The Emotive Power of Magic

During a performance this past Sunday, I sat with a guest during an interval and discussed her interest in magic. She told me that her father used to teach her card tricks and would sit with her for hours talking about magic. As she recounted this time in her life with me I could sense the real emotional impact of this experience. A young girl being taught the protected secrets of the magician. It clearly had a long lasting effect on her as she was reliving much of it while watching me perform and taking part in one of my demonstrations of the uncanny, inexplicable and ‘acausal’ connections between two events.

My life in magic has been similarly emotional and for similar reasons. My father sat with me and as we devoured a collection of magical tomes and worked out how to do the hundreds of tricks contained within. He made little close up magic tricks for me, a vanishing and production box, as well as converted an old gramophone cabinet into a magic stand for my budding magical career.

I have become quite interested in the origins of magic in people’s lives among magicians as well as non-magicians who have had an early exposure to the wonders of magic. In my book project The Magiculum, where I asked a group of magicians to address precisely this point, I saw a common theme around the influence of fathers in the formation of a magical interest and the development of a magical identity. Fathers often had a few tricks and stories that they would share with their children at special times, and these create such strong emotional memories. We see the hands, the objects, the effects. We remember the thrill of the tale and its climax, even if we have heard it a hundred times.

Any re-enchantment of the self comes from memories such as these that allow us to continue to have an open mind; to allow us to speculate and believe in that which others say is impossible. Her story was a mixture of fondness with a touch of sadness, but the emotive power of magic is something I keep seeing and I am glad that in my own small way I am one who continues to evoke it.

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