Saturday, December 31, 2011
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Saturday, December 17, 2011
Monday, December 12, 2011
—Bradford Keeney, The Flying Drum: The Mojo Doctor's Guide to Creating Magic in Your Life (2011)
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Sunday, December 4, 2011
—E. J. Rapson, Ancient India: From the Earliest Times to the First Century AD (1914)
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Every so often I'll hear a song in a dream. Every so often I'll hear an eldritch language in a dream. Recently it was both. Sometimes the meaning of the words is given to me in the dream. Sometimes I have no idea what the words meaning is but later find out they are words that exist in currently living, foreign languages.
As I recall, this time it was strange words coloring a kind of song-incantation. Also there were a lot more words this time, so I doubt I would be able to figure it out on my own at my current level of resources and learning at this point in life without the help of someone more expert in this area.
LeiKeiShei! Obeh Keh! Leh'keh Rekisha!
I tried to transliterate the words based on how they sounded to me as well as my seeming innate understanding of where phrases began and ended.
I currently I have no idea what language it could be, if it's a language that exists on Earth. It reminds me of Japanese but it doesn't sound like any Japanese I've ever heard.
Your website was one of the first things that popped up when I decided to seek out the meaning of these words through Google. As you've written a book about Magic Words, I figure there might be a chance you'd be willing to help me, Mr. Conley.
Any assistance provided is appreciated.
We've given the mysterious syllables some thought. In a Malay dialect they seem to suggest "A worthless, sorrowful torch commensurate to the insignificant protection [afforded by] Shiva." Though we're officially stumped for the time being, consider this about the nature of words heard in dreams: "Though it may sound like a contradiction, the inner voice originates from a source outside us. There are many names for this source: God, Mother, Earth, the noosphere, the collective unconscious, Universal Spirit, and so on" (Hal Zina Bennett, The Lens of Perception, 1995).
Saturday, November 26, 2011
In all things a song lies sleeping,
That keeps dreaming to be heard.
And the world will rise up singing,
If you find the magic word.
—Joseph von Eichendorff, qtd. in Darwinism and the Divine: Evolutionary Thought and Natural Theology by Alister E. McGrath
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Monday, November 21, 2011
Friday, November 18, 2011
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Sunday, November 6, 2011
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Monday, October 31, 2011
Friday, October 28, 2011
“In desperation, Samuel grasped the ring pin tightly in his hands, closed his eyes and shouted, ‘Odin, Odin, Odin.’"
(For a picture of Odin and a note about the "Odic Force," see this page from our book entitled Jinx Companion.)
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Love stands at the gateway of each human soul, holding in his hands a rose and a drawn sword—the sword is for the many, the rose for the one.
We love this visionary passage in which love is defined as a "magician whose word can change water to blood." Here's the full context:
Love is the immortal essence of mortal passion, together they are as soul and body, one being; separate them, and the body without the soul is a monster; the soul without the body is no longer human, nor earthly, nor real to us at all, though still divine. Love is the world's maker, master and destroyer, the magician whose word can change water to blood, and blood to fire, the dove to a serpent, and the serpent to a dove—ay, and can make of that same dove an eagle, with an eagle's beak, and talons, and air-cleaving wing-stroke. Love is the spirit of life and the angel of death. He speaks, and the thorny wilderness of the lonely heart is become a paradise of flowers. He is silent, and the garden is but a blackened desert over which a destroying flame has passed in the arms of the east wind. Love stands at the gateway of each human soul, holding in his hands a rose and a drawn sword—the sword is for the many, the rose for the one.(F. Marion Crawford, The Witch of Prague, 1890)
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
The magic trigger in now you see it, now you don’t is actually in the silence between the two phrases.
(See our previous note about "now you see it, now you don't.")
Sunday, October 16, 2011
—Bradford Keeney, The Flying Drum: The Mojo Doctor's Guide to Creating Magic in Your Life (2011)
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Sunday, October 9, 2011
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
is a magic word. If you repeat
the incantation for a thousand million years
black shiny fossils will appear
in the carbonized tears of Araucaria
—Mariana Romo-Carmona, Sobrevivir y Otros Complejos
(Azabache means a deep black, glistening color.)
