is also magic, poetry, prayer.
—from "En Passant" by Rebecca Lu Kiernan

Saturday, October 9, 2010


(Photo by Gordon Meyer)

You wiggle your fingers and—eureka!
—Irv Furman, Amazing Irv’s Handbook of Everyday Magic (2002)
That sudden, impassioned sound of accomplishment, eureka, is “a word of magic . . . a dot of light on a night as black as pitch” (Terry Kay, The Valley of Light, 2003). It marks the special moment when a spark of inspiration seems to come out of nowhere. “Eureka, or should I say abracadabra. I’ve found the magic” (Eddie Segrum, “Segrum Secret,” 2004). Eureka is a Greek word, famously associated with the great mathematician Archimedes.


• Aha!
“[L]ooking at the symbols in your dreams can suddenly give you a Eureka! moment.” —Ariana, House Magic (2001)
• Bingo!
—Bruce Coville, Aliens Ate My Homework (1993)
• Breakthrough
—David Wolfe, Puzzlers’ Tribute (2001)
• I found it!
—Edward Eager, Magic by the Lake (1957)
• I’ve got it!
—Sig Lonegren, The Pendulum Kit (1990)
• Realization, insight, illumination, epiphany
—L. Michael Hall, User’s Manual for the Brain, Vol. II (2003)
—Richard Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class (2003)
• This is it!
—Brian Jacques, Redwall (2002)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

To Utter

"An utterance grows from a sound. (Or is it a sound which is born from the will to utter?)"
—Andrew Lovatt

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Secrets Veiled by Arcane Words

"Sometimes it is better for certain secrets to remain veiled by arcane words. The secrets of nature are not transmitted on skins of goat or sheep. Aristotle says in the book of secrets that communicating too many arcana of nature and art breaks a celestial seal and many evils can ensue. Which does not mean that secrets must not be revealed, but that the learned must decide when and how." —Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose