Magic for the primitives

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Postby Guest » 04/14/04 05:56 PM

In early May, I'm traveling to Vanuatu (formerly the New Hebrides) in the South Pacific. While there, I will be meeting people from some of the most primitive tribes in the world.

I'll be doing magic for them.

What kind of magic would you do?

Many of these tribes are cargo cults--that is, primitive peoples who were deluged with useful and wonderful Western cargo in WWII, and whose holy men prophesy that at the millennium, white men will return with boatloads of cargo again. They worship Western cargo. The Melanesian cultures in these areas are filled with beliefs in superstition and magic.

In the 19th century, they used to be cannibals, and ate missionaries only hours after their landing.

It promises to be a fascinating trip, and I will be reporting on it.
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Postby Guest » 04/15/04 09:28 AM

They'd probably get a kick out of Cannibal Cards. :eek:
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Postby Carl Mercurio » 04/15/04 11:27 AM

Read the Paul Harris short story in the front of one of the Art of Astonishment volume.
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Postby Guest » 04/15/04 12:16 PM

Cargo worshippers? "Nest of Boxes" will absolutely kill over there.
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Postby Guest » 04/15/04 08:31 PM

Sounds like "Heart of Darkness".
Years from now, they'll be sending another magician to find you.
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Postby Adam Brooks » 04/15/04 08:56 PM

Read the Paul Harris short story in the front of one of the Art of Astonishment volume.
I second this. Also, please don't make the same mistake Blaine made. Recall: on one of this specials, he visited some primitive African (?) tribe and tried to get a reaction to his "magic", using cards and coins! What was he thinking??

Take a cue from the aforementioned story. Use the stuff you have around you once you arrive; improvise. You'll be happier for it.
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Postby Grant McSorley » 04/15/04 10:02 PM

David Abram is an amateur magician and a philosopher who has written extensively about the role of magic and shamanism in primitive tribes, specifically how it relates to their view of the rest of the natural world. However, his writing is aimed at the general public and is really worth checking out if you have any interest on where our art ultimately came from. Also, concerning how powerful their belief systems are, it might not be a bad idea to know abit about how the magic you perform might affect them. You can see a sample of his writing here or you can check out his book The Spell of the Sensuous. There's also a short biography of him here

Regards,
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Postby Guest » 04/16/04 02:33 AM

Grant, it sounds like David Abram is exactly the kind of writer I should be reading first. I will run not walk to the nearest link.

Yes, I'll stay away from cards. These natives, however, are advanced enough to understand coins and bills, although perhaps not serial numbers.

Other thoughts that I have include:

*stones used as coins
*Silk to Egg
*something inside lemon
*loops
*silverware bending
*rock from shoe
*arm twisto
*Sylvester pitch, Tenkai pennies

And I will stay away from cards and anything involving sophisticated language manipulation.
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Postby Steve V » 04/16/04 08:12 AM

If they are so primitive then why would they give a baboons butt about the 'millinium'?
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Postby Matthew Field » 04/16/04 08:36 AM

How about a twelve-phase Oil and Water?

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Postby Jon Racherbaumer » 04/16/04 01:18 PM

Using real oil and water, no doubt?

Seriously, I once performed 25 phases for a paranoid schizoid in a locked ward....(don't ask!)...and afterwards he laughed for about thirty seconds and muttered something about Cheney and Bush...

Onward...
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Postby Bob Farmer » 04/16/04 03:58 PM

Jon, I was not muttering!
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Postby Johnny Mystic » 04/16/04 05:43 PM

When I first read the title to this thread I was under the impression somebody may have performed at some of the bars I've performed in...come ta think of it the primative tribes may be an easier crowd...

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Postby Guest » 04/16/04 05:59 PM

Just be careful not to interact with their belief system on too intimate a level. I suppose with enough research you could pull it off, but I doubt you want to go there. Oh and hi everyone, I'm Jakob.
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Postby Guest » 04/17/04 09:21 AM

While on a cruise ship to Mexico recently, I stopped in port and happened to perform Torn 'n' Restored Transpo for a couple of pretty Mexican girls.

