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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Periods & styles of Magic » » SCA/MEDIEVAL ROUTINES (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

devilstick peat
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Hi,
my name is Peat, and I'm an English jester with 26 years in the trade. I work at a lot of British en-enactments (Like SCA but without the funny accents).
Heres a run down of one of my routines. If others add theirs here, then I'll share more.
To the side of the stage is a small wicker basker (12 inches long, 6 deep, 6 wide) I pick it up and place it in the middle of the stage whilst saying.
"As its a medieval festival, I have a medieval question for you all. Does anyone know what the most common weapon in days of old was"? As I say this, so I make a sweeping motion with both hands, as though I'm wielding a sword. Someone (normally a child) always shouts out "sword". I repeat their answer in a loud, positive voice, then say
"Wrong....... Swords were really exspencive, most people could never afford one. The most common weapon (As I say this, so I crouch down and open the lid on the box, which doesn't flip all the way back, but stays upright). The most common weapon in days of old, was the fighting staff.
At this point I start to pull out an appearing pole (If you don't know what that is, ask a magician).
"Now a fighting staff is a long piece of wood, normally made of ash or pine and is anything between 6 and 8 feet long, just like this one".

OK, I know its plastic and not the sort of trick they would of used in those days but (and this is an inportant but, so I'll say it again) BUT.....
A) the public don't know its plastic, it really looks like the real thing
B) the man who booked you doesn't know its plastic
C) you've educated the public (the staff really was the most common weapon and swords were very espencive)
D) If like myself, most of your magic is done in a tommy cooper style, to suddenly do "real magic" really takes them by surprise. They will talk about it afterwards. And that is the best kind of advert you can have. Twice now people who run re-enactments have seen my show and booked me for their event, soley because of that one trick. (and when the bookers ask how I fit it in there, my reply is simply "sidewards")
Motley Mage
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Peat, I love this, especially the "educational" aspect, which for many RenFaires is not only a major goal, but part of the conditions of their grant funding. I am working on several educational pieces that tie real history of the period to magic in, I hope, an entertaining way. I will post more later.
Payne
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You might want to call it a quarterataff as it evokes all those Robin Hood tales.

Also, in the Middle Ages the most common weapon probably was the longbow as every male was required to have one and practice weekly in its use.
"America's Foremost Satirical Magician" -- Jeff McBride.
devilstick peat
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I'm not sure if it's true, but my understanding is that every Englishman (not british or European) was required by law to shoot at lest 3 arrows from his bow before midday on a sunday, and should they "accidently" hurt or kill someone whilst doing this practice, no fine or punishment could be impossed (a law that some say has yet to be revocked). Most people, when out and about, would have a staff with them as opposed to a bow. easier to carry and still useful in the rain (incerdently, the saying "keep it under your hat" comes from english bowmen in the army keeping their bow string dry by keeping it under their hats). In the north of england, near scotland, is the town of york, where it is still legal to use your bow to kill a scotsman.
funsway
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There are also fine stories to tell of the use of the quarterstaff. It's name derived from a defensive battle tactic in which for men would stand back-to-back with each defending one fourth of the field. The use of the staff is not that different from oriental martial arts and translate into use of a short polearm -- which was the favored weapon of demonstration meets -- not the charging lance of Hollywood fame.

The terms "four square" "standing your ground" and "giving no quarter" all derive from the use of this staff. Additionally, a stretcher is easily made with two staves and a blanket, four staves can be interlocked to form a perch on which a man can be lifted over 10 ft wall, and allow two men to carry a heavy wagon wheel or buckets of water, or felled hind.
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst



ShareBooks at www.eversway.com * questions at funsway@eversway.com
Mr. Woolery
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Hello, Peat-

Thank you for that. It was the first routine idea that ever made me want to buy one of those appearing poles!

In the spirit of what I perceive to be your intent, I'll share something I have been playing around with. Be warned, I have not actually performed this yet. Soon, though. I don't get to do SCA until winter, due to the short outdoor season in Alaska leaving very little time for vital activities like cutting enough wood to keep warm in the winter...

With a pebble, a little velvet bag, a quarter, and a can of gold spray paint, I have been playing with a simple demonstration of the ancient alchemical marvel of Lapis Philosophorum, the philosopher's stone. Ask for the loan of a coin, just asking people to dig out what coins they may be carrying. You have not said what you are going to do yet. As soon as you see that people really are digging out their money, reach into a pouch or whatever you use instead of a pocket (I have breeches with pockets) and pull out a small velvet sack. Dump the pebble from the sack into the left hand and display the pebble reverently. "This may be the only example in existence of the alchemists' goal. Behold the philosopher's stone, Lapis Philosophorum." If nobody responds, say "Oooo..." While you get that little chuckle, put the bag back into your pocket or pouch and f*nger-p**m out the gold-painted quarter. Keep talking about the amazing properties of this stone while you select a quarter from someone's hand with your thumb and pointer finger. The display ought to be communicating that you are trying to be totally fair by not hiding the quarter in your hand. Toss the quarter into your left hand where it will be heard hitting the pebble. (This is the B*b* S****h.) All attention on the left hand as you explain that all alchemical reactions take time and energy. In this case the stone and the coin have to come to the temperature of the hand. Open the left hand slowly to check and then display the transformed quarter. Reach into the pocket to get the little bag (ditching the borrowed quarter). Put the stone away and give the golden quarter to the spectator who loaned it.

