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Saturday, 5 March 2016

Magic (illusion)

The term "magic" etymologically derives from the Greek word mageia. In ancient times, Greeks and Persians had been at war for centuries, and the Persian priests, called magosh in Persian, came to be known as magoi in Greek. Ritual acts of Persian priests came to be known as mageia, and then magika—which eventually came to mean any foreign, unorthodox, or illegitimate ritual practice.

The Conjurer, 1475-1480, by Hieronymus Bosch

The first book containing explanations of magic tricks appeared in 1584. Englishman Reginald Scot, published The Discoverie of Witchcraft, part of which was devoted to debunking the claims that magicians used supernatural methods, and showing how their sleight-of-hand tricks with coins, rope and paper were accomplished. At the time, fear and belief in witchcraft was widespread and the book tried to demonstrate that these fears were misplaced. All obtainable copies were burned on the accession of James I in 1603.

The magic word Abracadabra was originally intended for the specific purpose of curing hay fever.

The earliest magician to pull a rabbit out of a hat was the celebrated Parisian conjurer Louis Comte, in 1814.


The Society of American Magicians, the oldest fraternal magic organization in the world, was founded on May 10, 1902 in the back room of Martinka's magic shop in New York. The founders stated that the goal of the organization was to elevate and advance the art of magic.


The Magic Circle was founded in 1905 after a meeting of 23 amateur and professional magicians at London's Pinoli's Restaurant. The motto of the society is the Latin indocilis privata loqui, roughly translated as "not apt to disclose secrets."

Houdini's Cabinet' at The Magic Circle Museum, London. By Jeremy Keith - Flickr:  CC BY 2.0, Wikipedia Commons

The first public performance of the sawing a lady in half illusion was achieved by British magician P.T. Selbit in January 1921 at the Finsbury Park Empire theatre in London.

The Magic Circle was male-only until 1991, when more than 75% of members voted to admit women.

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