I often think about the very first time 'magic' was performed. Who was there? Who was doing it? And the most fascinating question...why? One theory is that the performance of magic started when someone decided to imitate god. This is such an interesting idea. If you think about it, all (well, most) developing behaviors arise from imitation. Having kids, I'll tell you that this is definitely the case. If you have any bad habits you want to be reminded of, just have kids. So out of this desire to imitate came the first magic trick. I like to imagine it went something like: 'pick a rock...any rock.' Although, if you want to stay true to the character, it was probably more like: 'ugh ugh ugh...ugh ugh.' Upon seeing the reaction of his now bewildered cave-mates our ancient wizard probably thought he was really onto something. Over the next few eons magicians learned that they could acheive a place of status within their community by performing these seemingly impossible feats proving that they had access to sources of knowledge and power inaccessible to the uninitiated (which they did). Interestingly, this is much the same path that religion has taken throughout the ages (more posts on that idea to come). In fact, it's been proven that the first priests were also magicians. From very early on magicians learned that there were two ways to present these feats. The subtext of the first way is 'look at the wonders I can do.' The modern equivalent is the 'look at how cool I am' type of magician that I generally despise. The second, and far more powerful way to perform these feats is 'look at the wonders that are possible.' And as with any power, magic could be used in constructive ways (inspiring hope) or destructive ways (stealing all your money).
It is absolutely fascinating how many disciplines arose out of the dark through the vehicle of magic. Aside from the obvious profession (to us at least since this is what magic has been reduced to in the western world) of Entertainer, magic has spawned modern day Chemistry (the ancient equivalent being Alchemy), Astronomy, Medicine (as one of the first roles of the magician was as a healer), Weather forecasting, not to mention Religion itself. I'll touch on each of these aspects of ancient magic in future posts. It's also crazy to me that even though we get more and more 'advanced' (I use quotes on advanced as I'm not sure this is always the case...but we like to think it is) as a civilization it seems that we need and choose to believe in magic now more than ever. And I'm not talking about believing in the idea that so-and-so can make a car float or pull a quarter out of his arm...I'm talking about believing in the idea that there is so much we don't understand...and that it will always be that way. The idea that there are infinite possibilities for humans to explore in addition to possessing the necessary intelligence, creativity, drive, and belief to do so. I believe that as a magician this is my most sacred and enduring mission.