Sunday, October 2, 2011
Thursday, September 29, 2011
—Christopher Knowles, in this terrific article on esoteric words that have lost their meaning
Monday, September 26, 2011
Friday, September 23, 2011
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Saturday, September 17, 2011
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Monday, September 12, 2011
Friday, September 9, 2011
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Monday, September 5, 2011
Friday, September 2, 2011
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Saturday, August 20, 2011
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Saturday, August 13, 2011
A line taken out of context, from our dictionary of magic words:
More predominant in old Gaelic folklore, the breath of witches or wise-women was said to have magical properties.
(See also our previous post about magic on the breath.)
(Photo by chiaralily)
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Monday, August 8, 2011
Saturday, August 6, 2011
Presto is the moment when legends are born. Brandon Bays recalls such a moment while seeing ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev in Romeo and Juliet at the Metropolitan Opera House. “[T]here was a moment when it seemed as if time stood still. It was as if Nureyev reached into the depths of his soul—into genius itself. He leaped into the air, and his legs spread into a full split; then, for a moment, it was as if he lifted even higher—as if he was practically floating in the air.” Presto moments happen often in the world of sports, as when a bat sends a ball soaring. That “whack” is the presto that brings everything to a standstill, “and in that gap of absolute silence the soul flashes forth—an immensity revealing itself . . . a presence of vastness . . . a greatness that can’t be explained . . . and then whack!—ball hit, hair standing on end. Something great had revealed itself in that tiny instant. One heart, one breath, hair on end. We’d dropped into the ‘Gap’ for an instant and this vast truth had, in a flash, revealed itself.” What is that vast truth? Bay suggests that it’s the same as Nureyev’s inner genius: our own greatness flashes forth, we see ourselves in the mirror, we remember our own magic, and ripples of joy spread through the audience. The magic of those presto moments is what sweeps people up for a standing ovation. No wonder presto is such a popular magic word. It’s the magic wand blooming into a bouquet. It’s the miracle of levitation. It’s every special effect that’s especially affective. It’s smoke and mirrors in a nutshell.
(See our dictionary of magic words for the footnotes to the above passage.)
Thursday, August 4, 2011
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Saturday, July 30, 2011
Thursday, July 28, 2011
“Brahman was, at first, nothing else than the sacred word itself in the magic hymn and in the sacred myth; it was the magic word of power, the priests set in motion, which they attributed to the gods themselves and exalted above the gods, which they associated with the forces and the processes of nature, until it became identified—still in a mystic sense—with the ultimate principle of the world and nature itself.”
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Friday, July 22, 2011
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Monday, July 18, 2011
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Alakazam retains an aura of mystery—and therefore magic—even as most other words have become mundane with usage.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
"Unlike concrete poetry, these shapes are not clever linguistic games but attempts to change the world. Dismemberment of language produces enigma; but at the same time a performative act is being brought about. Language is simultaneously ruined and employed."
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Friday, July 8, 2011
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Monday, July 4, 2011
Sunday, July 3, 2011
Saturday, July 2, 2011
There's an ancient magic word within this painting by Geof Huth. The letters i, a, and o spell Iao, the name for the light that only the mind can perceive. Iao is the demiurgic god with the adorable name (i.e., Abraxas [from the Egyptian Abrak, 'bow down' or 'adore']) who features prominently on amulets. Iao "bears the cock's head, which is the emblem of Aesculapius, the god of healing. ... The serpent (the emblem of mystery, of eternity, of wisdom, the prophet of gnosis) walks without feet, and therefore Iao is serpent-legged" (Paul Carus).
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Friday, June 24, 2011
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Monday, June 20, 2011
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Sunday, June 12, 2011
Friday, June 10, 2011
(See our previous explanation of the magic word Abraxas.)
