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HenryleTregetour
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Hi all.

I am curious as to the current state of performance magic in the SCA. As much as I would like to, I rarely have an opportunity to travel out of kingdom. And though I have been in SCA off and on for almost 35 years, I have never had a chance to attend Pennsic or Gulf Wars. More than 15 years ago I got to see the Tinkers at Estrella, but of course magic is not their primary focus.

I will start. I have lived in Calontir since 1987, but I am not aware of there ever having been any performance magicians in my kingdom. Several years ago I taught a class on performance magic, but that was before I started actually learning how to do things. I got my start in Meridies in 1982, an on one occasion I saw a magician perform in court in Grey Niche (Memphis). I have also read some of the Pennsic programs and am aware that at least at one time Pennsic included classes on performance magic.

So, how goes it?

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HenryleTregetour
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Okay.

Perhaps I phrased the question wrong. First, I am aware of other similar threads, I understand why people would not want to rehash what's already been said. Fair enough.

I will refine the question to these:

(1) Is there still a group of magicians that gather at Pennsic (or any other war, or in any kingdom) to critique, help, instruct, etc., others

(2) Are there others (beyond Master Payne, who by his own testimony has not "played" in two decades) who have received awards (such as Laurel, GOA, AOA, etc.) for performance magic?

I would love to know the answers to these questions as well as anything else volunteered.

HLT
medievalmagician
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It would be interesting to see the results of your questions.

I am in The Kingdom of An Tir. I have not yet been performing any type of magic at events. My 20+ years in the SCA have been more focused on the heavy fighting. I do want to start spending time with magic at events though.
friend2cptsolo
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Http://www.soothsayersguild.org/
This is kinda neat that this kingdom does a group of soothsayers.
friend2cptsolo
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Maybe you will have to spearhead the movement to do so. If I was at one of these events I would like to see a magic show or even a close up magician.
There are a lot of cool ideas you can come up with for something like this, I would just go FULL MERLIN!!!!
HenryleTregetour
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Thank you for the responses.

As for me, I have been studying performance magic for more than ten years, I have dabbled the last four, and since January have been working towards going "FULL MERLIN!!!" I have been working on my sleight of hand abilities, focusing on the cup and balls. I also have a handful of self-working "tricks" with ropes and cards. Also, I have "invented" a disappearing bag based on the bag in Mark Wilson's book; it can transform one item into another without any risk of the first item falling out! I will be working on developing routines that may be ready by my local war (Lilies) in June.

"Spearheading" is a bit ambitious. And I am definitely not ready for prime time as far as magic is concerned. Nevertheless, I am hoping to bring at least an awareness in my kingdom to the fact that performance magic was a very common, ie. period, thing. We have our Kingdom A&S soon, and I am planning to write a research paper for it.

It has been more than ten years since I have been to a "foreign" war, although my kingdom definitely travels--Gulf Wars and Pennsic. If I can make either of these (probably not this year), I will put out a call so other magicians can get together. May this will grow into a "movement"!

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friend2cptsolo
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This post made me a little interested in checking out my local SCA....Only a 14 min drive they have a beginners night every month. I like Ren fairs but really have never participated only gone as a observer. Everyone that I have gone to kinda make me what to join in on the fun.
HenryleTregetour
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MedievalMagician,

An Tir is a long ways away for this Calontiri!

Yeah, I have been in SCA "forever" too, and its only been recently that I have been focused on performance magic. I had a friend who has since passed on who "re-invented" himself. He was a Master-at-Arms, but in his later SCA career he got interested in music and established a local music group (he was a Pelican, by the way). For about four years we had a very active group, performed at a couple of local venues (including a high school opening of Camelot) and a feast at a nearby out-of-kingdom shire. Three of our members played with the northwest Arkansas orchestra. Unfortunately, he developed health issues, one of our best musicians moved, another who had never really been SCA stopped playing, and the third had a very stressful life and hence had to back away. Nevertheless, the experience allow me to move from someone who dabbled in the recorder to someone who was pretty decent. These days I generally play while wiling away time at events, and I generally play for feasts by my local shire.

