We sometimes come across the term, “Renaissance Man.” It is used to describe extremely talented and remarkable people. Abigail Spinner McBride is an extremely talented and remarkable Lady. Therefore, I have every reason to describe Abigail as a “Renaissance Lady.” She is a Spiritual, Esoteric, and Versatile Musician, Singer, Dancer, Percussionist, Writer, Priestess, Businesswoman, and a Magicenne. And for the three people reading this who may not have heard of her, she is also the wife of Jeff McBride. Graceful and beautiful both inside and visually, she not only excels at all of the above, but is also a true inspiration to all those who know and cherish her.
In the course of my “In Conversation” article on Jeff McBride, I got to discover some of the talents and skills of this remarkable Lady. In the interests of sharing, I thought it only right to bring you some of my discoveries with a focus on Magic.
AD: Thank you, Abigail, for taking the time to spend in conversation. You are known for several accomplishments, and it is, in some ways, a mite difficult to know where to start, as I first saw you some years ago Fire Dancing at a Vegas Halloween Party. I shall begin by asking you to talk a little bit about your dancing and more specifically your incorporation of Fire in your Dance.
AM: My pleasure Tony. Always a joy conversing with a kindred spirit. Fire. I think of fire as transformational. As with all things that are transformational, it is to be respected and honored and can, as we all know, be dangerous to those who do not fully understand its power. For me, it is a vital Spiritual element and the same thinking, of respect, knowledge and honor, applies to all elements in the physical world. Fire, as you know plays a vital role in all religious beliefs, some more than others, but in one sense or another it is present in many religious, spiritual, physical and psychological concepts. It can be the flame of a single candle of devotion, the eruption of a volcano or indeed the Sun itself and of course, all things in-between.
Poets, songwriters, philosophers, etc., have written of Fire. Often we describe our passion for something or someone as “our hearts being on fire, or ablaze,” … the light of a single candle to open the darkness, the sacred fire of many Spiritual Gatherings, etc. For me personally, the lighting of the Shabbat candles in our family home just before sunset on Friday evenings stirred something in me. The ritual, as you know began in the tent of Abraham and was performed by Sarah his first wife. Subsequently by Rebecca his second wife. This is more than a tradition in a Jewish household; it is a prayer ritual in which the flame plays a vital role. It is part of the blessings of peace, light & harmony. As a young girl, I was allowed to light a single candle. The significance of the mystical quality of the flame was written upon my soul, and as I grew, it drew me deeper into the esoteric nature of Fire.
AD: ..So, not surprisingly, Fire incorporated itself into your dance performances and your quest for the mystical…
AM: Yes Tony. You yourself have spent time attending Shabbat rituals, in Europe, America and also in Israel, and so perhaps have a deeper understanding & appreciation of the significance. And yes, I am very respectful of fire. I really feel that Fire, in all its forms, must be respected. Incorporating fire into some of my dance routines, my magic performances and other allied activities was not something I did overnight. I studied about how to incorporate fire within those activities. Without proper training and study anyone deciding to, if you pardon the cliché, “play with fire” will indeed suffer the consequences.
AD: I heard that you had an incident on stage one time, not necessarily your fault …
AM: Yes I did. In spite of my background and training, I have first-hand experience with this. In 1993, during a live performance, I made a bad mistake. I was supposed to pick up a pre-set flash pot and set it discreetly on the stage, so at the opportune moment, Jeff could step on the switch and set off an impressive flash of sparks and fire… ah, that black powder flash, nothing quite like it. Unfortunately, the flash pot had been pre-set backwards, and when I went to pick it up, I hit the trigger and sent the explosion off, right into the palm of my hand. The good news was that I was wearing a full head Kabuki mask, so the audience couldn’t see the expression of pain and shock on my face. The bad news was that I had to do a two minute fire-eating solo right after the end of the Kabuki number, as everyone else had a costume change then, so… the show went on, and I did my fire-eating segment, while trying very hard not to cry on-stage, not sure if I could move my hand enough to hold the torch, not really sure about anything except finishing the number and getting off-stage… where the wardrobe assistant was waiting with a bucket of ice water, and the paramedics were already on the way…. The show went on without me, and I went to the hospital and got treated for one of the worst burns the poor young doctor had ever seen. I remember the paramedic telling me he was pleasantly surprised by the fact that my hand was still attached to my arm, and that’s when everything gets hazy…. Through the power of silvadene burn cream, positive visualization, and actively seeking the lesson to be learned, I was able to heal completely, and you can’t even see the scars…. So, yes, I have a healthy respect for the element of fire.
AD: What a terrible experience. That has got to rank way up high on the list of performance mishaps. I am glad that was a long while ago and that you are completely healed. A side of Show-Biz that, thank goodness, the audience never gets to see or know about. You spoke to me earlier about Fire being transformational… care to expand…
AM: Happily. Fire and all the elements are part of the nature of all beings; or least, they should be. I know that like Jeff and many of my close friends, you yourself are passionate about the Esoteric. So you will understand when I refer to an “inner calling to service” that draws me to the elements. Fire, as I said before, is transformational. It is part of Alchemy. I attend and often help facilitate Sacred Fire Circles in the desert. Some of these are private; others are open to those who feel the call to attend. Our mutual friend Eugene Burger and many mutual Magician friends have attended those several times. I call it and them, a Family of Fire.