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Monday, June 6, 2011
Saturday, June 4, 2011
Thursday, June 2, 2011
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Sunday, May 29, 2011
—Giorgio de Chirico, Hebdomeros (and other writings)
Friday, May 27, 2011
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Monday, May 23, 2011
Saturday, May 21, 2011
—Giorgio de Chirico, Hebdomeros
Delphoï of course echoes the site of the Delphic oracle in the classical Greek world.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Sunday, May 15, 2011
—The Angel in the West Window, Gustav Meyrink's novel of the Elizabethan magus John Dee (our own 9th cousin)
Friday, May 13, 2011
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Monday, May 9, 2011
Saturday, May 7, 2011
Thursday, May 5, 2011
"Recently, this word 'diagram' has become quite a magic wand of a word in the United States; something like the word 'type' in the 1970s, 'postmodern' in the 1980s, and 'blob' in the 1990s."
—Anthony Vidler, "Architecture's Expanded Field," Constructing a New Agenda
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Sunday, May 1, 2011
Friday, April 29, 2011
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Monday, April 25, 2011
Saturday, April 23, 2011
Thursday, April 21, 2011
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Sucop, Sucoh! Hold on tight! Soon my magic will work right.
—Kemal Kurt, Mixed-Up Journey to Magic Mountain (2002)
Facts: This magic phrase is hocus pocus spelled backwards.
Rabbit’s paw, garden snail,
Cat’s eye, mouse hair, dragon tail,
Cross your fingers if you dare,
From my hat will hop a hare!
You will see,
My spells are working perfectly!
Monday, April 18, 2011
Sunday, April 17, 2011
This magic incantation is featured in The Intercontinental Union of Disgusting Characters by Roger M. Wilcox (1986). The words Oolong Caloophid reference the humorous science fiction novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Wilcox explains: “Oolong Caloophid is . . . the author of that trilogy of philosophical blockbusters, ‘Where God Went Wrong,’ ‘Some More of God’s Greatest Mistakes,’ and ‘Who Is This God Person Anyway?’”
Friday, April 15, 2011
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
“‘Naw, macht nichts, let’s walk.’ Jack pronounces it ‘mox nix,’ meaning ‘makes no difference’ or, in air force parlance, ‘I’m easy.’” —Ann-Marie MacDonald, The Way the Crow Flies (2003)
Origins: This is a German colloquial expression.
Variations and Incantations:
Monday, April 11, 2011
“The ‘hissings and murmurings’ . . . of magicians.” —Edward Peters, The Magician, the Witch and the Law (1978)"
"Jack Starhouse could make [cats] dance wild dances, leaping about upon their hind legs and casting themselves from side to side. This he did by strange sighs and whistlings and hissings.” —Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (2004)
Sunday, April 10, 2011
Our magician friend and home-hacking expert Gordon shares a lovely photo response to our previous post about the abracadabra talisman. Our favorite detail in the photo is the ironic "Do Not Duplicate" message on the key next to the talisman. By the way, Gordon inspired and co-authored our latest book on magic, JINX Companion.
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Friday, April 8, 2011
Meanwhile, here's a line taken out of context, from our dictionary of magic words:
"I waved my linked hands around and chanted, ‘Football touchdown, toilet plunger, hocus pocus, woof!’"
Thursday, April 7, 2011
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
"From between those pages . . . from the leaves of the forest trees . . . words fluttered like black moths."
Meanwhile, Gordon notes some interesting word clouds which "are incantations to induce children to buy whatever is being advertised." See these word clouds of gendered language in toy commercials here.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Monday, April 4, 2011
Sunday, April 3, 2011
Here's a line taken out of context, from our dictionary of magic words:
"One by one, the doves took wing and disappeared into the seemingly infinite depths of the black silk topper."
