Magic Translation and Flowers November 17, 2011Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback
Beachcombing previously in this place examined magical displays from medieval India and particularly levitation, which Beach still hasn’t got his head around. As a follow up of sorts he thought that today he would quote this description of parlour magic plus from the sub continent in the late nineteenth century. Some of the tricks sound like the kind of things the magicians’ circle whisper in each other’s ears to this very day. Others are rather more exotic and frightening.
The day following the visit to the temple of Kali we had an opportunity of witnessing the Mystifying feats of one of those jugglers whose mysterious powers transcend all deductions of science, and must be seen to be believed. Unlike the alleged spirit-mediums of our own country, they do not perform their feats in the dark upon their own premises, but in the full light of day in any situation and in the midst of any number of spectators, every one of whom is keenly watching for the slightest indication of fraud or trickery. We seated ourselves upon chairs arranged in a semi-circle under a huge tree in a courtyard.
Shortly after we were seated the magician appeared in company with a boy who carried his simple paraphernalia in a basket. He took his place about twelve feet in front of us and began to entertain us with some clever but common-place tricks, after which he requested each one of us to write something on a piece of paper and keep it concealed in our hands. Without changing his position he told each one in turn, word for word, what he had written.
I held a piece of paper in such a position that no one could possibly see it and wrote on it in Fijian, ‘Sa ndro na Singa; malua marusa’. When he looked at me he gave a quiet smile and said: ‘You did not write yours in English’. ‘In what language is it written?’said I. ‘Sahib’, he replied, ‘if you will look at the paper which you have crumpled in your hand you will read the English translation of what you have written, and also the name of the language in which you wrote it.’ I opened the paper, and could scarcely credit my own eyes when I read on it in English, ‘The day is vanishing; procrastination is destruction (Fijian).’ The Fijian words which I had written had disappeared completely, and the English translation appeared in the same spot, and written in my own handwriting. Scarcely willing to trust my eyes, I asked a white man who sat next to me to read what was on the paper, and he read the translation as given above. ‘Sahib’, said the performer to me again, ‘will you fold the paper for a moment and then unfold it again?’ After taking another look at the paper I crumpled it in my hand again and held it fast for a few seconds, and upon opening it once more I was amazed to read the two former sentences in Fijian, precisely as I had written them in the first place.
Not being quite satisfied with this, I retired within the house and wrote upon a piece of paper ‘Ika tonu taku ihi irunga i taku whenua’. No one could possibly have seen what I wrote, and I immediately folded the paper and held it fast in my hand as I returned to the courtyard, and, as soon as I had taken my seat, the Indian asked me to open the paper. I opened it forthwith, and instead of the words I had written, I read the correct English translation as follows: ‘My fire has been kept burning upon my land’ (Maori),which was the exact translation of what I had written. It is a common expression among the Maoris, meaning that their enemies have never succeeded in driving them or their ancestors off the premises which they hold. I showed the paper to some of the others, and they read the words as given above. Several others tried the same experiment by writing sentences in Russian, Persian, Turcoman and Yakut, and in every case the words were correctly translated into English.
Beachcombing’s easiest solution to this particular magical feat is that the narrator was a liar and that he was salting his book, which worryingly has the word ‘truthful’ and ‘strange’ in the title.
In any case, next the magician apparently kills his assistant then he comes up with a neat trick for a flower pot.
The necromancer then turned to our host again and said,’Sahib, will you let one of your servants bring a small flowerpot and a couple of handfuls of earth?’ When these were brought we made sure that the pot was empty by feeling inside of it with our hands, for by this time we had begun to doubt all evidence of our own eyesight. He filled the pot with the earth which the servant had brought and planted a small seed of some kind in the center of it. One of the company now requested permission to take a photograph of the pot as it stood, and the performer instantly granted the request. He next poured some water on the pot and covered it with the white cloth previously mentioned, after which he brought out what he called a tubri simmil, consisting of a sort of pipe flaring at one side and having a large bulb in the center. Squatting in front of the pot, he began to play on his small musical reed pipe (which these magicians all carry) in a low, droning tone, but soon started playing faster.
After a little we distinctly saw the center of the cloth begin to rise, while the player kept his eyes fastened upon it and played with might and main as though his lungs would split. Suddenly the frantic music ceased and he raised one side of the cloth. We all were more than astonished to see a plant about four inches high growing in the center of the pot. He calmly replaced the cloth and began playing as before; but instead of playing in an even tone he played faster and faster, until the music became a continuous long, screaming sound; he would suddenly lower his tone from time to time and begin again in the low, monotonous tone in which he first started to play. All at once he ceased his music, laid aside his pipe and sat with his arms folded gazing intently at the cloth, which continued rising in the center by almost imperceptible degrees until it was nearly a foot above the edge of the pot, when he again took up his flute and began to play the same wild music as before, whereupon the cloth began promptly to rise until it had attained a height of about thirty inches, when the cloth gave a strange tremor, as though someone were moving it, and then remained perfectly stationary. He ceased his music and sat staring at the cloth for a few minutes, then lifted it up, and we beheld a plant apparently about thirty inches high, covered with bright green leaves and beautiful red and yellow blossoms.
The man who had taken the first photograph asked the juggler for permission to take another picture of the plant. ‘You are not only welcome to take as many photographs as you like’, replied the Indian, ‘but you are welcome to pick the flowers off the plant and keep them’. I need not say that every one of us eagerly availed ourselves of this permission, and the plant was quickly stripped of its beautiful flowers. I secured two of them, which I kept for several years, but finally lost in the course of my travels.
I have since heard some people say that this must have hypnotized us and led us to Indian imagine that we saw objects which had no real existence. Without stopping to discuss this, it is sufficient to say that he could not have hypnotized the camera with which the first photograph was taken, before he covered the flower-pot with the cloth, and the second photograph after the cloth had been removed. The first photograph showed the pot containing nothing but a few handfuls of earth ; the second showed a plant over two-feet high covered with leaves and flowers, and with our own hands we picked the flowers and leaves.
Beachcombing has not the foggiest! Where’s the trick? Drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com