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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A Turkish Delight of musings on languages, deflations of metaphysics, vauntings of arcana, and great visual humor.

Found 15 posts tagged ‘magic words’

May 7, 2021 (permalink)

It's rare to see a self-opening yearbook, but sure enough, this one was equipped to do so.  There's a remarkable explanation of "open sesame" in Magic Words: A Dictionary.
From the State Teacher's College of Virginia's 1927 yearbook.
> read more from Yearbook Weirdness . . .
#vintage illustration #vintage yearbook #magic words #arabian nights #open sesame
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September 2, 2019 (permalink)

This is the most interesting college seal we've encountered, for its inclusion of the sprite Willie who is conjured with the mahic words "Brillig Spillig Jiminillig."  From Wesleyan College's 1953 yearbook.

*For some unbelievably weird yearbook imagery, see our How to Hoodoo Hack a Yearbook.

> read more from Yearbook Weirdness . . .
#vintage illustration #vintage yearbook #magic words #sprite #college seal
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January 22, 2019 (permalink)

"As soon as she saw the smoke rise she repeated some strange words."  From The Arabian Nights Entertainments, 1899.  See Magic Words: A Dictionary.
[Inexplicable images from generations ago invite us to restore the lost sense of immediacy.  We follow the founder of the Theater of Spontaneity, Jacob Moreno, who proposed stringing together "now and then flashes" to unfetter illusion and let imagination run free.  The images we have collected for this series came at a tremendous price, which we explained previously.]
> read more from Restoring the Lost Sense . . .
#vintage illustration #magic words #arabian nights
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July 5, 2018 (permalink)

From Celtic Fairy Tales, selected by Joseph Jacobs and illustrated by John D. Batten, 1892.
> read more from The Right Word . . .
#vintage illustration #fairy tale #celtic #magic words
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April 2, 2018 (permalink)

Say this three times and you will see what you will see.  From Celtic Fairy Tales, selected by Joseph Jacobs and illustrated by John D. Batten, 1892.
> read more from The Right Word . . .
#celtic #magic words
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July 6, 2017 (permalink)

We're honored that Prof. Larry Hass (author of Transformations), speaking over at McBride Magic TV, said that our work "really changes you as you read it."  Dr. Hass was introducing our video clip on how to find your own magic word, even if you're a skeptic.

> read more from Go Out in a Blaze of Glory . . .
#magician #magic words #larry hass
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December 4, 2016 (permalink)

Thanks to Brenda ConnelRoss for a 5-star review of our Magic Words: A Dictionary:
I absolutely LOVE this book. It's great if you're interested in magic, but it's really for people who love the sound of WORDS. The evening I received it, I sat on the porch swing to look through it. A half hour later, I discovered that I had been sitting for 30 minutes reading and laughing out loud. There are words and phrases from Ancient Greece to spells from the tv show Bewitched! (The yaga zoozie spell was my all-time favorite; it's in the book.) I keep it in my fifth grade class, and use magic phrases as a signal to get to work! I need another copy for home. I also ADORE the literary references. This is a brilliant book for magicians and logophiles!
> read more from Go Out in a Blaze of Glory . . .
#magic words #logophile
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May 19, 2016 (permalink)

Back in 2007, we were asked to collect and define ten magic words for Cabinet magazine's issue on magic.  If you missed that issue, you can see the words here:

> read more from The Right Word . . .
#magic words #cabinet magazine
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January 14, 2016 (permalink)

We're honored to be quoted on the magic of words in Marilyn Jenett's Feel Free to Prosper (Penguin, 2015).  The featured quotation is from our Magic Words: A Dictionary (Weiser Books, 2008).
> read more from The Right Word . . .
#magic words #marilyn jenett #prosperity #feel free to prosper
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December 4, 2015 (permalink)

"The Road to Fairyland" by Ernest Thompson Seton, in St. Nicholas magazine, 1903.