Friday, April 1, 2011
—Leonora Carrington, "The Stone Door," The Seventh Horse
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Monday, March 28, 2011
Friday, March 25, 2011
—Leonora Carrington, The Hearing Trumpet
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Some of our favorite magic words are actually pictographic. Take, for example, the profoundly arcane Rebus figure of alchemy, conjoining the opposites, or the Ouroboros dragon who guards the treasure of the Great Work. Glasgow's Adam McLean is an authority on the symbolic language of alchemy. He shares his passion for the subject in a hardcover volume entitled Alchemical Sequences Coloured. It's a meticulous labor of love and a joy to behold and explore. Printed with extraordinary detail on high-quality, silky paper, the painstakingly hand-tinted emblems come to life, inspiring active study to unlock their mysteries. Each alchemical symbol is beautiful and intriguing in its own right, but together the symbols compose the basic elements of a grander allegorical literature. The very first page of McLean's emblems dispels the popular, romantic misconception of alchemists as gold-obsessed wizards. Two distinct yet complementary faces of alchemy become immediately apparent: the exoteric (empirical/methodical/experiential/scientific) and the esoteric (theoretical/psychological/poetical/mystical). Though there is no one correct definition of alchemy, it may be safe to say that McLean's emblems constitute knowledge meant to float outside of time like a message in a bottle. As Gustav Meyrink suggests in his mystical novel The Green Face, "What is of value is not the invention itself, but man's inventiveness, not the picture — it's value is measured in monetary terms at the most — but the ability to paint. Any one picture can fall to pieces, but the ability to paint will not be lost, even if the painter should die. What remains is the power that has come from heaven; even if it should sleep for centuries, it always awakens when the genius who can reveal its majesty is born." Indeed, McLean's ability to paint is the true genius of this book. Highly recommended!
Meanwhile, Linda McPharlin favors another pronoun: we. Interestingly, she suggests that "'WE' can empower you to discover your own word. The word through which you will make your unique contribution to humankind to help us all reach our full potential both collectively and individually. Although there is magic in the word 'WE,' the real magic in it lies in you finding your magic word."
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
We once stumbled across someone described as "a literary lettuce-leaf." It is a withering put down, presumably; a "literary artichoke" wouldn't sound so limp and would offer a more substantial heart within. And yet, perhaps enchanted by the alliteration, we find ourselves intrigued by the idea of a literary lettuce leaf.
Here's a lovely Lebanese folk song concerning a lettuce leaf:
The roses are always on my mind.
I love the roses only
And, O my soul, the lettuce leaf.
In a poem by Ricardo Sternberg, a lettuce leaf becomes the shroud of an expired mouse.
In Tom Robbins' Villa Incognito, mayonnaise cloaks a lettuce leaf like a magician's handkerchief, restoring the leaf's capacity to delight:
Fun fact: "In medieval belief, there were many ways a demon could enter the body, sometimes via so seemingly innocuous a vehicle as an unblessed lettuce leaf eaten by a careless nun" (Hilaire Kallendorf, Exorcism and Its Texts).
Sunday, March 13, 2011
A massive and truly amazing tour de force of linguistic dexterity, merging sorcery, etymology, history, and literature into a global cascade of words of power magical and otherwise, drawn from countless ancient and modern civilizations. The art of Grammarye meets literary erudition, with each word examined, explained, and illuminated by wild and witty quotations from countless sources. Spells, mantras and Qabala meet slang, hokum and poetry. Enormous fun, and about thirty pages devoted to aspects of Abracadabra and its variants alone! Big fun! Hours of creative playtime!
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Friday, March 11, 2011
"More than anybody else I have always found it painful to express myself otherwise than by the pronoun I. Not that this should be taken as a sign of particular pride, but for me the word I is the structure of the world in a nutshell." —Michel Leiris, Aurora
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Thursday, March 3, 2011
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Thursday, February 24, 2011
Monday, February 21, 2011
Friday, February 18, 2011
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Treasure! Next to gold, this is probably the single most magical word in the English language. The very mention of the word stirs the adventuresome spirit in most of us. But why are we so fascinated with tales of lost, sunken or buried treasure? Why, like little children, are we so captivated by the tenuous hopes of discovering a treasure which, as adults, we know probably does not exist? Is it the adventure? Is it the escapism to a different place and time? Is it the eternal hope that the treasure just might exist, and we might be the lucky one to discover it? The answer is probably a combination of all these factors, plus the fact that treasures are occasionally found and highly publicized.In Jungian terms, taking possession of the "treasure hard to attain" alludes to experiencing individuation—the archetype of total unity.
