People of all ages love magic, from kids who see magic tricks at their friends’ birthdays to adults who watch it on TV or even buy tickets for magic performances. Magic captivates audiences for multiple reasons: delight, enjoying seeing other people performing dangerous things or actions that seem impossible, and forgetting about everyday problems. Through magic, we are entering a fictional world of wonder where nothing bad happens and all dangers vanish when the magician retrieves his assistant safe and sound after being cut in two or escapes himself from an imminent danger. But what do you know about magic, in general? Here are some interesting facts:
1. The term “magic” comes from Greek
The term’s etymology is ancient; “magic” derives from mageia (μαγεία). The first people to perform magic acts were Persian priests, called magosh in Persian and magoi in Greek.
2. Magic is not occult
Although magicians were associated with the devil and the occult for centuries, this is not the case. The tricks magicians perform are based on illusion. However, some magicians in the past capitalized on the idea of occult in their advertisements, a practice which has been exposed as charlatanism.
3. Magic became respectable in the early 18th century
Until then, magic was a form of entertainment at fairs, where itinerant performers used to entertain the public with tricks such as juggling and sword swallowing. In the early 18th century magic became a respectable practice and began to be performed by rich private patrons.
4. The specific magician look is not a random thing
The performer who created the specific magician appearance was Alexander Hermann, known as Hermann the Great, a French magician. After him, people would always expect to see magicians with a top hat, goatee, and a tailcoat.
5. Magic organizations exist
The largest magic organization is the International Brotherhood of Magicians, which published a monthly journal called The Linking Ring. The oldest organization is the Society of American Magicians, and Houdini was its president for several years.
6. Professional secrets
For a long time, magicians refused to reveal the methods behind their tricks to the audience, and it was hard for beginners for enter the profession and find relevant information. The first publication about magic tricks is Reginald Scot’s Discoverie of Witchcraft, from 1584, and just a few books on the topic have been published ever since. At this day and age, people who want to find out how a trick is performed can research it online or read magic books. Contrary to what magicians feared, people continue to be captivated by magic. It doesn’t matter if magic consists of illusions – as long as a performance brings something new, audiences will continue to pay tickets and applaud after each magic act.
7. Magic has been used to evangelize
St. Don Bosco, an Italian priest declared saint by the Catholics, used magic tricks in 19th-century Turin to determine children to come back to school, get help, and attend church. This type of magic is called gospel magic.
8. Online magic exists
Whatever can be taken to online media will eventually make its appearance on the Internet. There are online magic tricks designed to function on a computer screen, without any need of a magician. Typical online magic tricks use magical illusions and traditional card tricks. At one time, an online magic trick became viral on the Internet. It was called Esmeralda’s Crystal Ball and many people believed their computer had supernatural powers. It was all revealed when a special page was dedicated to debunking the trick.
9. Famous magicians can be very rich
The richest magician in the world is David Copperfield, with a net worth of $800 million. He has sold more than 33 million tickets so far and grossed around $4 billion, more than any other solo entertainer in the world. In 2015 Forbes listed him as the 20th highest earning celebrity in the world, and he is also managing a chain of resort islands in the Bahamas. Other successful and profitable artists are Penn and Teller, Siegfried and Roy, Lance Burton, Criss Angel, and David Blaine.
10. The term “magician” is becoming old-fashioned
Since magic refers to something supernatural, some modern artists prefer the term “illusionist” since they admit their performances are skillful deceptions only. A good quote on the nature of magic performance belongs to magician and mentalist Joseph Dunninger, who declared: “For those who believe, no explanation is necessary; for those who do not believe, no explanation will suffice.”
11. Pulling a rabbit from a hat is not a classical trick
This trick was created by a British magician to capitalize on the public’s interest in a woman who claimed she had given birth to a litter of rabbits. Until then, pulling a rabbit from a hat had never been part of any magician’s performance.
12. A lot of books about magic are written every year
Evidence shows that more books are written about magic than other performing art. Such books don’t usually appear in public bookstores and are instead sold in specialized stored dedicated to magical performers.
13. Where do “hocus pocus” and “abracadabra” come from?
The magician words “hocus pocus” are taken from the name of a sorcerer in the Norse mythology, called Ochus Bochus. On the other hand, “abracadabra” comes from an inscription that people used to wear inside their amulets during the Black Plague to protect them from the disease (according to English writer Daniel Defoe).
14. Houdini died on Halloween
It was Halloween 1926 when Harry Houdini, the famous magician and escapist had a mysterious death. He was giving a lecture to a group of students, when someone in the audience punched him in the abdomen to check if Houdini’s claim of withstanding any blow delivered to his abdomen was true. The magician died days later of peritonitis, but rumors however said that the blows were the cause of his death.
So these are some of the most interesting facts about magic – let us know what else you would like to know about this art and those who practice it!