* The most profound secrets lie not wholly in knowledge, said the poet.  They lurk invisible in that vitalizing spark, intangible, yet as evident as the lightning—the seeker's soul.  Solitary digging for facts can reward one with great discoveries, but true secrets are not discovered—they are shared, passed on in confidence from one to another.  The genuine seeker listens attentively.  No secret can be transcribed, save in code, lest it—by definition—cease to be.  This Book of Whispers collects and encodes more than one hundred of humankind's most cherished secrets.  To be privy to the topics alone is a supreme achievement, as each contains and nurtures the seed of its hidden truth.  As possessor and thereby guardian of this knowledge, may you summon the courage to honor its secrets and to bequeath it to one worthy.
> read more from Book of Whispers . . .
#otherworld #full moon #fairyland #magic words #yellow moon #enchantment
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June 8, 2015 (permalink)

5x5 magic word squares are incredibly rare, with the Pompeiian Sator / Arepo / Tenet / Opera / Rotas being the best known by far.  (Futility Closet featured the Revel / Evere / Veoev / Ereve / Lever grid, which reads as a palindromic sentence though not as a magic square.)  But there are three other 5x5 word squares explained in The Young Wizard's Hexopedia, including this one: Balam / Avada / Labal / Adava / Malab.  Balam is a name for supernatural intuition, derived from the diviner called Balaam in the Torah.  Avada is an Estonian word that means "open."  Labal is the occult name for the revealer of all the mysteries of the Earth (described in The Lesser Key of Solomon).  Adava is a Marathi word for a winding road.  And Malab is a Somali word for honey, which is a code for "alchemical gold," which itself is a code for immortality.  Woven together into a grid, these words form a charm that conjures magic insight so as to reveal the mysterious pathway toward everlasting light.

> read more from The Right Word . . .
#magick #magic spell #occult #magic words #word square #word grid
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April 10, 2015 (permalink)

The story of how The Young Wizard's Hexopedia came to be is just about as unlikely as the book itself.  One November morning, a stranger wrote from out of the blue, asking for assistance with an extraordinary book of magic.  The stranger turned out to be the CEO of a publishing house specializing in the world's quirkiest subject matter, in search of a grimoire that didn't technically exist.  His own research had somehow determined that I was the one with the know-how to bring this lost book back from the depths.  It seems that he had seen a window display of an esoteric bookshop and had noticed that the lost book in question wasn't there.  The problem was that no surviving copies of the book are known to exist.  My task was to rediscover and recreate the entire document from quotations and implications in magical literature.  The stranger provided me with some crucial scraps, trusting that the whole work might be holographically contained within the parts.  Knowing the title and a rough idea of the table of contents, I set to work hunting through cryptic volumes in private libraries of magic (whose locations I'm not at liberty to reveal, though I can say that I visited Hollywood's Magic Castle).  Suffice it to say, I left no philosopher's stone unturned.  The process was very much like putting together a jigsaw puzzle in a dark room, with only a flickering candle for illumination.  To my own surprise, the lost book began taking shape almost immediately.  Restoring fragments into sentences and arranging them into paragraphs proved less challenging than one might suppose.  For example, you can surely divine what the last word of this sentence will [...].  Whenever a passage seemed to have something almost tangibly missing, like the absence of a vital book in an esoteric shop window, I knew to keep digging.  The moment it was clear that the entire Hexopedia was restored, I verified the accuracy of my work with three highly gifted wizards of words: a playwright in New Hampshire, a poet in Pennsylvania, and a teacher of magical arts in Nevada.  Then I sent the restoration to the stranger, who flabbergasted me by suggesting that the book should not come back into print at all but rather remain hidden in shadowy slumber until a more enlightened era.  (Apparently the trickster merely desired a copy for his personal use!)  Having worked so intimately with the text for so long, I felt convinced that the world was ready once again for the Hexopedia ... that it shouldn't rest only in the private library of one megalomaniacal* publisher.  And the rest, as the former, is history.  Here's a random page from The Young Wizard's Hexopedia.

*Note that "megalomaniacal" is an anagram of "ole magi almanac," so it all seems to be part of some mysterious tapestry, eh?