—Garnet Basque, Lost Bonanzas of Western Canada, Vol. 1 (1990)
Saturday, February 12, 2011
"Poe's prose seemed to hum in the air as the magic word drew near, full of energy and heat, and when it finally came, the breaking of the tension, the satisfaction of the demand, the utterance of conflagration by someone other than himself, Milo sighed . . . audibly." —Matthew Dicks, Unexpectedly, Milo (2010)
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Sunday, February 6, 2011
“He withdrew his wand from a pocket, then waved it in a circular motion in front of the large eye-shaped glyph in the very center of the door. Then, quietly, he spoke the magic word, ‘Apokalypto,’ and four of the many glyphs glowed golden, forming a word.” —Thalia M. Kendall, “Charms and Curses” (2002)
Thursday, February 3, 2011
Monday, January 31, 2011
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Monday, January 24, 2011
Friday, January 21, 2011
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Saturday, January 15, 2011
Modern theories often imply that the power of words lies in other words. Signs are thought to embrace other signs. Signs copulate. Signs materialize. Word turns to body, body to word, and eventually into a marching army of metaphors, metonymies, and anthropomorfeces.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
As I crawl over those rocks, I keep repeating, in a kind of zestful, copious, and deeply gratifying incantation, the English word 'childhood,' which sounds mysterious and new, and becomes stranger and stranger as it gets mixed up in my small, overstocked, hectic mind, with Robin Hood and Little Red Riding Hood, and the brown hoods of old hunchbacked fairies. There are dimples in the rocks, full of tepid seawater, and my magic muttering accompanies certain spells I am weaving over the tiny sapphire pools. (Speak: Memory, revised edition, 1967)
Sunday, January 9, 2011
“‘Lady Elaine, please come back. We miss you!’ ‘Oh, sweet music to my ears,’ said Lady Elaine, and then King Friday could hear her saying, ‘Boomerang, toomerang, soomerang!’ No sooner had she said the magic words and waved her magic boomerang than she and the Museum-Go-Round were right back in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe where they belonged.” —Fred Rogers, Mister Rogers Talks With Parents (1983)
Friday, January 7, 2011
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Monday, January 3, 2011
Our intriguing magician friend Chris Philpott posed an interesting question about the preponderance of the two most popular magic words:
Chris, there are actually two very different answers to your question about abracadabra's surge in the 1920s.
Here's our first answer: What we see when presented with a chart comparing word density over time from the Google Books scanspace is both something and nothing at all. It's certainly something because we can perceive it, i.e. the charts dazzle us with their jagged edges and numerous nodes, suggesting the compilation of many data. However, the trends that they argue are circular, based as they are only upon the tiny subset of books which Google has scanned from the periods under consideration. If we had it on reliable word that Google had scanned, say, 95% of all extant publications, we should still consider word density measurements statistically insignificant considering that the missing 5% might contain 95% of the contemporary appearances of "abracadabra" in print. Moreover, Google cannot estimate the readership of its catalog, which would be necessary to make any evaluative claims about the familiarity of a word or phrase in common culture or parlance, which is really what the word density charts are attempting to demonstrate. Words used by authors in printed publications which survived until 2010 are not, by themselves, particularly significant. The field of statistics is famous for its bold sleights of hand. Most any contention can be illustrated by a sufficiently culled data set and evaluative methodology. Google's scanned word data are of course too fun not to keep playing with, but we must always bear in mind their inherent balderdash.
Here's our second answer: The rise of "abracadabra" in 1920s is the exhalation of a meme's biorhythm. Decades later, the "wizard" meme began its exhalation, and J.K. Rowling rode the wave. We can't even say that Rowling buoyed the wave -- she is merely part and parcel of a grand expansion cycle.
Indeed, Chris, one definition of "meme" is an expression that can be copycatted. (The Greek root is mimema: that which can be mimicked or imitated). Without discounting Rowling's achievements, let's remember that she didn't coin the word "wizard"; it was already a charming Briticism for "excellent." Just as the common cold spreads one handshake at a time (Richard Dawkins has unsavorily called memes "viruses of the mind"), human culture spawns. Rowling, bless her heart, is simply one node of the complex informational network that enables the "wizard" meme to spread and thrive.
Saturday, January 1, 2011
"Did you learn that method of invocation from your days—and nights—with the Gypsy woman?" she asked.
"That and many other secrets," I said, "but I'm bound by powerful oaths not to reveal them."
—Frederic Tuten, Self Portraits: Fictions