If asked to repeat, you can either have good pocket management and a lot of gold quarters or you can tell folks that the reason alchemists are never wealthy is because this marvel can only happen once in a month.

So, although not yet audience tested (my kids don't count), I think it is fairly good in terms of potential.

Comments?

-Patrick
Mr. Woolery
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Oh, almost forgot. If nobody digs for a quarter, just offer to use your own. Have a non-painted one in the LEFT pocket. This avoids any chance of mixing with your transformed quarter. Just get it out, allow someone to inspect it, then get out the stone and proceed as before.

I think it is stronger with their quarter, but if you use your own, you can have dates match and call attention to that fact as proof that it really is the same coin.

-Patrick
Motley Mage
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Patrick--I like it, especially your "out" for not repeating. I think I would use this line even if no one asked . . .
Motley Mage
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Patrick--I like it, especially your "out" for not repeating. I think I would use this line even if no one asked . . .
Ekuth
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That's a bloody brilliant routine, Patrick.
"All you need is in Fitzkee."
Mr. Woolery
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Thank you Motley and Ekuth. I appreciate that you like it.

-Patrick
Motley Mage
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I just realized I have what I believe is a zinc-plared penny (found in a jar of pennies a few weeks ago) that would be perfect for this. Brilliant gold color...slightly magnetic...thoughts are spinning.
Tim Ayres
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Making gold (brass) pennies is not too difficult, I remember doing this in high school chemistry. There are plenty of how-tos online, such as http://www.sciencecompany.com/Turn-Copper-Pennies-Into-Silver-and-Gold-Pennies-W194.aspx. Agree that these would be a good fit for this trick!
Motley Mage
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That link appears to be dead, Tim, but here is another: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q4puQhfJg-o
I think I will give it a try with a couple of old English pennies (size matters!) some time when I've got a few hours to kill.
Motley Mage
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That link appears to be dead, Tim, but here is another: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q4puQhfJg-o
I think I will give it a try with a couple of old English pennies (size matters!) some time when I've got a few hours to kill.
Mr. Woolery
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Or, honestly, gold spray paint works very well. It only takes a moment to spray the coins, let that side dry, flip over, spray again. You can do enough coins to last you a lot of performances in an hour. And most of that is drying time. Since people know it is a trick, you don't really have to make it seem like real gold. Just make it a very clear color change. That's a pretty big wow right there.

If you want to be kind of silly, you could also do a reverse philosopher's stone and use a dark grey paint for a bright coin. It almost changes the coin to gold, but only gets as far as lead.

Or you can call it a touch stone, used to determine the true content of a coin. Some you can hand back the same color, but a "fake" silver coin changes to copper or bronze. Perhaps you can claim these were believed to be real and were carried by merchants to test the virtue of coins they are offered. Since other folks believed in the power of the rock, they didn't try to pass fake coins with a merchant who had a touch stone.

The basic routine has several good ways you can take it. I'm liking the impromptu nature of a borrowed quarter, myself. Since you ask people to get out a handful of change and you select the quarter, that means they don't take note of dates or special state quarters. I hope.

-Patrick
HenryleTregetour
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Peat,

Your routine is not as much off from what would have been done in period as you may think.

There is a trick in "Hocus Pocus Junior" (published in 1635 and considered a good source for "period" magic) called "how to seeme to swallow a long pudding made of tinne."

Now I cannot not for the life of me understand what pudding has to do with the trick. It is essentially a "sword" swallowing routine using a tin tube made of 12 funnel-shaped segments of tin. Each segment collapses upon the next so you essentially end up with a short tube, making it look as if the magician has "swallowed" the thing. You can see the similarity between your act and this trick.

If you want to become familiar with actual period magic the first two sources you should look at are "Hocus Pocus Junior" and "The Discoverie of Witchcraft" (published ca. 1587). Hocus Pocus was apparently written by an actual magician with tricks that actually work. It contains a complete cup and balls routine as well as a trick where you cut a rope into four pieces and restore it into one.

"The Discoverie . . ." was written by a man who was trying to defuse the witchhunt hysteria of the time. It contains an entire long chapter detailing period magic tricks, although the writer was not a magician and some (most?) of the tricks are unworkable given his descriptions. Nevertheless this and the previous work give good descriptions of what magic tricks were being performed at the time. They both include descriptions of various card tricks, coin tricks, and the use of trick boxes to effect appearances and disappearances. Confederacy with a secret assistant was also frequently used, and tricks include one routine where a boy is essentially "hypnotized" and persuaded to strip and dance naked.

One other little known source was "discovered" by me. I have summarized it under the thread title "Secretum Philosophurum;" it includes a handful of juggler's (ie. magician's) tricks performed during the 13th century.

"The Illustrated History of Magic" (1973) by Milbourne Christopher has a brief discussion of Medieval and Renaissance era magic which at least seems to document a variation of the Chinese linking rings. Ripping a napkin in half and restoring it is also period, as a woman was tried as a witch for doing it in the fifteenth century.

I (and others) have discussed other sources in other threads; enjoy reading.

Henry
malaki
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I have often used the expanding pole as the effect with which I leave after performing at a campfire. I take out a cloth or leather bag and pull a 6' staff from it, smile at the audience and then walk to the next camp. Many WTF?!? moments.
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