Useless Trivia Day – Magic & Alternative Religions


Mutilated Dreams has taken a turn into magic, as expected, since I choose to set it in New Orleans.  So, I thought I would share some useless facts about magic and religions that use magic.

  • Harry Houdini might be considered one of the greatest magicians of all time, but he is said to have had no stage presence and even failed to live up to some of the hype at times.  While the world remembers him for his grand illusions, during his lifetime, he was more known for his discrediting of hundreds of spiritual mediums, some of them quite famous.  He was able to reproduce most of their tricks and expose how the “communication” took place.  He was so successful at this, that he had a huge influence on the dissolution of the spiritualist movement.
  • Almost 90% of all occult related murders in the US can be tracked to Palo Mayombe.  Palo Mayombe is considered the ultimate form of black magic by practitioners of other religions.  There are even priests and priestess who spend their entire lives training to combat Palo Mayombe with white magic from Santeria and voodoo.
  • Voodoo is a large, varied religion with different types.  In New Orleans, it is called Cajun Voodoo and some of the things they consider evil (such as gris gris) are actually considered beneficial in other forms of voodoo (Haitian Voodoo considers gris gris bags to be good at warding off evil spells, not casting them).
  • The word magician doesn’t actually apply to most modern day magicians.  In ancient times, most magicians were actually illusionists, practicing the art of psychological manipulation and feats of endurance.  Conjuring was only a small part of their magical talents, which is what modern day people associate with magic (like pulling rabbits out of hats).
  • Hoodoo is a real religion and it does vary from it’s cousin voodoo.  As a matter of fact, hoodoo, voodoo, Santeria, Palo Mayombe, and a slew of others are all derived from a mixture of folk religions and Catholicism.  Allowing Catholicism into the religions, allowed them to practice more freely because to outsiders, it appeared they were practicing the largest form of christianity.  These religions can be found in the US, the Caribbean islands, and Africa in different forms.  They do appear in other countries, but with far less frequency.
  • While we know more about voodoo in an academic sense, Santeria is the most practiced alternative religion in the US.  The secrets of Santeria are kept close, not because the rituals are evil or bad, but because practitioners have been sued multiple times in the past for sacrificing animals (specifically chickens and goats).  Oddly, most of the lawsuits go away because after the animal is sacrificed, it is eaten, usually at some sort of ritual festival.  Meaning their ritual sacrifice of animals becomes food and doesn’t seem that much different than killing a chicken or goat on a farm for a family meal (except for the chanting).
  • There have been a few deaths attributed to the power of suggestion related to voodoo.  The most recent involved a man who thought he had been hexed by a voodoo priest while on a trip to Haiti.  He died of dehydration.  However, the autopsy showed no reason for the man not to be drinking fluids.  His family told the doctor that on their trip, a voodoo priest had cursed him with insatiable thirst.  (I’m not sure this is really a voodoo spell, but it could be or it could have been someone’s bad idea of a joke that went too far… who knows)
  • Penn & Teller are the most successful magicians in the modern day.  They not only have a good stage presence, but base their show around both types of magic; conjuring and illusionism.  However, they do share something else in common with Houdini, they have used their knowledge of magic to debunk things.  Nothing on the scale of Houdini, but few magicians have ever done anything on the same scale as Houdini (who personally hated spiritual mediums and his goal was to bring the movement to a halt).
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, hated Houdini.  Conan Doyle was on the opposite side of spiritualism and it put the author at odds with the magician.  They even met a few times, crossing paths at a handful of seances that led to tabloid worthy shouting matches.  In theory, one of Sherlock’s cases is based upon discovering a man is actually a magician practicing his art to defraud his ward, kill her, and take her money.  At the time it was published, many believed the description of the magician bore a rather striking resemblance to Houdini.
  • There are several forms of literary magic that writers use in novels.  Also, there are more novels published that contain literary magic than not.  These elements include things like love at first sight.  However, the biggest twist on literary magic ever, may have come from the Harry Potter series.  Harry is special, but he is special only because Voldemort made him special.  It could have just as easily been Neville Longbottom.  Ironically, neither character was suited to take on the dark lord without the help of others.

Ok, enough about magic.

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