An Evening of Wonders

On the evening of Saturday 3rd September 2016, the staff of Shoprite supermarket, Ramsey, Isle of Man, met for their summer staff party in the Buffs Club.  I also attended; I used to work with them before transferring to another location.  I hope everyone who attended had a great, entertaining night.  For me, it was particularly special, as I was the entertainment.

This was my first show as a semi-professional magician / mystery entertainer.  And it was a real baptism of fire.  Anyone who stands up to perform in front of others will testify that it is considerably more difficult when those people are well known to you than when they are complete strangers.  It’s very difficult to slip into your stage persona when they know you as someone completely different.

The evening went very well.  Not perfectly, but very well.  I’d been afraid there might be a failure or two, but there were no outright flops and most things worked perfectly.

My presentation is a story telling routine enhanced by props and effects, rather than a stream of banal ‘tricks’, and these stories tend to revolve around matters macabre and sinister.

For the first half of the show, I had gathered together a few of my simpler routines, all themed around witches and occultists of the past and the fates they had met.  The tales started in the Fourteenth Century, moving gradually forward to more modern times, as the shade of Aleister Crowley was called upon to deliver us a message from the spirit world.

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All items packed, ready to depart for the venue…

All of these early stories and effects went smoothly and without a hitch, eliciting a pleasing number of exclamations.  The routine I was most uncertain about, a mild waking trance induction to make someone ‘see’ a spirit on cue, worked perfectly well, in spite of the ever increasing alcohol that was flowing.  I did have a ‘get out’ story in place in case this less predictable routine failed, but it wasn’t necessary.

In the second half, I moved on to talk about curses, presenting a couple of yarns around those themes.  It was here that my inexperience showed.  For these kinds of routines to work, I need to choose the ‘volunteer’ very carefully, someone who will really respond and ‘go with the flow’ of the story, getting into it.  By now, the drink was freely flowing, so the choice was even more critical.  This led to a couple of routines not failing, but falling a little flatter than I would have hoped.  They worked and the reaction was one of “Ah, okay then” instead of awe.  This is my own fault, I should have chosen more critically instead of according to my pre-selected plan.  A lesson to learn for those occasions when the alcohol is strongly in evidence:  choose the ‘assistant’ who is transfixed by the show, not the ‘good sport’ or ‘the one from the table that hasn’t had a turn yet’.

Not that this minor lull in momentum was disastrous, people were still interested and watching, and I’d saved my favourites for last.  I love haunted books, and I used an old diary in a demonstration of psychic ability, telling a reader the images that went through her mind as she read randomly chosen entries in the diary.

The closing effect was my favourite among those I currently have in my arsenal, as two volunteers placed playing cards between random pages in a cursed copy of Dennis Wheatley’s The Satanist.  As the lights were turned out and a black candle was lit, the cards eerily rose up from between the pages of the book, displaying Infernal scorch marks upon their surfaces.

It was a good night, and I was heartened that everyone seemed to really enjoy it.  It certainly gave me the taste to do more, and soon.  I’ll be hosting another show in November, though I’ll be available too if anyone wishes to book me before then.

The next show will be quite different, of course.  Less than half of my routines were used in this first show, and I’ll be mixing them about from one show to the next, depending upon which themes I want to play with.  There are a couple of favourites that will appear regularly, but many effects will come and go, swapping in and out of the setlist as the stories I wish to tell dictate.  There are also no less than three further new routines on their way to me at the moment.

What’s more, as any real magician should, my own creative juices have been stimulated and I am starting to develop my own stories, props and effects based upon the Norse and Celtic lore of the Isle of Man.  I’m currently gathering together the props to create a runic necromancy effect I’ve devised.  Watch out for ‘DRAUGR’ at a future date!

Anyone wishing to book for a function or private event, please contact via email at manxbull@yahoo.com or message me on Facebook.

 

A New Approach to Ogham Reading

I am passionately interested in the Celtic ogham characters and their use in divination, and have written three books on the subject:  The Book of OghamThe Ogham Roads, and the booklet How to Read Ogham, which was written under the pen name Orry Whitehand.  (All three titles are available from Amazon.)

The ogham fews have always proved to be a very clear and illuminating way of giving full and insightful readings.  The general way of using them is for the client to draw slivers of wood marked with oghams from a bag, which are then arranged according to a pattern (generally based upon the fivefold Celtic cosmological structure) in order to be read and interpreted.

It is whilst wearing my ‘mystery entertainer’ hat that I have begun to devise a new way for the oghams to be selected, one which gives the client a much greater sense of immersion and which draws upon their own subconscious impression of the meanings of shapes and sounds.  If your client’s own subconscious can offer up its contents to you for reading, how much more pertinent than simply drawings sticks from a bag?  It also makes the client feel much more personally invested in the reading, and they go away feeling that they have had a genuinely magical experience.

The technique is simple.  The client is relaxed and placed in a light, waking trance, still perfectly aware of their surroundings, but their minds turned inward and open to the promptings of their own subconscious.

Ask the client to close their eyes, then begin to guide them on a mental journey, describing the things they see and hear as they enter more deeply into the trance state.  The landscape should be suitably Celtic, such as a deep forest, or a coastline, or highlands.  Select the type of landscape which you feel best suits the tenor of their question.  Be sure to emphasise the non-visual impressions of the place which will help them to enter deeper trance too.  For example, if a coastal region, describe the texture of the rocks, the surging motion of the sea, the feel of the wind and the spray on their face, the sounds of gulls, the scent and taste of salt in the air … you get the picture.

When they feel centred and ‘present’ in the place, guide them to a specific meeting place, such as a cave by the shore, a hut in the hills, or a grove in the forest.  Here they meet a figure who embodies their subconscious understanding of their situation, those insights into their question which they know deep down but have not consciously realised or accepted.  Obviously, don’t describe the figure to them in these terms:  it may be a wise man or woman, a druid, a hermit, or it may be a fairy creature, perhaps a tall, regal, shining woman or a small, gnarled, gnome-like figure.  Perhaps allow them to perceive the figure for themselves and describe it to you instead of the other way around, if you feel they are sufficiently immersed by this point?

Once they have found the figure, describe how it will begin to offer them symbols which may be read and interpreted as an answer to their question.  These symbols will be ogham fews.

fig 1-1

The beauty of ogham in a situation such as this is that each symbol is a simple combination of two factors:  (a) whether the notches are to the right, to the left, diagonal or straight across; (b) how many notches there are, between 1 and 5.  For example, from the diagram above, the ‘T’ ogham is three notches to the left of the stem-line.  This makes them very easy to visualise even if you have only seen them for a few seconds before.  The client would be shown very briefly a chart similar to the above before entering their trance, and would now be asked to accept one ogham at a time from their guide, describing its number of notches and their position, till all places on the reading layout were filled.  Note that they do not have to remember the letter values of the symbols, indeed it is better if they don’t and are simply reacting to subconscious prompts.

Note that it is also possible – and may in some instances be preferable – for the client to hear the guide speak to them, uttering one sound for each ogham to be drawn, instead of a visual symbol.  This would then be allocated the appropriate few from the chart and noted for the reading (if more complex sounds were made, the initial letter is taken).

When all of the places in the layout have been filled, the client is led back to the place they began and gently brought out of trance, opening their eyes once more in the waking world.  But the reading layout is now full and may be read and interpreted by the reader as normal.  The difference is that the client feels much more a ‘part’ of the reading, more immersed in it, having journeyed to discover the fews personally, and the subconscious has also been much more deeply engaged, leading to the likelihood of more profound insights.