I guess the point I am making is that it is never too late to pursue ones interests.

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HenryleTregetour
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Friend,

Concerning the soothsayer's guild, one of my primary activities is teaching classes. I am definitely not interested in "practicing" magic per se, but I am very interested in its role in medieval culture; however, I am interested in knowing how "real" magic was done in period. Hence, for at least ten years I have been teaching classes on topics related to "magic." These would include classes on astronomy, astrology, performance magic (both legerdemain and automatons), the role of fossils in medieval life. I have done extensive research in medieval lapidaries, and will be soon offering classes on gemstones and their powers. I have recently taught classes on medieval "vampires," ghosts, werewolves, witches, and "serial killers." However, what recognition I have received in the arts and sciences has been due to embroidery, costuming, related classes, etc.

So, when all is said, I hope to utilize my fairly broad knowledge of period "magic" to enhance my performance magic. As I have said elsewhere, one of my aspirations is to develop myself as a minstrel, and hence my active interest in learning to "do magic."

HLT
HenryleTregetour
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Friend,

I hope you enjoy your trip into the Middle Ages. It can be wonderful, especially in the beginning.

However, a few things to understand--first, like any other group (workplace, family, hobbyists, etc.), it consists of people, with all their ambitions, flaws, etc. This of course means politics. Don't let this get you down!

Second, the most important thing is to have fun! Yes, there are awards, and it is very hard not to get caught up in "award fever", ie. becoming overly concerned about recognition. But in the end none of that matters! Avoid that trap; have fun!

Third, there is one set of "rules" followed in SCA. There are guidelines, but every kingdom does SCA differently. And every shire or barony (ie. local group) is different.

Fourth, a big part of having fun is making friends. These friends may not be local. So when you can, travel. Travel both within the kingdom, and without. Especially try to attend to closest big war--this will give you a very different perspective on what it to be in SCA. SCA is not just your shire, and it is not just your kingdom.

If you have questions, I will be happy to answer them.

HL Henry Percivale Kempe, aka Henry le Tregetour
Shiremarch of Grimfells
Kingdom of Calontir

Been SCAing since 1982 (on and off)
HenryleTregetour
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Big correction to what I just said:

There is NOT one set of "rules" followed in SCA!

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friend2cptsolo
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Thanks I think this will be something to check out, too bad they don't battle with Lightsabers....
HenryleTregetour
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Yeah, light sabers--not quite period.

But, SCA is nerd-heaven. You will definitely find Star Wars fans. And late at night, don't be surprised if someone does pull out a light saber!

I am glad this is helpful.

Let me say a few other things.

When you do meet them, don't tell them that some guy said this is what SCA is like. They may have strong opinions, and it is good to listen to what they have to say. Of course, if you live in Calontir (Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, NW Arkansas), feel free to say you spoke with me and I gave you encouragement. Most people will probably say "Who?", but there are a lot of people in kingdom who know me.

You WILL meet people who don't like the idea of magic (who probably have no idea that performance magic IS period), or who will say NOTHING after 1600 is "period." The best thing to do is not argue with them, make a mental note of who these people are, and go find people who are fun. By the way, when I first became involved in SCA in 1982, there was still a big debate as to whether the cut-off date was 1600 or 1650. One of the most important early period magic manuals, Hocus Pocus Junior, dates from the 1630s, but all evidence indicates its the tricks it contains were identical to ones performed before 1600.

How to deal with the naysayers:

(1) Performance magic was very much a part of the repertoire of minstrels, and there is testimony dating back to the 1100s indicating this. Furthermore, the cup and balls dates back at least to the time of the ancient Romans, and maybe even the ancient Egyptians.

(2) With regards to sources, although they are the best sources for period magic we have, in the short run it is best not to mention Scot's Discoverie of Witchcraft (1590s)(witches!), or The Art of Juggling and Hocus Pocus Junior (the latter two are post-1600). As you become the "expert" on performance magic in period, then you can bring these into the discussion.