They thought I was a warlock. They didn't do much, but I can only imagine what they were thinking. (Or saying, given the level of my Spanish....)
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Postby Steve V » 04/17/04 11:07 AM

I've done magic in the Amazon area and in West Africa for folks some would call primative because of how they live and I found that they were able to figure out that one is doing a trick. This is indicated because they laughed when expected. Sure, some took off because they were scared but that happens right here in the ol' USA with the overly religious. Folks are folks, treat 'em with respect and don't assume because they may live in a hut they made that morning that they are not bright.
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Postby Guest » 04/17/04 11:15 AM

I don't have much experience in this particular performing arena, but I used to watch an ongoing documentary every saturday morning about primitive people. I remember them being a very hard working, fun-loving group, so I think they'll really appreciate the magic. I'm a big proponent of using whatever items are at hand to perform impromptu, or impromptu seeming magic.
With that in mind, I would suggest perhaps some type of dove routine using the bird whose beak they play records with. Or you could vanish their baby-elephant vacuum cleaner using something like this...

http://www.magictricks.com/animal/daggervan.htm
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Postby Glenn Farrington » 04/17/04 05:40 PM

David,

Even though I think the authority on this topic would be JB Ben, I will give you my thoughts/advice the pre-cautions you should take and the type of magic I would recommend to do.

While touring through Africa I spent some time with the Maasai in Kenya. Although the chief of the tribe I spent the most time with was well traveled and educated abroad (I asked him why he was living back here in a hut made out of elephant dung, he told me he has three wives...good answer), the rest of the tribe had NEVER seen magic performed before.

Sure it sounds great that there are rocks you can do sleights with, or leaves etc. But, why? We have magic shops that let us do something very magical. You can always make a rock disappear later on one on one with someone, but if you have a group make it more memorable.

Also, forget cards, anything with cards. ONLY stick with HIGH VISIBLE effects. This is the time when you can just do magic and not care what other magicians think. Sponge balls to hand, a multicolored (important not to be just one color) thumb tip streamer and of course a tt. As many mouth coils as you can pack (pull them from their clothes, your mouth, paper, leaves etc.)

Biggest reactions were sponge balls to mouth and then pull out a mouth coil at the end. I also brought along a wood chop cup and balls and used local fruit as final loads. None of these tricks require patter, pack small and play so big you come off godlike. If you do coin work I recommend a misers dream as well, but instead of using one assistant work the crowd to pull out the coins.

Precautions. Watch out when it comes to flash paper. Some tribal customs might consider that taboo and demon like. Magic usually is taboo in general. I "had" to show the elders afterwards, who although enjoyed watching became concerned afterwards, that what I was doing was all natural and used concealment in my hands. I demonstrated this with a rock. So I exposed (yep...I did, I like breathing) a french drop, but then I suckered them with what looked like the same move and it disappeared from both hands, but now at least they got that it was skill...again...I like breathing.

Another important note, and this might just have been because of the Maasai men being warriors, but play to the kids and women, not the men. The men will come and watch and have just as much fun, but you'll see them catching themselves acting like kids and sober up suddenly.

If you are going to wear a vest ( usually called a photo journalist vest or a safari vest) it's great for not only storing all your magic, the inside of these vests usually have large pockets that close with velcro. I added a small piece of velcro to the outside of the pocket and to my shirt. Now these large inside pockets become topits. I was the Bob Fitch of Kenya, everything in my hands vanished. It was just an easy matter of pulling the open topit off the shirt and sticking it back onto the vest. Nice and clean.

David, you are going to be in for a memory of a lifetime. The photos and video of performing for the Maasai tribes are the most valued items in the world to me.
Comedy's Easy...Dying Sucks.
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Postby Guest » 04/18/04 05:14 AM

Hi i just want to congradulate you on this bold adventure but i think that sinse they are primitive ropes can be exchanged for vines.so strings and ropes/cups and balls,i think would interest them most.i also think blaine did an excellent job with the water from the leaf.what can i say i think david blaine is an exceptional artist and i disagree saying cards and coins wher a bad idea.they didnt know what it was and maybe it was bad but he tried it.isnt that what street magic is about the approach.finding what interest a spectator has.and if he didnt do that then others would have used them.so in a sense we all learned from his mistake.
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Postby Alain Roy » 04/18/04 07:39 PM

I haven't a clue what I would perform--I know nothing about Vanuatu. I would probably spend my time studying the culture of Vanuatu, so that I would have a better understanding of what might be appreciated, what would be taboo, and what might be appropriate.

