Magic has always fascinated us.
Ever since the dawn of time, we have attributed whatever we couldn’t explain to magic, and in turn, to gods.
Thunder, rain, sunrise and set, eclipses or pretty much any other natural phenomenon was considered magical/godly…and so were diseases, death, pestilence, draught, snakebite etc etc.
The word “magic” actually comes from Latin magicus, which in turn comes from the Greek adjective magikos. Heraclitus is credited with coining the term to describe the Persian Zoroastrian priests. So as we can see, even from the most ancient of times to the present day, we tend to describe whatever is alien to us, whatever we can’t explain to magic.
One feature of Ulysses, and one of the reasons of its popularity – magic, with Circe turning Ulysses and his crew into pigs. Hell, the Greeks even had a goddess of magic – Hecate.
The ancient Egyptians actually studied and philosophied about magic, for them magic wasn’t just magic, it was part of their religion. For them magic was made up of four components: the creator-god’s Ka or Heka, magical rituals known as Seshaw held within sacred texts called Rw and finally medicinal prescriptions called Pekhret. This magic was used in temple rituals as well as informal situations by priests. Magic was also used for protection against the angry deities, jealous ghosts, foreign demons and sorcerers who were thought to cause illness, accidents, poverty and infertility.
Our very own Atharva Veda deals with spells and incantations. We have mantriks and tantriks. A mantrik specializes in practicing mantra and a tantrik in tantra. And then there are the sadhus who perform miracles after gaining siddhdi.
This being India, 99% of these are frauds, like Satya Sai Baba or that murdering thug in Haryana. Our lives are so craptastic, that we want to believe, we need to believe, we through away our intelligence and start believing and following blindly (a phenomenon also known as AAPturdism and In Arsene We Trustism ).
The spread of Christianity and its contact with the pagan religions further complicated matters with all kinds of pagan rituals being associated with satanic rites and devils etc. The harassment forced some practitioners to even more extreme and often violent forms of magic in order to retain their followers. It gave rise to what was termed black magic, witchcraft, voodoo etc.
Christianity went through its reformation, and it allowed the growth of science. With the advancement of science, a lot has been explained, the mysticism and aura have largely gone. [The only people who still ascribe to the idea of heavenly or hellish interventions to natural phenomena are the religious fundamentalists, the gullibles and the super superstitious lot.]
Basically science tried its best to take magic away from us.
However, there is something deep within our psyche, our subconscious, which still feel the need for all things magical. We humans as a species have always felt the need for magic.
Our love of magic can be seen from the popularity of magical literature like the Harry Potter series.
Look, I like Potter as much as the next man, but you have got to admit that Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series, with its reverse Batman like storyline, is much more complex and fascinating and enjoyable. Rick Riordan’s series about Greek, Egyptian and Roman mythologies are also both educational and highly entertaining.
Macbeth is considered Billy the Bard’s greatest work , primarily because all men who have ever had a mother or a girlfriend or a wife can immediately identify with the constant nagging of Lady Macbeth and can empathise and sympathize with Macbeth’s condition.
Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series has liberal uses of magic, witchcraft and wizardry with the members of the Unseen University, Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Tiffany Atching (and the Nac Mac Feegle) all playing prominent parts in a number of books. There are magically created golems and dragons as well as vampires and werewolves and dwarfs and trolls and zombies and Nobby Nobbs and the Luggage and of course the Librarian.
And of course there is Gandalf.
And because we like magic, we need magic, illusionists have been popular more or less since the dawn of time. From Jean Robert Houdin to Alexander Herrmann, from John Henry Anderson to J N Maskelyne and Cooke, from Harry Houdini to Siegfried and Roy, from David Copperfield to our very own PC Sirkar and PC Sirkar Jnr, all have entertained us and won our hearts.
They are comedic and in their gimmick Teller never speaks. What makes the even better is that for the last few decades, they have waged a war on superstition, fraud etc to help people. What’s more – they are agnostic.
These guys are extremely funny, entertaining and often educational. Watch them whenever you can.
Comedy Central, well on its way to becoming the best non-sport channel out there, recently showed a series called Penn and Teller: Fool Us.
The concept was simple, magicians will come on stage and do magic tricks. If Penn and Teller can figure out how the trick was performed, the magician loses; if however they can’t, then they have “fooled” Penn and Teller ans ill get a show in Vegas as reward.
It was easily one of the most entertaining shows of the year. I usually hate reality shows (barring Amazing Race) but I was engrossed and entertained. Try and watch it when you can. Here are some clips.