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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Periods & styles of Magic » » Period appropriate magic, or just period appropriate materials? (1 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Levity
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Eric,

That was most enlightening and informative. Thank you.

Geoffrey
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DStachowiak
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Although I know very little about the topic under discussion, I have never let that stop me before, so I am going to go ahead and make an observation here. I suspect an actual Medieval magician might have been able to make his reputation using a couple of chunks of lodestone and a lump of amber and a piece of cat fur, given the general lack of understanding of electrostatic and electromagnetic principles at the time.
Try that today and not many folks will be impressed, no matter how lovely your costume is.
The fact is, in any age, "Magic" represents the gap between what is known by the general audience and what is known by the magician/sorcerer/shaman/mountebank. That's why we all get so worked up over the "Masked Magician" giving away our secrets.
Trying to entertain a modern audience, while limiting ones self to techniques and secrets that would have been known in the period represented by one's costume, would seem to be an almost impossibly difficult task.
Ultimately, I think we have to choose between historical accuracy and entertainment. While there are certainly a number of classic tricks that play as well today as they ever did, I think some accommodation must be reached with the greater sophistication of modern audiences, as well as the differences in modern sensibilities Eric has pointed out above.
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funsway
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After two years of performing at SCA events, both strolling and feats, I gradually shifted for "period authentic" to "period appropriate". This means I would willing use a Buddha Box because it "sorta looks period," but would never do a Sword through Neck Effect becasue such a performance would never have been done -- people didn't play with swords -- they lived with them. AT a feast I might use the corner of a table, but when strolling peformed only from "my person." A portable table is defiantely not period before the 15th century.

For me, any card trick is OUT! While there is some evidence that playing cards in some form existed prior to 1600, nothing indicates magic trickk were done with them. However, I have done the "VOID" trick which used card like placards, and use some leather swatches which employes card sleights.

So, it is not always a question of whether a given trick is Period, it is a matter of whether the props and presentation are consistent with your persona. A 13th century French nobel would NEVER do performance magic, while a traveling Jongluer propbably would have done simple sleights anywhere. Silk was not common except for the rich -- and then only for show. Is it wrong then for a serf to produce a fountain of silks? I wouldn't, but would chnage cloths. There are no SCA rules against being several different personas at the same event. Nothing is more fun than being asked if you have a brother at the event.
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Payne
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Quote:
On 2009-04-26 07:40, funsway wrote:
After two years of performing at SCA events, both strolling and feats, I gradually shifted for "period authentic" to "period appropriate". This means I would willing use a Buddha Box because it "sorta looks period," but would never do a Sword through Neck Effect becasue such a performance would never have been done -- people didn't play with swords -- they lived with them. AT a feast I might use the corner of a table, but when strolling peformed only from "my person." A portable table is defiantely not period before the 15th century.


There are descriptions and illustrations of entertainers juggling and balancing swords. There are Dances that employ them. Discoverie of Witchcraft describes several trick daggers and bodkins. so yes, they did use them for entertainment purposes so a sword through neck trick, while not exactly period is period appropriate.

Quote:
For me, any card trick is OUT! While there is some evidence that playing cards in some form existed prior to 1600, nothing indicates magic trickk were done with them. However, I have done the "VOID" trick which used card like placards, and use some leather swatches which employes card sleights.


There is much evidence that cards existed in Europe long before 1600. They appeared around the middle of the fourteenth century and by the middle of the fifteenth were all the rage. The first book completely devoted to tricks with cards was published in the sixteenth century . so yes, card tricks are in fact period and period appropriate decks are easily found these days.

[/quote]
So, it is not always a question of whether a given trick is Period, it is a matter of whether the props and presentation are consistent with your persona. A 13th century French nobel would NEVER do performance magic, while a traveling Jongluer propbably would have done simple sleights anywhere.
[/quote]

There are writings in period describing nobles performing simple tricks for the amusement of their guests. I'm away from my library at the moment but I recall a concercation of rings being done by a spainish noble and a demonstration of a fore resistant cloak being shown by another noble in the fifteenth century.

Quote:
Silk was not common except for the rich -- and then only for show. Is it wrong then for a serf to produce a fountain of silks? I wouldn't, but would chnage cloths.