I would also bring some 10-year aged Wisconsin cheddar cheese, so I could share some of my culture.

-alain
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Postby Nicholas Carifo » 04/18/04 11:45 PM

Why do I get the feeling this thread is going to end with a post about David Groves being burned at the stake and eaten in some remote jungle for being a witch..... :) That is if one the tribemen has a wireless internet connection and membership to the Genii Forum.

If that happens Dave, no worries, I'll make sure "Magic in the 'Burbs" continues in your memory..... :)

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Postby Guest » 04/19/04 03:09 AM

And David, don't get your expectations up too much, keep in mind that primitive people are usually bad tippers... ;)
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Postby Guest » 04/19/04 09:28 AM

Glenn and everybody, thanks for all the advice. I didn't think of many of the aspects you brought up. Mouth coils! Who would've thought? And esp. what Whit brought up, about the tipping. Darn, I was counting on that money!

I hear that Don MacQuoid, owner of the Waterfront Restaurant in Port Vila, Vanuatu, has been hiring magicians for years to appear at his restaurant to do table magic. Anybody out in cyberspace who has performed there?
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Postby Guest » 04/19/04 06:54 PM

Depending on the personal space rules of the native, McClintock's Stars and Hexes could go over big. Also, Harris' Leaf and Earth Shoes. If you don't have the Art of Astonishment series, pick it up and STUDY. I'm sure there are at least a few effects in addition to the ones I named that would be perfect for this situation (Peanut Butter and Jellyfish. Mwahaha....)
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Postby Guest » 04/20/04 01:19 PM

I've rethought my position. I say go for 'god' status. Produce smoke, flames, sparks, the chiefs name on your arm, levitate...when you leave and they don't have a statue made of mud in a temple in your image then you will have failed.
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Postby Guest » 04/23/04 08:35 AM

David, I looked up the on-line menu of the "Waterfront Restaurant" and noticed that one of the specials is "Magician du jour"

Could explain why they hire so many?

Cheers,
Dave
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Postby Guest » 04/23/04 09:30 AM

Originally posted by Dave Kirkland:
David, I looked up the on-line menu of the "Waterfront Restaurant" and noticed that one of the specials is "Magician du jour." Could explain why they hire so many?
They taste good with pork? :D

Seriously, in the last few days, I've discovered that the owner of the Waterfront Restaurant, Don MacQuoid, often hires magicians to entertain at his restaurant.

Don is a magic nut like all the rest of us, and he brings in a variety of magicians from Australia and NZealand to do walkaround AND to entertain some of the tribes. So I may have been beat to the punch, I don't know. (I think there are a lot of tribes left who haven't seen magic.)

I contacted him, and he will consent to an interview IF I buy him a set of "Altered States" cards and bring them, to the island. Apparently this David Regal trick is getting scarce, and he's getting desperate. I had to call three shops before I found a set.

If I don't bring him the "Altered States" cards, HE may put me in a pot, never mind the natives.... :D
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Postby Alain Roy » 04/24/04 06:16 AM

David,

When you return from your trip, will you tell us how it went?

-alain
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Postby Guest » 04/24/04 11:26 AM

Originally posted by Alain Roy:
When you return from your trip, will you tell us how it went?

-alain
Yes, Alain, I will actually be writing articles about it. I used to be a full-time journalist, and for this trip, I'll be writing at least three. At least two of them will be about my magical encounter with the primitives, as well as Don MacQuoid's. (One may be about how to use Vanuatu as a tax-free haven for a corporation.)
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Postby opie » 04/24/04 01:34 PM

For the true primitives, without being patronizing, I would do a Three Dinosaur Monte, complete with squeeker.

However, for modern third, fourth, fifth, etc.,-world people, I would treat them the same as I would the folks in a first-class restaurant in LA, and I would totally entertain them with the 3-D Sponge Bunnies....

opie (been there; done that)...
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Postby Guest » 05/29/04 04:22 PM

I'm back from performing magic for the primitive people of the South Pacific, and man, do I have a story to tell.