AD: Yes indeed. I know that location in the desert well and am honored to have performed ceremony there … so, apart from the obvious mystical & esoteric aspects of these ceremonies, there is also much to be learnt and applied to Magical performances
AM: In a word, Yes. As we teach at The Mystery School – Magic can be funny, dramatic, etc., but is always about Entertainment. As our Dean, Eugene Burger states, “What do you want your Magic to be?” Whatever answer a Magician or Magicenne gives, it must always entertain. To do that well, all Magic performances must contain an element of, at the very least, mystery and at best, be Mystical to some degree.
AD: Absolutely Abbi. I couldn’t agree more! A classic example would be Eugene performing what is generally known as “The Gypsy Thread.” It embodies all of those aspects that you referred to. The script, the candle flame, his voice, the drama… all of it embodies the Entertainment, the Mystery and the Mystical. I never tire of watching him perform that. Others have performed The Gypsy Thread but Eugene’s perfectly encapsulates all of your words. I wish everyone gets to see it LIVE sometime. Not sure but I think there is a YouTube video. And speaking of videos, a few months ago you took an effect with silks called BEKOS (Best Ever Knots Off Silk), and turned it into exactly what I was conveying via my remarks about Eugene…
AM: Yes Tony I did. I have been studying belly dance for more than ten years. I frequently work with veils and silks. It was natural that I incorporate some dance and magic with silks into my Magic performances. It is called BEKOS and I have performed it at The Magic Castle, The WonderGround and other equally prestigious places. It is always well-received and several people had asked me if I would share. At first, I hesitated but after a conversation with Jeff, we decided it would be an act of kindness and generosity to share the secret.
AD: Is there a Link?
AM: Yes. Apart from the effect it also contains a good visual example of what we refer to at The Mystery School as The 3 Pillars. They are: Effect. Method. Script.
AD: Thanks Abbi. I’ll jot that down & I’m also going to add a couple of you as a dancer & Singer. I am mesmerized by your performances. Here is a link with some delightful magical performances & the BEKOS effect can be seen starting at four minutes in:
A link to a recent dance performance.
Link to some of Abigail’s musical magic:
Speaking of performances do you recall your introduction to Magic?
AM: Oh yes vividly. I was about 10 years old and a classmate called Adam did some tricks. I was so fascinated by them that I wanted to learn how they worked. When I asked I was told it was a secret. I knew he wouldn’t ever tell them to me, so I offered to be his assistant. It worked
AD: Hee! Hee! I bet it did! I guess it wasn’t just knowing how a trick worked that intrigued you but the nature of its effect on an audience and the indeed the one performing it….reminds me of something I shared recently, “The Mystery, in its very nature, must show you what has never been seen, never been written, never been known, because before you were forged, it was impossible.” Would it be fair to state that is exactly what draws you to the Art?
AM: A resounding “Yes” to that. I happen to think… no wait; I firmly believe that everything is Magical. The performance of an effect within the context of Entertainment merely highlights that; so when you quoted, that it was impossible before I was forged… before you were forged, before anyone was forged– that taps into the process of making Magic real. We may use a gimmick, a sleight or any other methodology, be it modern or ancient, it really doesn’t matter, because we are the co-creators in an emotional experience. That, in essence, is what is forged. Yes, “forged” is truly applicable in this case. It is, back to the Three Pillars that I referred to earlier.
AD: Exactly. This is what Jeff does at The Magic & Mystery School in various formats. We have touched lightly on your role at The Magic & Mystery School, and that you & Jeff open your home to your students. You play a vital but not always visible role in the Mystery School. Share with me a little about that side of you …
AM: As you know, we send out Newsletters and often when Jeff is away, I sometimes step in and contribute to them. As to other functions well, my non-official title is Queen Bee of the Magic & Mystery School, because I keep the hive humming. Before classes, I help with marketing and advertising, doing outreach to new students, answering questions by email and phone, assisting in the scholarship approval and registration process. I help with the writing and editing of the bi-monthly Museletters we send out to our friends and fans. I take care of the printing needs of the faculty, prepare materials for the students and assemble the binders for each class. I make sure the guest rooms are ready for the visiting faculty and the house is clean and stocked to meet everyone’s needs. During the class, I help with administrative paperwork and getting students checked in. I make sure the faculty are fed and caffeinated. I also lead the morning focus session, answer questions and counsel students, as well as making sure that everyone has a clean water bottle to refill as needed and that there are plenty of snacks during the breaks. After the class, I help write the follow-up letters. So, I wear many hats, Renaissance woman that I am….
