The digital ramblings of an analog conjurer
May 24, 2016 REDISCOVERY: BRANDON THE JUGGLER
The Discoverie of Witchcraft (1584), is widely recognised as one of the most important books ever written on the subject of witchcraft. The author, Reginald Scot – a member of British parliament at the time – wrote his defining opus in order to disprove the existence of witchcraft and defend those accused of practising it.
The book also contains a brilliant section on conjuring, which discusses the methods of magicians/conjurers in great detail. Written in 16th century middle English, it is an extremely challenging publication to decode, but for anyone interested in the history of magic, it is essential reading.
This ‘Rediscovery’ series will explore some of the overlooked, unnoticed or forgotten content lurking within the pages of this incredible book.
BRANDON THE JUGGLER
Chapter thirteen contains the little-known account of Brandon the Juggler, a ‘street magician’ who not only seemed to have an eye for theatrical staging but possessed considerable performing moxie.
Described as an “Example of ridiculous woonder”, Brandon would gather a crowd, point to a pigeon sitting on top of a roof and paint/draw a picture of a bird on a nearby wall. He would then remove a knife from his person and repeatedly stab the effigy, the pigeon would fall from the roof… dead as a doornail!
Brandon performed this feat for the King – although it’s hard be certain which King – and so successful was his performance, that he was immediately banned from doing it again; as it was feared that the process could also be to used kill a person; “…and so the life of all men in the hands of a juggler…”.
This was a truly remarkable demonstration which involved considerable preparation, substantial showmanship and skillful timing. The effect is about contrast and power; it connects the real world and a symbolic one, involves distance and height, life and death. Two methods are given – and both are brilliant – however, what’s more interesting is the sheer theatre, staging and clarity of the effect.
– The Discoverie of Witchcraft, Booke XIII, Chapter XIII, Of private confederacie, and of Brandons pigeon, 1584, p. 174-175.
May 19, 2016 CROUCHING HOFFMAN, HIDDEN ERDNASE
When the Charlier pass was published by Sachs (1877), Hoffmann (1890) and Erdnase (1902), it was known to be an invisible pass, however, the secret of its ‘invisibility’ wasn’t communicated particularly well in print – this therefore caused a misunderstanding to develop about its function and deceptiveness. Over time, it was just perceived as a simple, one-handed cut… the Charlier cut.
Performing the Charlier pass invisibly – without using the free hand/arm as cover – was generally thought be impossible, until Bill Kalush had a brilliant insight while reading an unpublished manuscript (1879) by Marion Speilman.
Since then, I have discovered several other handling’s which have been hiding in plain sight for over a century! I’ll describe these techniques in a future post, until then, if you study Hoffmann and Erdnase very carefully you might find these ‘open secrets’ yourself.