CRAIG CONLEY (Prof. Oddfellow) is recognized by Encarta as “America’s most creative and diligent scholar of letters, words and punctuation.” He has been called a “language fanatic” by Page Six gossip columnist Cindy Adams, a “cult hero” by Publisher’s Weekly, a “monk for the modern age” by George Parker, and “a true Renaissance man of the modern era, diving headfirst into comprehensive, open-minded study of realms obscured or merely obscure” by Clint Marsh. An eccentric scholar, Conley’s ideas are often decades ahead of their time. He invented the concept of the “virtual pet” in 1980, fifteen years before the debut of the popular “Tamagotchi” in Japan. His virtual pet, actually a rare flower, still thrives and has reached an incomprehensible size. Conley’s website is
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January 16, 2009

The Right Word (permalink)
Our dictionary of Magic Words has garnered five new reviews:

Magic Words is more than a dictionary - it is an impassioned call to writers, magicians and laypeople to bring magic back into their vocabulary. It is, in fact, an incantation calling forth the demons hidden within our speech, and no reader will finish this book without succumbing to its spell.

Let there be no doubt about it: Conley is on a mission to promote literacy, and his love of words possesses the cabbalistic reverence of an alchemist in pursuit of gold. For it is in the meaning of each word, of each letter of each word, that we discover the mysterious powers of language - or, as the author puts it, it is the inherent enchantment of the word that gives literature its magical influence. And this book will influence you in a most magical way.

—Anthony Marais, author of The Cure


Words are inherently magical for the writer—also frustrating, obtuse, enchanting and expressive in various moments and times. We struggle with them, delight in them, and weave them together to form significant combinations.  Dictionaries are our friends, lists of synonyms our best buddies, and there are many of us who take simple delight in the well-turned phrase.  Craig Conley has given us a gift beyond regard: a dictionary of 720 of the words used by (stage) magicians throughout the ages.  Who can forget the shiver of delight we felt when hearing "open sesame" in the tale of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves?  Or the eternal Abracadabra! and Hocus Pocus?  Now we know where they originated, with their meanings, in combinations, and source material.  But this is no common dictionary!  Conley clearly loves words.  "Hocus Pocus: These primal, rhyming syllables echo the transcendental incantations of Latin rites, reverberating through hallowed cloisters.  They invoke an ancient, unworldly power, especially when enunciated slowly and authoritatively." (p. 327)  Highly recommended for anyone with a taste for words.

—Lisa Mc Sherry, Facing North


This 352 page dictionary of magic words was a real hoot to review, I had a blast just thumbing through the pages and learning about myths, origins, trivia and other cool stuff. I even learned how to summon zombies and bring big changes into my life. I also found the illustrations and icons to be very helpful with the process.  I must tell you I knew of some magic words from books and movies, but I never imagined there were so many and even how they came to be in the first place. I think this voluminous teacher will go a long way in helping anyone broaden their horizons. I would recommend it to those who enjoy learning. Thanks Craig, for the interesting and informative experience.

—Riki Frahmann, Mystic Living Today


I just got "Magic Words: A Dictionary." What fun! Magic words taken from literature, plays, movies; all the way from Ovid to Shakespeare to Ronald Hutton to J.K. Rowling!

Each word is presented as a word (with variations, if any) and then in a quote, and then meanings are given from many historical sources.

It would be interesting to sprinkle them in my conversation or journal writing or even for magic! Alakazam and abracadabra and hocus pocus, but also Hola Noa Massa, and Lit Flitt Latt Flight, and Shubismack. They are even just fun to say.

There is also an Appendix of "magic words" used by people in various professions - "action" for movies, "troubleshoot" for computer technicians.

Chela's review


Any interested in the words and philosophy of Wicca and magic will find Magic Words a fascinating dictionary packed with magic words and phrases from around the world. Over seven hundred essay-style entries probe the origins of magical words, their history, and their variations. Sources range from ancient Medieval alchemists to modern necromancers and magical legends, making for a fine trivia and study reference.

—Diane C. Donovan, California Bookwatch
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