Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Ethics for Magical People: Performing Magic: Sources (4 of 4)

Works Used:
----, “Common Citizen Scams,” Scam and Fraud Info, Crime, Illinois State Police, 2013,

Carroll, Robert, “Uri Geller,” The Skeptic’s Dictionary, 1 August 2011,

Fellowship of Christian Magicians, 2013,

Gregory, Brian, “Alain Nu – Mentalism, Pendulums, and Earthquakes,” Thinking Critically, blog, 22 July 2010,

Houer, Preston, “A Magician’s Oath,” Magical Hypnotist, 2007,

----, “How does the fortune telling con work?”, Gypsy Psychic/Spiritualist Scams, 2013,

Lloyd, Chris, “Why Showmanship is Essential to Success,” Magical Hypnotist, 2007,

---, “Fortune Telling Fraud,” Cons and Scams, The National Association of Bunco Investigators, 2012,

Nu, Alain, “Belief & The Suspension of Disbelief,” Alain Nu’s Shop of Secrets,, September 2008.
The Mysterious World of Alain Nu!,” 2010,

Rossco, “Close-up Magic: What is the intrigue?,” The Magic Hat, 2010,
The Magician’s Oath,” The Magic Hat, 2009, .

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Ethics for Magical People: Performing Magic (3 of 4)

In the case history of Janet and the Odd Woman, Janet had reached a nadir in her life when a friend suggested consulting a fortune teller. Janet surmised that with all her bad luck that she was under some sort of a curse. After showing Janet the evidence of such a curse, the Odd Woman (the fortune teller) confirmed her worst fears.

Following many consultations, Janet handed the Odd Woman all her money wrapped in a bundle of newspapers. To rid Janet of the curse, the Odd Woman had to cleanse Janet’s money. (According to the Illinois Police, the Bunco artist convinces her victim that his money is at the root of the curse.) Whilst cleaning Janet’s money, the Old Woman fell to the floor. According to her, Janet’s curse was so severe that it forced her down. Following that, she hands the cleansed money to Janet, who then pays the Odd Woman.

After Janet gives her package of cleansed money to a police detective, they discover that it contains only a stack of paper. When she fell, the Odd Woman switched the packages. According to the NABI, after Janet discovered the trick, the Odd Woman would either disappear or threaten to place another curse on her.

To convince Janet of the existence of her curse, the Odd Woman used several types of performance magic. First, she used mentalism to demonstrate that she possessed special powers. To do this, the Odd Woman did a cold reading, thereby convincing Janet that she understood what was happening in Janet’s life.

To demonstrate the severity of the curse, the Odd Woman used table magic. With slight-of-hand, she hid a capsule of blood and hair in her hand, whilst passing an egg over Janet’s body. Smashing the capsule with the egg, the Odd Woman produced hair and pus. She used another slight-of-hand trick when she fell on the floor and switched packages, whilst cleansing Janet’s money.

The other type of magic that the Odd Woman performed was a theatrical séance by simulating contact with various spirits. To further impress Janet, the Odd Woman performed a ritual to speak with several Archangels. These theatrical séances set the stage to for Janet’s belief in the Odd Woman’s supernatural abilities.

Robert Carroll points out that since people do suspend their disbelief, they can be duped into regarding that a mentalist’s act as real. Alain Nu notes that the audience has insufficient experience to judge the credibility of a mentalist’s illusions. Nu says that a credible mentalist will have a disclaimer for his audience. For example, Nu refers to what he does as “ESP – Especially Sensitive Powers.”

In the case of Uri Geller, Carroll says that he is a stage magician (mentalist) who went too far. Since the 1970s, Geller has demonstrated various psychic powers such as bending spoons. Because Geller claims that he has special ESP powers, he charges people for his services to find oil deposits and other things. Carroll views Geller as a “flim-flam artist,” since he bilks gullible people of their money. Meanwhile, James Randi, a stage magician, proved that Geller is a fraud. Randi says that Geller gives other magicians a bad name, since Geller presents his illusions as truth.

Stage magicians create illusions as a part of sacred theater to have the audience ponder new ideas. They urge their audience to visualize other possibilities. Like theater, stage magicians provide an avenue for people to consider the mysteries of life. By bending spoons as entertainment, Alain Nu hopes to entice people to explore fringe science.

Meanwhile, the Odd Woman and Uri Geller create illusions for their own ends. They use their talents for venial purposes – greed and dishonesty. Instead of uplifting people, they endeavor to keep their victims entrapped in faulty belief systems. The Odd Woman and Geller use their magic to shrink people’s worlds, and to shut down their curiosity.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Ethics For Magical People: Performing Magic (2 of 4)

Though many magicians are “honest deceivers,” a few use their talents to defraud people. The National Association of Bunco Investigators (NABI) defines “fortune-telling fraud” as “a crime designed to financially exploit a victim under the guise of providing assistance. It involves gaining the victim’s complete trust and, then through carefully managed manipulation convincing the victim to give valuables to the suspect.” NABI continues that the victims are usually seeking help for problems involving love, money, or health. The fraud convinces her victim that she has special powers to remove the curse that is causing the problem. NABI warns against the “total psychological manipulation of the victim” by the fraud, who often keeps him isolated and vulnerable.

