Sunday, February 27, 2011

Magic on the Breath

"For the Rauto [people of Papua New Guinea] much of the power of magic is thought to be carried on the breath of the magician. When a leading magician begins to age, people will sometimes say that the magician's breath has gone ... or that the breath has lost heat and has become 'cold' and 'light,' and thus no longer laden with power." (Thomas Maschio, To Remember the Faces of the Dead: The Plenitude of Memory in Southwestern New Britain, 1994, p. 52).

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Magical-Sounding Words for Relaxation

"Weird fiction" author Clark Ashton Smith read a dictionary for relaxation, delighting in the more obscure and magical-sounding words (The Mammoth Book of Sorcerer's Tales).

Monday, February 21, 2011


In Shakespeare's As You Like It, Rosalind says, "I was berimed." The word literally means "to be rhymed" and is similar to the melodious magic inherent in the etymologies of enchantment and incantation.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Words Enchant in Context

"Words work when the imagination makes them work; in our minds we make and therefore remake our world. ... Words enchant in one setting, bore in another, because of the circumstance in which they are recited and the context in life's experience in which they are heard, not because of their propositions." —Jacob Neusner, Judaism in Monologue and Dialogue

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Here's another look at the magic word treasure:
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.
—Garnet Basque, Lost Bonanzas of Western Canada, Vol. 1 (1990)
In Jungian terms, taking possession of the "treasure hard to attain" alludes to experiencing individuation—the archetype of total unity.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


This magic word, referring to an intense blaze, appears in Edgar Allan Poe's story "The Black Cat."

"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

To Make it True

"Language is courage: the ability to conceive a thought, to speak it, and by doing so to make it true."
—Salman Rushdie

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Magic in the Courtroom

In an article appearing in the December 16, 2002 edition of the Chicago Tribune about the conviction of a mentally ill man accused of murder, Ken Armstrong observes that when there is a doubt about the defendant's fitness to stand trial, the judge may order a fitness hearing. However, in order for the judge's ruling to avoid the possibility of being overturned, he or she must specifically invoke the phrase 'bona fide doubt'. He goes on to write, "They're like magic words. They must be uttered."

Sunday, February 6, 2011


The Greek Apokalypto is the source of the word apocalypse.

“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

The Workings of the Creative Imagination

"One's ability to see the magic in the world derives from that ability to recognize and respond to the workings of the creative imagination."
—Don Lathan, David Almond: Memory and Magic (2006)