Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Art of Illusion


Beyond the “scientific” sorcerers of the Thaumaturgical Society and the hedge hex-workers and folk conjurers, there exists another group of magic-users in the City. Illusionists (as they style themselves) bridge the gap between real magic and stage performance.

The origins of the arts of illusion are obscure. Thaumaturgical scholars suggest it developed as a way for low-skill sorcerers to earn a living, while illusionists hold it developed from ancient mystery ritual practices in Ealderde given to mankind by a pagan trickster god. Illusionists claim (much to the irritation of their thaumaturgical rivals) that several historic mages revered by thaumaturges were actually illusionists who pulled off big tricks. However it began, illusionism seems to have first been practiced as a form of thievery, usually as part of a confidence game, but gradually developed into a performance art.

Illusionists know powerful spells, but their repertoire is mostly limited to those that deceive the senses in one way or another. They combine the use of real thaumaturgy with the use of sleight-of-hand and other stage tricks. Economy of magic is their goal; They look down on the obvious displays of thaumaturgists.

Illusionists, it's said (by illusionists), take a solemn oath not to reveal their secrets (magical or legerdemain) to non-illusionists. They claim that there exists an international Brotherhood of Illusion which enforces this pledge--though evidence for the existence of this organization is hardly above suspicion as fabrication. Certainly, an Illusionists Guild exists in the City, but the theatrics and misdirection surrounding it make it impossible to know its true size or influence.

9 comments:

Risus Monkey said...

I need to go back and watch The Prestige again. I really enjoyed the film (and the book) and it gives a good Weird Adventures vibe.

Also thinking about illusionists in The City, Michael Chabon's The Escapist comic comes to mind.

Stuart said...

Love it! :D

The Angry Lurker said...

The movie "The Prestige" is all I originally knew about illusionists before this.

Risus Monkey said...

(Hmmm... looks like Blogger is using my old name now... strange - Risus Monkey)

Dan said...

This gives me a great idea to make a thief class character who is a stage magician. All those escape artist tricks translate brilliantly into lockpicking and trap disarming.

Trey said...

Thanks guys!

The Prestige was one of the things I had in mind--the other being the fortuitous name of the AD&D class.

@The blogger formally know as Ethernaut - Well at least its letting you post comments. It didn't want to recognize my login all morning.

@Dan - Definitely--and in some ways that fits a thief's party role better.

Felt said...

Not familiar with The Prestige, but after seeing on IMDB it was made by the Nolan brothers, I need to check it out. Really enjoyed The Illusionist, though.

BigMike said...

My favorite kind of magic are street illusionists...

Trey said...

Blogger ate this post and the comments in the Blogocalypse last week. Comments were:

Risus Monkey said: "I need to go back and watch The Prestige again. I really enjoyed the film (and the book) and it gives a good Weird Adventures vibe."

"Also thinking about illusionists in The City, Michael Chabon's The Escapist comic comes to mind."

Dan said: "This gives me a great idea to make a thief class character who is a stage magician. All those escape artist tricks translate brilliantly into lockpicking and trap disarming."

BigMike added: "My favorite kind of magic are street illusionists..."

Other comments, I'm afraid, were lost, but they were appreciated. :)