The History of Magic Shows
Abracadabra! Prestidigitation! Presto! These are but some of the incantations that ring all throughout the history of magic since magicians and illusionists awed and entertained men for the first time. Indeed, magic will always have that undying appeal to us. It plays on our senses and offers the welcome sensation of escaping reality, of transcending the seemingly impossible. Like Prometheus of old, magicians give us the gift of fantasy, albeit incomplete and illusory. And as if in the presence of someone with otherworldly powers, we are bedazzled and amazed every time.
The Origin of Magic
Is magic real ? There are many records that date as far back as the ancient times of magic tricks being performed in various places of the ancient world. The word “magic” itself was a term used by ancient Greeks to describe the Persians’ (who are their sworn enemy for years) unorthodox ritual practice. Even so, these “magi”, as they are called, didn’t perform tricks and served only as senior religious officials that advise and educate the ruler-to-be. Their exotic practices did cause other civilizations to curse and shun them, though, especially those that are unused to hearing and seeing the incantations.
For all their mysticism, the Persians aren’t the ones who performed the first magic trick in history (the cup and balls) but the Egyptians. While the trick was said to have been done by an Egyptian magician called Dedi, many experts refute this as Dedi is widely considered as a fictional person. However, what is equally baffling is the fact that the second recorded performance by the Acetabularii of Ancient Rome also involved Dedi’s infamous cup and balls trick.
So, was Dedi real or not? Perhaps, like the best magic tricks, we the audience should never strive to know to keep the mystery. Also, isn’t it just apt for magic to have such a mystical origin? Like the rabbit appearing out of thin air, our ability to harness magic, to perform tricks, was seemingly conjured out of nothing as well!
Medieval Magic Shows
Thankfully, these tricks survived the fall of Rome and the Dark Ages. During the last days of the Dark Ages and the dawn of the Middle Ages, the practice of magic is often associated with the occult. Most performers were either labelled as witches or sorcerers. Even so, there really isn’t any proof of wizards conjuring fire and burning their enemies with ease – which is pretty much the stereotypical image of a wizard – during those times. The magic shows that were commonly performed still incorporate the ever-popular cups and balls trick as well as newer ones that involved sleight of hand. They are often performed in the circus or by street performers.
It didn’t take long for many men to be suspected as performers of necromancy, though. It’s a magical art that claims to allow the raising and conjuring of the dead. Even if that’s the case, there’s no record in history of a necromancer who performed this hair-raising magical incantation successfully. What’s tragic, though, is that a lot of men were falsely tried and sentenced to death for necromancy during these times. Additionally, due to the heightened sensitivity of the populace to anything that concerns the occult, the Middle Ages also came with it a number of superstitious beliefs that are still practiced to this day.
Enter the Renaissance
Street and circus performers still flourished once the Renaissance period arrived. Nonetheless, they still weren’t able to escape oppression, as this period also saw the height of the infamous witchcraft trials (no thanks to Heinrich Kramer’s Malleus Maleficarum).
Perhaps, the silver lining during these dark times was the fact that it was during the latter part of the 16th century that books about magic tricks first appeared. And, from then onwards, it didn’t take long for magic shows to start firing the imaginations of the masses with the passage of time.
Modern Magic Shows as We Know Them
Is Magic Real ? Rising and shaking the mud off of its birthing ground like a Golem, magic rose to its fullest heights during the 18th century. Isaac Fawkes and Joseph Pinetti both became well-known magicians during the early and mid-18th century, and they are the great sources of infamous tricks such as the orange tree illusion, card-on-ceiling trick, and the use of automatons, to cite a few. However, the “Father of Modern of Magic” ascription is definitely reserved only for Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin.
By this time, magic began its next phase of evolution and began to be presented in the stage setting we are all familiar with. Robert-Houdin opened the first magic theater in France, and he specialized primarily in automata that gave the impression of coming to life and moving on their own. He’s also credited with the magnificent Ethereal Suspension trick, which awed his audiences every time.
It didn’t take long for other magicians to start opening their own theaters as well. It was the British magician John Nevil Maskelyne with the help of his assistance Cooke who, in turn, developed the idea of incorporating hidden mechanisms in the stages to allow the performance of newer and more advanced magic tricks. He focused mainly on card tricks and even authored books about conjuring.
And of course, who isn’t familiar with Harry Houdini? The legendary escapologist took the world by storm with his daring feats of seemingly impossible escape. He is a master lockpicker, but he also performed magic and conjuring tricks. It’s also the unique way in which he connects to his audience which served to lay the groundwork of much of the present-day unique relationship between magician and audience.
During this period, there also began an enlightenment among people with regards to their view of magic in general. Thanks to the efforts of Houdini and Maskelyne to expose and unmask fraudulent claims of supernatural powers and paranormal phenomena, people began to accept that magic tricks were performed using completely natural means and methods alone.
Present-day Magic Shows
With a plethora of past magicians to draw inspiration from, present-day magic performers are still very active both on the stage and street levels. Its transition to TV gave magicians the opportunity to perform even more deceptive tricks but, of course, not with the help of special effects or camera tricks. Some magicians refine their performances further by adding a touch of humor in it. Know these magic events that happen around the City of Chicago ,USA so you can go there sometime and enjoy watching these shows.
Mentalism or mind tricks, in particular, is also a rising trend among street performers. Most of the time, mentalists target unsuspecting people and even liberally asks anyone to help them perform the illusion of reading minds. Illusionists are equally becoming popular, with a few even leaning more towards educating their audience regarding how their mind works through thought and dreams and teaching them how to unlock its full potential. Alongside these innovative tricks, contemporary magicians still perform traditional tricks and death-defying stunts that have wowed generations for a long time.
Keep the Fire Burning
That magic was able to survive even up to these contemporary times where technology permeates our daily lives is a telling sign that we still haven’t lost our sense of wonder and our fascination for achieving the impossible. We can even go so far as to say that to lose it would ultimately make us something we’re never meant to be as a species. It’s for this reason why we should always make sure to cultivate it by encouraging interest in it and patronizing local magic performances. Otherwise, posterity will never be able to feel that inimitably wonderful feeling of being amazed and astounded by the impossible.