(3) Here are sources that document performance magic in period (pre-1600):

Milbourne and Maurine Christopher, The Illustrated History of Magic

John Southard, The Medieval English Minstrel

Richard Kieckhefer, Magic in the Middle Ages

Kurt Volkmann, The Oldest Deception [consists of period pictures of the cup and balls]

Read them! Photocopy relevant sections! Share these!

These books will lay any claims to performance magic not being period, or being something only witches would do. {Yeah, it is really stupid that you might have to do this sort of thing, but like I said, any group of human beings will have its share of know-it-alls!]

(4) Once you have established yourself as the "expert," then you can begin discussing the "controversial" texts (Discoverie, Art, HPJ)

(5) There are many tricks done in period that are still done in the present day. For the time being, concentrate on these, so you can make a strong claim towards doing "period" magic. And as you will be the expert, you can fudge a little, ie. most rope tricks even if not documented were probably figured out by bored magicians well before 1600. And card tricks are period--especially after 1500. Use Highlanders for these; they have basic "period" depictions and are wax coated. Avoid obviously out-of-period routines.

(6) As cool as the Soothsayers guild looks, avoid anything related to "real" magic. ie. astrology, palmistry (which is period!), tarot, etc. If these are avenues you want to explore in the future, great. Just remember, most people are not aware of period performance magic.

(7) Don't overwhelm anybody with your abilities. A little bit at a time is much better than a master performance. If the opportunity presents itself, volunteer to teach a class on period performance magic. In this context, you could mention the "controversial texts."

(8) SCA has "personas." A persona is basically a way to ground yourself in terms of your interests, ie. you are a 12th century English minstrel. Some people take these very seriously; other people don't. It's up to you.

(9) SCA does have a hierarchy. This is established through the system of awards, which are bestowed by the King and Queen (you get a new set of these every six months). Your newcomers meeting will tell you about this. Be respectful and courteous, but don't let the hierarchy get in the way of your enjoying things.

(10) Good luck, and have fun. Let me know how it works out.

HLT
friend2cptsolo
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Wow thanks for all of the info..... I will most likely avoid performing any magic if I go. I was more interesting in maybe some of the other stuff but thought it would be neat to have a period show or at least the appearance of something roughly period. I do attend a magic club monthly and currently working on performing my magic more. The show I have now is not related to this sort of performance. I also do a little bit of writing and have just been in a real writing slump lately, so trying to find some inspiration to get me going.
HenryleTregetour
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Friend,

Sorry to overwhelm you. What I've written is just a few things to be aware of. Hopefully the people you meet will be cool. The annoying people are the minority.

If you want to show a few tricks, that's not really a problem. Just don't overwhelm them. Let them know that in your readings you've become aware that magic tricks were commonly performed for entertainment, and since you think the Middle Ages (Renaissance, or whatever) is cool, here you are.

You are also going to find people who will appreciate what you do regardless of whether it is period. Those are the "fun" people I am talking about. There are people who are very interested in authenticity--me included--but don't expect everybody to be like them. A wonderful thing about SCA is it allows people to explore an almost endless number of interests.

Here is a quick list of period tricks:

cup and balls
identify card (nothing fancy on your shuffling; avoid card flourishes)
four aces
many basic coin tricks
cut-and-restored rope
quarter disappearing from handkerchief
knotted handkerchief (you tie a knot in a handkerchief, then pull and it disappears. In Mark Wilson, Discoverie and Hocus Pocus!)
burned thread--take a thread, burn it, take the ashes, and voila--it reappears!
disappears (usually grain) in boxes
trade places (disappear from one box and reappear in another)

Any basic sleight of hand routines. It is okay not to have absolutely period stuff the first time you show up. Bicycle cards are fine. The Highlander cards and other "period" things are something to aspire to, not something you have to have immediately.

The tricks from Scot's Discoverie of Witchcraft as well as whole copies of Hocus Pocus Junior and The Art of Juggling (prior to 1800 "juggling" referred to magic tricks, not what we call juggling) are available on the internet.

HLT
HenryleTregetour
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Finally, just take what I've said with a grain of salt.

