Magic as a Folk Art???

Discuss the historical aspects of magic, including memories, or favorite stories.

Postby Tabman » 11/08/03 10:36 AM

during my ten year hiatus from the magic world ive managed to get reinvolved in folk music and folklore (i set out to be a folklorist in the 60s) and have over the past few years managed to become president of nashville folk festival . with that said as brief background i am interested in getting some magic going at the annual festival so how its related to folklore especially appalacian folklore would be important. i dont know if anyone can offer any suggestions or comments but i would welcome them. thanks,
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Postby Robert Allen » 11/08/03 11:49 AM

Hmm. Interesting. My limited knowledge of folklore comes from reading the Foxfire books. Now that you mention magic, that's the one thing I never saw mentioned in the books. Numerous crafts from carved canes to gourd art to handmade flintlock rifles are covered, but I've not seen any mention of magic performances or travelling shows. I would hazard a guess that 'in those days' magic was less popular than grifting/swindles. Perhaps an old time swindling/medicine show would be appropos, if trite. Some prop magic could be added, particularly if it was custom made to reflect the venue of performance. An example of this is here: http://mywebpages.comcast.net/crosewl/. Please note that I have no affiliation with that site/vendor, I just found them on the web (haven't ordered from them yet).

Keep in mind that my idea of folklore is almost exclusively Appalachian due to me getting it from the Foxfire books. In my younger years in Oregon, and in stories from my grandparents in California, the impression I'm left with is that there was little money to pay for entertainment, so the money would have had to have been dragged out of people by appealing to their baser instincts, or to their belief in the afterlife.
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Postby Tabman » 11/08/03 03:16 PM

robert thanks for chiming in. i hadnt thought of the foxfire books. thats a good point. i think in the normal context that a "folk art" is considered to be such (also including craft) by the passing of knowledge or skills from one generation to the next. for example i learned wood craft from my father and grandfather who learned from their fathers and grandfathers but it wouldnt necessarily have to come from my fathers but from older generation. its called the folk process. i learned the paddle trick from my uncle about 50 years ago using a crude homemade paddle that he made me. an example of the folk process. how was the shell game taught and passed along??? folk process. folk mentoring??? :)
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Postby Robert Allen » 11/08/03 04:23 PM

I see. But perhaps "folk art" isn't the term you're looking for? I looked it up on the web FWIW and found this defintion:

Traditional representations, usually bound by conventions in both form and content, of a folkloric character and usually made by persons without institutionalized training.
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Postby Tabman » 11/08/03 06:37 PM

magic isn't just stage craft and a lot of what we consider closeup magic today came off the gambling tables and moved west with the frontiersmen and other american pioneers. maybe if i look back at frontier gambling (central tennessee was the western frontier in 1820s) i might spot a magician or two or maybe they hung em all. :) thanks for your help.
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