AD: Abbi, you just reminded me of some wonderful words by Dr. Harlan Tarbell -“A magician is not a magician because he knows tricks, but because he knows Magic — the principles, the fundamentals.” I know The Magic & Mystery School teaches this in varied forms but it applies to you and your background…
AM: Yes it does Tony. Just knowing how a trick is done is not enough. We see too much of that nowadays. Perhaps, more time should be devoted to studying allied performing Arts. I did. I have spent time since childhood studying competitive gymnastics, dance, movement, weight training, learning about all kinds of things, seeking inspiration in all things and learning how to see beauty in all things. All of that has helped me to hone my skills as a Performer in both Magic and other related performances. I would even go so far as to state that to be a good Magician, it is necessary to be aware of the Magic in dance, in movement, in living, in breathing, in learning and then bringing all of that to create our Magical characters.
The true Masters of the Art of Magic have known this for centuries and this is seen in all cultures. When different cultures are observed with true seeker’s eyes, we find a co-relation that crosses all divides. Let me give you a perfect example close to home. Jeff was a very competent Magician and was recognized by his peers as such. However, after his return from Japan, he underwent a transformation and applied all that we were talking about earlier and truly transformed the way he viewed Magic and, quite naturally, his performances. We share this empirical experience with our students at The Mystery School. It is not just some theory but empirical and empathic.
AD: I know exactly what you mean. There is, language aside, not much difference between a group of Israelis sitting around a fire, singing and drumming & many Native American Peoples (Tribes) doing much the same. It goes beyond mere worship; it is a Magical Prayer session. Now I happen to know that you have done all that and more. You are familiar with many cultures & have absorbed from them making you who are today. So, rather than ask you to talk about that I approached some mutual friends who are excellent performers in their own right & and who know you better than most; I asked them to send me a few words about you:
I love this woman with all of my heart!!!
I first met Mrs. Abigail “Spinner” McBride in the early 90’s, during the second year of Jeff McBride’s Mystery School, which was held at an ashram in NY. This was long before she and Jeff knew they would fall in love and be married, and at the time were just amazing friends. Back then Abigail was only known as Spinner, [of] which she still is to me, and to many others.
This amazing woman has been so inspirational in my life in so many ways. It was Spinner who first put a djembe in my hands all those years ago, and it was love at first beat! After Mystery School, a few of us were with Jeff at his parents’ property near a lake. We sat around a fire for hours drumming, and singing the chants that she wrote. I have been a percussionist ever since, and have spent many nights around the sacred fire with this magical woman drumming, singing and dancing until sunrise. As her name suggests, Spinner has woven an inspirational web of creativity within my life that has spun out into our community of family in so many ways. – Samina Ocean
Spirit loves beauty.
Many years ago Spinner was coming over to my house for a jam session. I opened my door to check for her and was stopped in my tracks. In the distance I could see a mythic figure approaching. Of course it turned out to be her! After arriving I asked her why she was motivated to look so wonderful just to play music at a friend’s house. After a brief pause she replied, “Spirit loves beauty.” I feel that she mindfully cultivates beauty within and without, as well as in the people and environment around her. She diligently grows her arts including songwriting, singing, dancing, massage and magic. When problem solving, her compassion and intelligence make her a master of discovering win-win solutions. This clever and compassionate way of finding solutions extends into the foods she eats and how she treats the environment. She has an incredibly high level of integrity. Her word is gold.
If she has agreed to something there is absolutely no question that it will be accomplished! She encourages and strives to help others achieve their highest vision. She is truly a unique and exceptional woman. I feel incredibly blessed that our paths crossed so many years ago and that she is an important part of my life in Las Vegas today! – Deborah Nervig-Levin
AD: I was tempted (in a moment you will see why) to tidy this grammatically & linguistically. However, I felt the charm, the warmth & affection would be lost. Here it is exactly as I rec’d it:
I do not speak good English, I speak Spanish. But I made a paragraph in English that I hope you can understand. I’m friend of Abbi, I love her, she and Jeff are very special to me.
I met Abbi when I decided to come to Las Vegas to live in 2007. I have worked with Abbi during 7 years in Wonderground of Jeff McBride. I think Abbi is an attraction for everyone when she dances, when she talks, when she says her opinion about a topic, why? Because Abbi is an intelligent woman, she is a talented and interesting woman that everyone would like to know. Every little thing she does is magic; I feel that Abbi is a very positive person, she has very good energy, Abbi is a good human being and nice friend; she is happy and creative woman. Abbi as an artist is versatile because she is actress, dancer, musician, songwriter, designer, she is the right hand of the great magician and artist Jeff McBride, so Abbi is magician also. Jeff McBride is a great man and behind every great man is a great woman, in this case the name of the great woman is Abbi McBride. – Circe Martinez
AD: I think that pretty much sums you up neatly. Further words from me would be superfluous. Except to add that it has been a true delight and joyous experience conversing with you. I look forward to many more meet-ups with you. Thank you sincerely for spending time with me and sharing so generously of yourself. Thank you Abbi. Many Blessings.
AM: You are very welcome Tony. I have enjoyed our conversation too and look forward to seeing you in Vegas again soon. As Jeff has told you, “your tribe awaits.” Many Blessings to you too.
By: Anthony Darkstone
January 2015 – Alan Watson – Magic International