> read more from The Right Word . . .
#magick #wizardry #grimoire #magic words #mystic diagram #magic diagram
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June 9, 2013 (permalink)

There has always been a fine line between stage magic and occultism.  Here's a poorly-rehearsed stage magician who mangles his magic words and conjures up a demon, from Punch, 1908.  The caption reads, "An unrehearsed effect."
> read more from A Fine Line Between... . . .
#demon #magick #conjuration #occult #magician #vintage #magic #magic words
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January 3, 2011 (permalink)

Abracadabra (the red line) rises in popularity in the 1920s.
From our Magic Words outpost:

Our intriguing magician friend Chris Philpott posed an interesting question about the preponderance of the two most popular magic words:

So since you're The Man on magic words (and you are, whether you like it or not) I have a question for you.  My most recent blog was about trying to find various magical applications for Google's Ngram viewer -- as you may know, this is Google's database of all the millions of books they've digitized -- you can enter a word or phrase and see its relative popularity over hundreds of years.  I was putting in various magic-related words (like magicians' names and various magic tricks) when I decided to compare the relative popularity of two well-known magic words, Abracadabra and Hocus Pocus.  I discovered the word Abracadabra had a huge surge in popularity in the 1920s (comparable to the word Wizard in the 1990s) -- I suspect there's a reason for the surge (probably as clear as J. K. Rowling's influence on the word Wizard), but I can't think what it would be.  Any thoughts?

Chris, there are actually two very different answers to your question about abracadabra's surge in the 1920s.

Here's our first answer:  What we see when presented with a chart comparing word density over time from the Google Books scanspace is both something and nothing at all.  It's certainly something because we can perceive it, i.e. the charts dazzle us with their jagged edges and numerous nodes, suggesting the compilation of many data.  However, the trends that they argue are circular, based as they are only upon the tiny subset of books which Google has scanned from the periods under consideration.  If we had it on reliable word that Google had scanned, say, 95% of all extant publications, we should still consider word density measurements statistically insignificant considering that the missing 5% might contain 95% of the contemporary appearances of "abracadabra" in print.  Moreover, Google cannot estimate the readership of its catalog, which would be necessary to make any evaluative claims about the familiarity of a word or phrase in common culture or parlance, which is really what the word density charts are attempting to demonstrate.  Words used by authors in printed publications which survived until 2010 are not, by themselves, particularly significant.  The field of statistics is famous for its bold sleights of hand.  Most any contention can be illustrated by a sufficiently culled data set and evaluative methodology.  Google's scanned word data are of course too fun not to keep playing with, but we must always bear in mind their inherent balderdash.

Here's our second answer:  The rise of "abracadabra" in 1920s is the exhalation of a meme's biorhythm.  Decades later, the "wizard" meme began its exhalation, and J.K. Rowling rode the wave.  We can't even say that Rowling buoyed the wave -- she is merely part and parcel of a grand expansion cycle.

Chris responds:

I'm not sure I'm 100% with you on J.K. Rowling -- certainly she rode some kind of wave but I think her talent was a wave generator of its own.  I suspect if she had called Harry a "mage", then instead of showing The Wizards of Waverly Place, The Disney Channel would now be showing The Mages of Mulberry Lane.  Writers are notorious copycats (though the demands of the marketplace tend to accentuate this weakness).

Indeed, Chris, one definition of "meme" is an expression that can be copycatted.  (The Greek root is mimema:  that which can be mimicked or imitated).  Without discounting Rowling's achievements, let's remember that she didn't coin the word "wizard"; it was already a charming Briticism for "excellent."  Just as the common cold spreads one handshake at a time (Richard Dawkins has unsavorily called memes "viruses of the mind"), human culture spawns.  Rowling, bless her heart, is simply one node of the complex informational network that enables the "wizard" meme to spread and thrive.
> read more from The Right Word . . .
#magic words #j. k. rowling
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July 30, 2008 (permalink)

From our outpost at Blogspot:

[Is poetry holographic?  Like a hologram, can a surviving fragment of an ancient poem unfold the original meaning in its entirety?  We like to think so.]

Here's Sappho's take on magic words:
Although they are
Only breath, words
which I command
are immortal
(translated by Mary Barnard)
> read more from The Right Word . . .
#magic words #sappho
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