Recently I’ve been doing a lot of gift magic. Gift magic is a remarkable thing. It can be performed as one piece in a larger performance or as a stand alone effect. But it is so much more than just leaving someone with a souvenir. There is great power in Gift Magic. Gentle power, but power all the same. It builds confidence, it brings us back to the basics and it exalts the art.
Dr. Lawrence Hass has written extensively about the many venues of magical performance. Hass describes one branch of close-up magic as “Greeting Magic”. Greeting Magic is a single effect performed when meeting someone for the first time or when someone we know asks for a “trick” or when we sense that someone needs a little magic.
One of the great things about Greeting Magic is we are not locked in to a performance. (And neither is the audience). If things don’t go well, it’s over before anyone has time to reject anyone else. Although this is an extremely rare occurrence, it’s still a comfort to know one can easily walk away if things fall to pieces. That being the case, Greeting Magic is a sure fire way to get over the Heebe Jeebies of performing magic. The checkout girl at the market, the child who bumped his head and needs a happy distraction or the couple we are chatting with while waiting for a table in a restaurant. These are all prime targets for our Skinnerian designs. The fact that the recipient is given a charged gift and is grateful, mystified and delighted goes a long way in building confidence.
This kind of Greeting/Gift Magic has done more for me personally than just build confidence. It continually brings me back to the basics. Once and a while I discover I am overwhelming myself with too many complicated routines and knuckle-busting manipulations. Focusing on the (usually) simple and straight forward presentations of Gift Magic allows me to gauge how effectively I am interacting with the audience. Am I looking them in the eye? Are the expressions on their faces telling me anything? Am I directing their attention efficiently, and so on.
In my view, none of us are any one particular archetype in magic. While we may lean toward the Trickster, Oracle, Sorcerer or Sage, I feel we are more likely to find ourselves cycling through each one of these archetypes. And with each incarnation we gain knowledge and wisdom. Think of an upward spiral. So each time I find myself working on Gift Magic, I am doing so at a higher level of awareness than in previous iterations. I always seem to be hanging for dear life to that wild learning curve and I will not have it any other way!
Finally, It is important for anyone claiming to be a magician to have something at the ready for the inevitable. “I’m not prepared” is not a very magical response when someone shows interest in what we do.
I also believe Gift Magic elevates the art. The cliché image in people’s minds of the magician as a fast talking “now you see it, now you don’t” wise guy is still alive and well. Performance magic is still often all about the performer. It seems to me art that works is successful because it is not about the artist, but rather, how his or her creation resonates with the audience. Gift magic is powerful harmonic resonance. It’s like Gandalf riding into town, dazzling the village with his wonders, granting a simple wish and vanishing before anyone has a chance to spoil the moment by over thinking it. The harried waitress, the bruised child or that nice lady in line, now have a fetish object that will be focus of tellings and recounts for ages to come. Their otherwise ordinary trinket becomes charged with mojo because the possessor helped bring it into being. It means something. It is a reminder of their wishes and deepest desires. And in that, like Gandalf, we become the stuff of legend.
Originally published in Le Prestidigitorium