The anonymous author of the “Gypsy Psychic/Spiritualist Scams” website explains how the “fortune-telling con” works. The confidence artist (mentalist) is a good cold reader who convinces his victim of his actual psychic powers. This author goes on to say that the fortune-teller con entices his victim to go into a trance state. “Trance”, as defined the anonymous author, is “a state of mind a person maintains consistently not because it’s truthful…but because a belief system keeps it in place.” Stage hypnotists assist their “volunteers” to go into and stay in a trance. Nu points out that a mentalist with integrity will also assist the volunteer to come out of her trance. Meanwhile, the fortune-telling con will prod the victim to go deeper into her trance, and to remain there.

The difference between a Bunco artist and an ethical mentalist is “intent.” Though both use secrecy to achieve their ends, the ethical mentalist intends to delight her audience, and expand their notions of how the world works. Meanwhile, the Bunco artist wants to isolate his victim in order to steal her money. He scares his target into believing that only he can remove her “curse.” Through secrecy, the Bunco artist keeps his victim entrapped in her erroneous belief system.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Ethics for magical people: performing magick (1 of 4)

When we attend a magic show, we expect to be amazed and amused. A good stage magician will make it seem that “the laws of nature have been violated.” Since people delight at being surprised, stage magicians encourage their audiences to indulge their imaginations. For a brief while, we put aside our skepticism, so that we can be entertained and explore alternative possibilities. Moreover, doing magic involves drama since the audience is waiting to see if the trick will happen or not. Magician Chris Lloyd writes, “Ideally, magic tricks should bring about a sense of wonder and excitement…”

Rossco, a stage magician, writes at the Magic Hat Forum, that “magicians are gatekeepers who keep the mysteries of the world.” He goes on to say, “We do this to provide a sense of joy and amazement (the audience) they so desperately crave.” As gatekeepers, magicians pledge to keep their secrets of magic, as part of the Magician’s Oath. In addition, Preston Houer, a magician for over thirty years, stresses that by not divulging secrets is how magicians let the audience suspend its disbelief.

In his essay “Belief and the Suspension of Disbelief,” Alain Nu, stage magician and mentalist, says that the audience has a contract with the stage magician to “relinquish rational thought to momentarily accept the events which are unfolding.” But he notes that a mentalist (stage psychic) has no such contract. According to Nu, this leads to the mentalist grappling with ethical issues such as some members of the audience believing that he is an actual psychic. Because of this, Nu stresses that the mentalist’s personal integrity is critical to his performance. In his act, he needs to assure the audience that he is only an entertainer.

Robert Carroll, noted skeptic and author of the “Skeptic’s Dictionary” website points out that “Good magicians are good tricksters and good tricksters can fool the smartest of people.” Carroll says that even intelligent people can convince themselves that what they see is true. He cautions how some people are often fooled by psychics (mentalists) since they want to believe in the act. Nu himself says that he blurs the line between fact and fiction to encourage further investigation of unexplained phenomena.

Monday, February 18, 2013

European Badger: Keeping Traditions

Eurasian Badger (Meles meles) is a “true badger.” Eurasian Badger lives with his clan in a large underground network of burrows (called a sett). The family sett was inherited from Eurasian Badger’s Father. Eurasian Badger expands his family home and passes it on to his Children. His large cooperative clan refines the family sett with various nest chambers, nursery areas, toilets, and entrances. Many setts are centuries old and contain more than 100 entrances. People in the United Kingdom have successfully lobbied to have some setts registered as historic places.

In British folklore, Eurasian Badger is regarded to be steady, tenacious, and home loving. The Scots admire Him for his courage and power. They often wear their sporrans (the purse worn with traditional Highland dress) made from Badger’s fur.

Eurasian Badger is also known for being a creature of habit. Besides living in the same sett as his Grandfathers, He also travels across the countryside on the same well-worn paths to his hunting grounds. Eurasian Badger keeps to the established paths used by his Forefathers. He will even keep on using them in spite of a road or a housing estate in his way.

What Eurasian Badger teaches is keeping traditions. Generations of Badgers have maintained the same home, and refined it. Eurasian Badger keeps his traditions and passes them on to his Children. Just do not be so unbreakable in your traditions that you get run over by a truck.
Eurasian Badger 
One difference between Eurasian Badger and American Badger is that Eurasian Badger is sociable, while American Badger is solitary. Also, They are different species in the Weasel Family.


Conservation Note: Eurasian Badger is protected in the United Kingdom.

To prevent Eurasian Badgers from becoming road kill, badger tunnels (first built in Heumen Municipality, the Netherlands) provides a solution for the tradition-minded Badgers. The tunnels connects municipal greenways with established Badger setts. Since the implementation of the badger tunnel program, the population of Badgers in Heumen has doubled.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

American Badger: Fighting Well

A member of the Weasel Family (Mustelidae), American Badger (Taxidea taxus) is not considered to be a “true badger” but is called “Badger.” American Badger has a distinctive white badger-like stripe. He uses his strong claws to dig out small Mammals out of their burrows. This cunning hunter can dig faster than a person with a shovel. People tell stories of American Badgers digging though concrete. Like other Badgers, He prefers a deep underground burrow covered by undergrowth.

