View Full Version : Thomas Ady On Jacobean Conjurers

Dr Adequate
10th March 2006, 06:10 PM
Thomas Ady was a physician who lived in the reign of James I, and apart from his books, little else is known of him. His books show that he was intelligent, skeptical, had a sense of humor --- and feared no man.

His books, A Perfect Discovery of Witches, A Candle in the Dark and The Doctrine of Devils, are masterpieces of skepticism concerning the witch-hunting craze of his times.

Amongst other items of interest, he explains how the conjurers of his time(whom he calls "juglers") used to work their tricks.

I hope this post doesn't fall under the prohibition of "giving away secrets" --- in my defense I will say that this information has been in the public domain for nearly half a millenium, OK?

Start here (http://racerel.library.cornell.edu:8090/cgi-bin/cul.witch/docviewer?did=002&seq=40&frames=0&view=100):

Here I am compelled (for the satisfaction of some that are so weak in capacity that they will rather stand to cavil in a disputative way, than to understand things that are not in themselves disputative, but demonstrative) to demonstrate some few of the most admired Tricks of common Jugling.
Note the early use of the phrases "hocus pocus" and a sort of ancestral form of "hey presto" in the patter.

Say, does this remind you of anyone?

And yet sometimes it hapneth, that if here have been any University Schollars at the beholding, or at the acting of these common Tricks, they have gone out and fallen into a dispute upon the matter, some saying, Sensus nunquam fallitur circa proprium objectum, some have said that the Jugler by his Familiar doth thicken the Air, some again that he hurteth the Eye-sight, and so deceiveth the beholders; and in all their discourse they shew themselves very Philosophical, but very little capacious.
He mentions that there's more information to be found on these tricks in Reginald Scot's Discoverie of Witchcraft, which is also on the Wonderful Wonderful Internet.

It would be nice to see a recreation of this stuff, with authentic tricks, methods, and patter, don't you think?

10th March 2006, 07:10 PM

I love the book...um...what year? Yes, I could find out...but A) I am lazy, and B) it would be more informative if posted in the thread itself...

10th March 2006, 08:48 PM
...too late...1656.

And it still fools people.

I love it. Thanks for the link!

C. Shevlin
1st May 2006, 10:30 AM
Ady's A CANDLE IN THE DARK was first published in 1655.

The use of the phrase "Hocus Pocus" can be traced back to as early as 1622 in a Ben Jonson play.

2nd May 2006, 03:41 AM
I would think that an original Jugler with a musician or two, plus a dog that could do a couple tricks, could astound and amaze modern people. There is the Renaissance Festival idea, that's a throwback fair, I'm sure there are a few performers that know that and do it well.

Maybe one of those new Sony robot dogs can learn a trick? That would be cool, to totally fool a contemporary audience with ancient tricks made to look new. I'll have to think about that :-) I believe it can be done... Does anyone here know a "D" or a "S".... step right up... someone's breaking through from the other side...

2nd July 2006, 04:11 AM
OK, here it is. A real puppy dog, and a robot Sony dog, are sitting onstage. Card trick #1 is performed, and the card is revealed by the robot dog. Magician says "everybody turn off your cell phones, none of that sort of magic applies"--card trick #2 where real dog identifies card. Now for the set-up... get a nice volunteer, have them hold both dogs. Card trick #3 relies on the person...and the set-up.... but the dog that wiggles leads volunteer to the right card.

I suppose that a dog that doesn't wiggle until happy will be a plus on this trick.