In my own road I don't plan to be exclusively authentic. I very much agree with Master Payne's philosophy concerning entertainment vs. strict authenticity. If you haven't already, get a copy of his "Sometimes the Jokes Are Just for Me," available on LuLu. I really like his idea of taking non-period props and dressing them up to make them look period.

Most people are just interested in being entertained.

Unless authenticity is your "thing", then don't worry over much.

HLT
Mr. Woolery
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I just found this thread. Things are pretty slow on the Periods and Styles board, so I seldom check in more than monthly.

I've been involved in the SCA off and on for about 21 years now. (Egad! Has it really been that long?) My main thing is the fighting. When I started, West Kingdom still considered two layers of untreated carpet or one layer of treated carpet to be adequate knee protection. Treatment of the carpet was not clear. I wanted to get into the fencing, went so far as to purchase the needed schlager weapons and start the sewing of protective garments, then Jade banned fencing and claimed he would keep winning Crown to keep banning it because fencing is inherently unsafe. (But carpet is going to protect those knees, eh?) I got into full armored combat instead and I still love it. I hope to get a couple of repairs done this weekend and get to fighter practice. Been missing it (full time student, full time dad, living in a place that takes a lot of work).

The one time I tried to do magic in an SCA setting, the down side of nerdiness showed up. Everyone wanted to dissect how the trick was done rather than just enjoy the performance. It is an issue that comes up with SCAdians sometimes. Everyone here will tell you that it is audience management, and there's something to that, but at some level the people in my local group just don't care much for magic. They like embroidery, cooking exotic and nasty food, and fighting. Events are made up of an embroidery class, a nasty feast, and a tournament. With plenty of "down time" in between. Introducing something different is almost comical because the old guard almost trips over themselves to tell you why you can't do that. Nowadays I just fight. And never go to events.

My advice is a little different from Henry's and I will put it down to regional differences. Don't say a thing about sources for the material you use, but know a little about them. In particular, know the title of Prevost's Clever and Pleasant Inventions, from 1584. Look over Breugel's famous woodcut Fall of the Magician Hermogenes and see how many tricks are represented there (as well as stuff that is associated with magicians of the time, like puppets and acrobatics). The few people who may try to challenge you on authenticity will normally be wearing such inauthentic clothing that all you have to do is ask "so precise period accuracy is that important to you?" and look them up and down, then raise an eyebrow. I find that the folks who really love dressing well are also very forgiving of those whose efforts may lack perfect documentation. An odd double standard exists for those who try to impose authenticity on others.

I have and enjoy Payne's book. I really look forward to his eventual medieval book. If it ever happens.

In the end, the SCA can be a lot of fun, but don't expect it to be what it claims (historical reenactment). If you try to live up to the SCA's big claim, you will find frustration and disappointment. If you assume it is a medieval themed costume party with a range of interests represented, you have a decent chance of having a great time. I would love to see good magic in the SCA, but I don't know how many folks feel that way.

-Patrick
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Well it seems that things in the SCA have changed quite a bit since I stopped “playing” twenty years ago, back in A.S. XXX.

I got involved in the SCA in 1981 (A.S. XV) and nearly received my AA at my second event for entertaining the Prince and Princess children with magic while they attended Court. They held off giving me an award that day because I hadn’t been around long enough. But I would receive it a year later and be elevated to the Rank of Laurel four years later.

I never performed magic at Tournaments but was in high demand all around the Kingdom for feasts and revels. Once a remote Shire even flew me in for a Yule feast.
My performances were always well received and I never suffered from audiences trying to figure out the secrets to the tricks.

Back then the only resource available was the Dover Reprint of Scott’s Discoverie of Witchcraft and a couple of private press reprints of period Magic Books. Most of which were beyond the reach of my meager income. Hermetic Presses edition of Prevost’s Clever and Pleasant Inventions wouldn’t be published until I left the SCA. Ironically it was my involvement with the SCA that lead to this publication of Prevost’s work as that is where I met the translator whom I later introduced to Mr. Minch.

I had few resources at my disposal, and even less funds to purchase new props with. I learned to modify the existing effects in my repertoire. I was more interested in giving them a period look and feel than I was in being historically accurate. Since no one was well versed in the early history of magic back then. Few ever questioned the authenticity of my material. So no one could really put forth too many objections when my name came up in the Laurel council.