American Badger is a sophisticated hunter. He just not only digs out Rodents but also plans how to get as many as possible. American Badger plugs all the doors to Ground Squirrel’s burrows except for one. At that entrance, He digs out Ground Squirrel and eats Him. Or American Badger will dig a connecting tunnel into the one remaining entrance and wait for Ground Squirrel. When Ground Squirrel leaves, He pounces on the unfortunate animal.

American Badger is a formable fighter. His compact body and powerful claws gives anyone wanting to attack American Badger pause for thought. While his attacker is thinking, American Badger digs into the soil so fast that He disappears into the ground. He chooses when to fight and when to leave.

Unlike Eurasian Badger (“true badger”), American Badger is usually solitary. He also has a reputation for sometimes being too aggressive. Be mindful of both things when learning from American Badger.

American Badger teaches what to do when confronted. Either fight fiercely or take advantage of your opponent’s confusion and leave quickly. Learn fighting well from American Badger.
American Badger

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Badgers: How to Handle Anger

Members of the Weasel Family (Mustelidae), three different animals are called “Badger”. However, these three “Badgers” differ in significant ways, so much that They are classified by scientists as three different species. This is important to know in reading about “Badger” in an “animal wisdom” book, in order to know what animal are they referring to.

The “true badger” is Eurasian Badger (Meles meles), who lives with his family in large underground catacombs called “setts”. Included in his group of Melinae is Indonesian Stink Badger, who looks like a Skunk, and Burmese Ferret Badger, who climbs trees to eat birds. These animals are what most people consider to be “Badger”.

American Badger (Taxidea taxus) is the only “Badger” that lives in the New World. Unlike Eurasian Badger, He lives alone. Living in the North American prairies and dry plains, American Badger digs holes to escape the hot sun. He is known best for his aggressive nature.

The third animal called “Badger” is Ratel or Honey Badger (Millivora capensis). Living in Africa, Honey Badger attacks and eats venomous Snakes and large Mammals. Unlike the other “Badgers”, Honey Badger has an ally -- the Bird called Honey Guide. Together, They find Honey Badger’s favorite food, which is honey.

Why are all these animals called “Badger?” First, They have the distinctive Badger stripe on their heads. Second, They look like a cross between Skunks and small Bears. Third, like Skunks, They have well developed musk glands. With their strong claws, these Carnivores hunt by digging out their prey.

All Badgers are known for their fierceness. When cornered by an enemy, Badgers bristle their fur and look menacing. With their tough skin, They can withstand most bites. Using their powerful jaws and sharp claws, Badgers ably defend Themselves.

Badgers teach how to get angry in a productive way. They neither seek a fight nor do They try to avoid one. When provoked, Badgers will emit a foul musky order, and bare their teeth. When faced with an opponent, Badgers will use their enemy’s hesitation to dig Themselves into the ground for protection. Otherwise, They use their fierceness to defend Themselves. Understand the positive aspects of anger from Badger. Just do not succumb to being vicious, as Badger sometimes does.
Honey Badger
Honey Badger

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Irish Ogham: My Divination Method

For those who do not have Ogham staves but want a reading using the Ogham, I devised the stick method. The querent can either use sticks that they find lying on the ground or form the letters as the sticks lie or use a fallen tree branch as it lies. I field tested this method on my walks around my urban neighborhood.

The querent asks a question, looks for the third fallen tree branch (since the Irish prefer doing things in threes). Using the main (thickest) limb as an axis, the querent notes how the branch lies on the ground – whether the twigs are on the left, right, sticking up, or poking into the ground. This will determine whether the letters will be read left or right for the first and second aicmes respectively. Smaller branches sticking up or down from the main one will be read as either the third or fourth aicmes. A curved branch will represent the third aicme comprised of diagonal letters, while a straight branch will represent the fourth aicme comprised of horizontal letters. The fifth aicme would be constructed from any overlapping sticks under or on top of the branch found lying on the ground.

I asked the question, “How do I learn the Tree Ogham?” Reading a cherry branch that I found, I saw three distinct letters. (The querent uses three letters for the reading.) I interpreted the long lower limb on the left as “Beith (Birch)” (the first aicme, first few). I interpreted the next limb (on the right) with its two twigs going downwards as “Dair (Oak)” (the second aicme, second few). Finally, I interpreted the main branch with four branches curving upwards as “Straif (Blackthorn)” (third aicme, fifth few). In order, these letters read “Beith: new beginnings,” “Dair: wisdom and strength,” and “Straif: trouble and negativity.” I interpreted the reading to be “new beginnings of wisdom and strength comes from trouble and negativity.” When I had asked the question, I had trouble visually understanding each letter, and confused the individual letters in each aicme.