I will be writing it up, and hope that Richard will publish it.

Just a couple tidbits:

I visited a traditional Vanuatu village, with black Melanesian people in grass skirts and war paint on, engaged in a fertility dance with 300 of them devoted to increasing the yam crop (you could so feel their bare feet stomping the earth!), and then performed a show for those 300, doing sponge balls, Jumping Knot of Pakistan, and Ashes on the Palm with their own bright blue warpaint. Freaked them out, man!

They believe, man, they believe....

Did you know that if you boil a black cat alive, take one of their bones, and put it in your mouth, you can walk around invisible? That's what they believe. I'll try to publish the full workings in my next lecture notes <g>....

The native people of Vanuatu (formerly the New Hebrides) believe in the literal world popularly described in Harry Potter. In their cosmology, people can fly, transfigure into animals, put curses on people, kill them by chanting their name, you name it.

Three weeks ago, a man was put on trial on the island of Espiritu Santu for killing three people by placing curses on them. They are dead. He is in jail, awaiting trial. And here's the best part: He has confessed!

The judicial system considers such happenings as fact! I've found other court cases involving magic, as well.

I've got eyewitness accounts of real magic happening, even from Westerners, one of whom is educated, highly logical, and has a B.S. in electrical engineering. Not that I believe....I wouldn't want to upset Richard in that way....

It's a helluva story, and I've already started writing it up for the mainstream media. I'll probably publish three or four different versions of the article for the mainstream media (mainly newspapers), and then reserve the best stuff for the magic media, stuff that's too thoughtful, honest, and raw to publish in a newspaper travel section.
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Postby Steve V » 05/29/04 07:46 PM

It was a show!
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Postby Guest » 05/30/04 12:02 AM

David --

With your recent experiences -- and if you have the time -- might I ask you to check the thread under Buzz - Conroversial uses of Magic -- to see if you have any comments you care to add. Some of it -- in my comments mat be overly repititious of the same idea several different ways -- but I think your experience would add some valuable perspective to that thread.

It was great reading the little bit of what has got to be a profound discovery about magic in other cultures. Hope to see more soon,
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Postby Grant McSorley » 05/30/04 10:54 AM

Hi David,
How did they react to your magic? How did they treat you after your performance, compared to before?
Can't wait to read your article.

Grant
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Postby Steve V » 05/30/04 02:04 PM

C.H. has a point. David, did you oppress the residents of the region (I dislike the word 'primatives') with Gospel Magic? I heard that all American Magicians that go to countries like you did do that. I could be misinformed though.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 05/30/04 03:12 PM

That's wonderful you got to do some tricks for folks who have not even heard of western magic shops.

I'd like to know how they reacted and how things went.

Please hurry. For all we know, the place could be sprouting shopping malls and hotels.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 06/01/04 04:51 AM

* NOTE FROM DAVID GROVES*

David emailed this morning to say that his PC is down and he can't log into the genii BBS just now.

He will be back online soon and respond to your comments and questions.

My computer is down at the moment, and so I'm not able to respond to the questions on the thread. Can you relay that information to the thread? I can't access my password and don't want to start a new identity. I'm emailing you from my girlfriend's computer.
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Postby Guest » 06/02/04 02:10 PM

I'm back online, although I'm on my girlfriend's computer. (The moment I tried to turn my computer on in Vanuatu, my power supply went kaput. Couldn't get a replacement in Australia and NZ, because they have these funny plugs. Got back to the U.S., and find that power supplies are hard to replace. Gateway says it'll send me one by June 8. Aughhhh...)

No, Vanuatu is in no danger of being Marriotized in the near future. In fact, I was surprised how much of the world is in such an indigenous state, and how select our pragmatic approach to the supernatural is in this country.

I have just banged out a 5,000-word article on my magical adventure (20 pages double-spaced), and will be selling a couple different versions to different American publications, but I'll save the magic version for Genii or whoever wants to publish it. Lots of revelations about what magic is all about. Lots of ruminations about belief and disbelief. And many, many eyewitness accounts of real magic, whether you believe them or not.

I'll keep you posted re. where it's going to be published....
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