My suggestion is just start performing. Get booked at a feast and see how it goes. Concentrate on the entertainment side, be loud, visible and most importantly, entertaining.

It worked for me
"America's Foremost Satirical Magician" -- Jeff McBride.
HenryleTregetour
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Thank you Payne and Mr. Woolery for weighing in. I certainly did not intend this to be a Henry Show! (TM)--LOL

I think Payne's approach would work very well in my kingdom, and I think MW's cautionary note is applicable as well. But I think the problem is not simply an SCA thing. It is the type of thing that any budding magician encounters--whom do I perform for, where do I do it, how do I go about it, etc.

I think we all agree that there are annoying know-it-alls wherever one goes; SCA awards unfortunately have a way to reinforce their beliefs that they know much more than they do. But "mundanely" I am an academically trained historian, and I have seen my share of Ph.D.s that are pretty much "piled higher and deeper," ie. egotistical people who take their recognition too seriously, who see it as some type of warrant to look down upon others. As I said, it is part of the human condition.

This is what I am thinking for my own approach.

(1) Actually learn to do magic and create some routines (I have been doing a lot of work on my cup and balls this month, my French drop is looking pretty good. I have several "self-working" tricks that once I develop a routine I think would go over well).
(2) My first step into the public--write a research paper on period performance magic for the upcoming Kingdom A&S. As I've said previously, a few years ago I taught a class on performance magic and it was received well by the handful of students attending. I've got the research done, and I just need to put pen to paper. Besides the fact that I love researching and writing, this paper should put to rest any argument that performance magic is not period. Also, teach the above mentioned class more often.
(3) Get feedback from some of my Laurel friends with regards to when and where I might do magic, as well as tips on how to improve my performance.
(4) Begin to perform in public, starting very small. With regards to this, I am a pretty fair (I don't know I would call it good) recorder player, and have experience performing solo in public--I typically perform at local feasts and during down time at events. My kingdom has a local war--Lilies--that gets about two thousand attendees and lasts about nine days. I can volunteer my entertainment at small encampments, especially friends.
(5) As I develop my skills, then one good venue would be to volunteer to give a show for children. Also, enter contests. Another way is somehow blend my music with my magic. Essentially, I can play my music, if I get a small crowd, I will ask if they may be interested in "seeing some magic."

So that is my plan, as it is.

Thanks to Payne's example, I have bought a Sucker's Box. It is small and not of the greatest workmanship, so I am thinking of building my own larger version. Still, what I have now will do for the time being. Now all I have to do is figure out a routine.

HTL
HenryleTregetour
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In response to the carpet armor--yes, those were the days.

I got in right after they stopped using freon cans for helmets. There was still plenty of carpet armor, but not for knees. They allowed hockey gloves and hockey "armor" for knees.

A great thing about SCA is how things have developed towards authenticity, whether it is in armor, clothing, etc. Resources for research have grown exponentially. But of course this is a two-edged sword. SCA has become a "rich" man's hobby, compared to some of the alternative groups.

I view it as an historical "recreation" group as opposed to a "reenactment group" (we don't "reenact" anything!). But even calling it "recreation" is a big stretch. I think "re-creation" might be a better word.

There are a lot of things not to like in SCA, but as I've said before, you will find those in any group of people, especially organizations. My advice--and I don't follow it all the time (understatement), is to do what you enjoy doing, do it for yourself, and don't worry about awards. I think aspirations are great--it is all right to want to be king/queen, a Knight, a Laurel, etc. (do people actually want to be Pelicans?). But it is not worth ones time to spend so much time focused on the awards.

I really love the Fall of Hermogenes. It just has so much happening in it. If I ever do a Renaissance Faire, I am going to point to it and the Hieronymous Bosch paintings as justifications for my costume. (I am late 12th, early 13th century, and the tunics in the paintings are pretty much the same as one might find in my period). And Hermogenes's hat is almost identical to the Phrygian hat which was ubiquitous in my time period.

HTL
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