Silk, while expensive, was readily available. Italy being a major producer of the fabric in the thirteenth century. It would not be a great stretch to assume that a joungleur in period might have aquired some in payment for a past performance at a noblemans feast.
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funsway
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I guess I was to general in my thoughts. The "fact" that a particular material or item existence before 1600 does not mean in was common or available in every culture. Nobles in some cultures did perform magic, while in others they did not, just as knights in some cultures were required to write poetry and not in others. "Period appropriate" should apply to the performer's persona and pretended culture. Yes, a joungleur might have acquired a silk, but would never have 'many' to produce, or expect to borrow a silk from a bar maid. Picky? Maybe, but you are dealing with spectators who will insist a bow can't shoot more than 200 yards just because their favored long bow won't. If you desire is to be period appropriate then meeting that standard should be part of the fun (and research). If accuracy is not important, then it is not. I wear eye glasses -- allowed, but would take them off if my persona was pretending to be blind.

But, there are trivialities, m'lord, compared with the idea of encouraging others from attempting magic in SCA events. Some of my thoughts would only apply if they were used in a Bardic Contest. If a SCAdian wandered into my camp and did Multiplying Golf Balls I would never publically correct him -- but might take him aside and show him how to do the effect with walnuts.

I'd be interested in seeing the citations of the "card trick book" -- what culture, what language -- does it exist, or is it only referred to by later writers. The sources used to produce "period appropriate decks" also. Amazing that authories are popping up that never existed before. PM, of course. I'd love to "stand corrected" and expand my knowledge base.
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst



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Payne
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Quote:

I'd be interested in seeing the citations of the "card trick book" -- what culture, what language -- does it exist, or is it only referred to by later writers. The sources used to produce "period appropriate decks" also. Amazing that authories are popping up that never existed before. PM, of course. I'd love to "stand corrected" and expand my knowledge base.



A facsimile edition of the book was published last year by Gibeciere magazine and is available for purchase here

http://www.conjuringarts.org/store/gibeciere.html

It was originally published in Venice Italy

The period appropriate cards I use are the 1864 Poker Deck

http://www.tridentcards.com/Historical+P......eck.html

They ar square cornered with no indices and single ended court cards and the patterns are virtually indentical to many 15th centhury decks I have seen.

And yes many :authorities" are popping up these days as finally manuscripts in languages other than English and French are finally being translated
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funsway
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Thanks for the reference -- wish it were affordable. I note, however, theat the claim of "numerous performers in the late 16th Century" is offered by the publisher -- not from the book itself. It claims from the book, "Here for the first time is the explanation of what became the famous 21 card trick." That scarcely proves these sleights were common until sometime after the book was read and studied. These cards are neat and would be acceptable by most SCAdians -- I noticed there are no 16th century decks offered.

The problem is similar to that of the concept of "Chivalry" as depicted in Ivanhoe. It did not exist in the 12-13th centuries as depicted, but is an invention of 15th century fictional writers and Hollywood. Alledged heros like Richard the Lionhearted was actual a cruel, vain oppressor of many peoplese, executed thousands of CHristians just to set examples for Saladin, and never spend more than three years in England in his entire life. Yet you will find "authorities" who speak of Chivalry and the "Knight's Code" etc. as if it actually existed. An examination of history will show that knights actually behaved with little honor or respect for any code other than allegiance to their liege Lord. The CHildrens Crusade is a good example, where knights imprisoned children placed in their care and sold them into slavery.

So, this evidence does not prove that magcians did card tricks in the 16ht century, only that later writers say they did. Instead, we have Church records of magicians being prosecuted for various type of 'magical tricks', but cards ar enever mentioned. Cards for gambling, yes -- and I am sure some clever person found ways of doing tricks wiht them -- but hardly representative of "Medieval magic" as an art.

This is why I said that "for me" -- card tricks are not Period. If someone at an event ever said, "Oh, you are a magician. Know any good card tricks?" I would say, "I perform common tricks of the period."

Enjoying this, though. Thanks.
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst



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Payne
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Since the author of the book in question is writing about various card tricks that were being performed at the time. It is safe to assume that yes, card tricks were being performed in Europe by the end of the 16th century. This was not a book of "New Tricks" to fool your friends but a description of tricks the author had seen.

We have two early written records of card tricks being performed The first, a 15th century piece of writing which describes a card trick performed by Giovanni de Jasone de Ferara; the second a 16th century piece by Cardanus describing a performance by a Spanish magician by the name of Dalmau who performed for Emperor Charles V in Milan.

Scott's Discoverie of Witchcraft published in 1584 has several card tricks described in it as well. So there is plenty of evidence that card tricks were being performed by magicians in the middle ages.

Also they are not "later writers" but writers in period making their writing primary evidence that card tricks were being performed.

I would also like for you to site me a serious historian whose written in the last 50 years about chivalry who purports it to be as described in Ivanhoe. The works you are referring to I'll wager were all written in the 19th or early 20th century.
"America's Foremost Satirical Magician" -- Jeff McBride.
funsway
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Ivanhoe was used by some of the founders of SCA as a model of their game playing -- back when. Just ask any of them. The entire SCA model of conduct is based on fiction -- which is OK -- it is a game, after all.

Thnaks for the references -- now I have something to search for.

Folks have done a lot of 'reverse engineering' for SCA appropriate stuff -- "IF I can figure it out they must have done it back when." I do ring on Rope stuff with confidence that that kind of effect was 'lofical' for the period. I don't need proof. You don't need further proof that Cards are OK. I'm not going to do any card tricks when at SCA events becasue I don't think they represent "period magic".

Since the goal here is to possib;y encourge others to try magic at SCA/RenFair Events, why don't we shift to something supportive of that end. Happy to continue PM -- think it's of littel value here.
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst



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Payne
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Quote:
On 2009-04-27 19:27, funsway wrote:

Folks have done a lot of 'reverse engineering' for SCA appropriate stuff -- "IF I can figure it out they must have done it back when." I do ring on Rope stuff with confidence that that kind of effect was 'lofical' for the period. I don't need proof. You don't need further proof that Cards are OK. I'm not going to do any card tricks when at SCA events becasue I don't think they represent "period magic".



It's precisely this type of muddled thinking that was a partial contributer for me leaving the SCA.

There's a reason the SCA is at the bottom rung of nearly every serious historical re-enactors list. It can be a fun group and has much to offer those willing to participate but it's reproduction of history is tenuous at best. But then that's what the big A in SCA is for. Unfortunately some of its members forget that and try to pass themselves off as experts in history simply because they dress up in funny clothes and hang out in the woods so they can hit each other with sticks Smile
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funsway
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But, SCA has never pretended to be "re-enactors," so you can't lay the blame there. Within the 'game' people have used the setting and excitement to further their own personal beliefs and egoic enhancement. That is a problem of any theme setting, even organized religion or your local service club. We become enpassioned over an idea and want more information, only to find that our history books have been lying to us. We should be doing magic at events because we enjoy it -- just like singing, story telling or juggling. We have willing 'victims' at a Bardic Fire or stolling down Merchant Row. Any problem comes from trying to make of the weekend soemthing it is not.

It would be easier to blame the Internet, which makes shallow research simple and serious research difficult. "Negative inference" often substitutes for rational justification -- one reason I got off most SCA websites. I don't like to teach Jr College any more either, because students are allowed to submit papers and reports base only on "the Internet said so." Sigh.

So, for aspirents to magacial performers at SCA and RenFaire events, I think we can agree on:

Don't take it too seriously

Enjoy the excitment of the audience while playing a "sort of period" game

do some 'reasonable research' to be consistent with your persona

don't argue with people with swords

............................................

now, does anyone have an interesting SCA performance success story to share?
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst



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Payne
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Quote:
On 2009-04-28 06:48, funsway wrote:

now, does anyone have an interesting SCA performance success story to share?



I was nearly given an AA at my second event for entertaining the Princes children and was elevated to the Order of the Laurel 5 years later for my outstanding contributions to the arts in my performance of magic.
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critter
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I don't like AA. My mom's boyfriend went and he's still a drunk.
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I was going to say something here but I changed my mind.
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malaki
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I think that the main thing that SCA members tend to forget is the C, or "Creative". Why not take what historical information you can find, and use it to your advantage? It will force you to rework your routines to come up with something that, if not new, is at least a creative approach.

Silk was first invented in c. 2525 BCE. In the time since, silk became the cloth of kings, then of the nobles, then of the gentry. What we, as magicians, use are basically the scraps that were left over from clothing that was made. I see no reason why a magician could have been a friend of a seamstress or tailor who would give him the scraps could not be used. Therefore, a silk fountain sort of effect could have been presented, using these scraps. Positive evidence for the existence of this effect is missing, but we do know how magicians like to scrounge for what they need. Why would the magicians of the Middle Ages not have done the same?

Other period effects that have been published will not play well for a modern audience, even one that "recreates" history. Cutting off one's nose or finger simply will not be tolerated by a modern audience outside of those who like what is now often called "geek magic". I started to make my own set of the knives illustrated in these early books, but then realized that no one would want to see this anyway, regardless of the authenticity of the effect.

The Laurels in Ansteorra seemed to be more interested in learning the methods of my effects than the presentation itself. When presented with documentation, they had nothing but criticism for the very book that the Oklahoma Library system hailed as a "landmark publication on the subject".
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