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Topic: The crowd gets wiser. and witches are among us.
Message: Posted by: DrNorth (May 10, 2005 07:12PM)
I want to hear from you bizzarests who do séance, horror and witchcraft based shows, especially if you supplement them with readings. (Those of you who do no approve of Bizarre horror magic please I understand YOUR views and your bias and for this thread I am NOT interested in the rights or wrongs of this style) I am using the approach of one who studies the occult and as I run across more and more people who are doing this for real or are real practitioners of Wicca. My question is if we are presenting ourselves as a professional or student of the occult …well, the facts are less dramatic then the theater we want to entertain with and with Hollywood. Obviously we are promoting wonder, magic and in some cases thrills, fear and shivers. But I find myself getting cornered by witches and serious students of the occult and being told I am misrepresenting the facts. Have any of you run into this? Most of the lay people I perform for take it as moment of suspended reality and so are not taking this as gospel. I find myself saying that I present experiments of stories I have seen or heard and showing representations of those.
I remember Dr Wilson telling me of a performer (maybe it was our most recent guest Max Maven) who was showing how some satanic crimes were just theater and many things were set up to scare police and the curious, the story I remember regarded a locked warehouse in which people were found slaughtered and evidence of an occult ritual were about including a burned hoof print in a cinder block. No entrance, no exit a locked room mystery. The paranormal instructor recited an invocation using the evidence and the hoof print began manifesting smoke the performer looked up to find himself in a silent room surrounded by armed, weapons drawn officers.((Apologies if I muddled the details it has been almost 20 years since I heard this story and so a lot is I am sure lost)) the expert reminded them quietly he was showing them how they used fear and theater to manipulate public image and followers.
Anyway, has anyone had to handle irate witches and or ghost hunters for promoting fallacy in their craft? How have you handled it?
Message: Posted by: Lord of Illusion (May 10, 2005 07:19PM)
In my digging through the old post on the Café' I found a thread with a similar story when the performer did Andruzzi's Daemon Dirt.
Message: Posted by: Midnight333 (May 10, 2005 09:28PM)
I would like to start a thread of only those who do seance work, so that we may help each other out.
Message: Posted by: chmara (May 10, 2005 10:05PM)
Good idea on seance.

A funny problem on extra readings. For a brief time I had a live-in assistant who decided she wanted to learn readings -- even though she was superstitiously involved with them in thr past. I taught her some basic Tarot.

After we broke up the amorous side of our relationship she went back to an old boyfriend -- who let her know his girl friend was PG. My (now former) assistant got ahold of the girl and gave her a reading. The girl gave up the boyfriend in favor of my former assistant, who then married the guy seven days after the reading.

But the reading must not have been complete -- within 60 days she was seeking an annullment, as the guy seems to have been "visiting" the PG and several other "former" girlfriends.

It's all in the cards, no?

The fear of running into Wiccans when doing seances does not worry me. Running into Fundie people of all religious stripes who avoid entertainments (mine are announced as such) because seances are evil and of the devil does. They can ruin reputations and bring unneeded controversy to the work faster than a politician can say boondoggle.

One of my compadres -- who works as a magic waiter -- even had to stop doing all magic within sight or earshot of a couple seated in his section -- because they found magic evil and offensive and had to shield their children from Satan's influence. They did not tip. And his usual tips for his magicat other tables was knocked out in that area for the time they daudled over their food and drinks.

That is the kind of malicious stupidity I fear.
Message: Posted by: SenseiStrange (May 10, 2005 10:26PM)
I regularly perform and give workshops for the local pagan community. A good bunch of folks, a little strange, but good.

Basically they respect many lineages and usually accept many way of doing things. And face it, when it comes to the supernatural - nobody really knows - it is guess work, hypothesis and feelings. Actually many of my best reactions have been out on weekend retreats.

Since many pagan folks are used to ritual you might not be able to build them up with the ritual as easily - or maybe not. It might be easier. But if your effect is right I am sure it will work the charm.

Walk In peace,

Sensei Strange
Message: Posted by: Magickman (May 11, 2005 07:18AM)
Hey Doc,
Are you telling people that you are a witch when you do your magick?
If so pick up a book at your local bookstore and do a little reading on wicca. You can also find a lot of information right on the web (sounds better than the net huh!). When I first got into Bizarre Magick I thought I had to look like I knew it all and that's just not true (helpful though!). I do enough to cover the effect I'm doing and care little about anything else, as I do not call myself a witch. I don't call myself a magician either...thats just a little too "Top Hat" of a picture. I chose "The Unusual Abilities of" that's what I put on business card. I make no claims to being psychic other than saying "I'm about as psychic as you are." I let people think what they will. I do my readings with a serious attitude but I don't over do it. In that respect I tell spectators that my grandmother taught me the Tarot and and it has been I'm my family for generations.
I haven't had 1 person come to me and say "You did your reading wrong!" or "that's not what that card means!" Entertain them and walk away and the Myths of your performances will start!

Message: Posted by: Lord of Illusion (May 11, 2005 08:20AM)
I do seances, both victorian style and the full monte Hollywood style. I've had frat boy football players walk away because they "cain't handle this" and I've had people wet they're pants. Nothing quite let's you know you've done your job like someone losing control of a bodily function. Still working on the hollywood version, though. There's a couple of things I want to do, but haven't figgure out yet.

I have may pagan friends (and am one myself), and some of the leadership are interested in using magic to enhance portions of the genuine ritual.

Message: Posted by: drwilson (May 11, 2005 09:40AM)
Dr. North,

You've got to pick your spots, that's for sure. If you tried to do seance or bizarre magick in Salem, MA, in October, you'd better know what you are doing, because the audience is likely to take this pretty seriously, and is likely to be fairly well-read.

Make sure that you aren't misrepresenting the facts, such as they are. It would be a bad idea to state that thousands of people had been hanged for witchcraft in Colonial America, for example, because that is factually inaccurate. On the other hand, the interpretation of a particular Tarot card is not based on "facts." Is the existence of disembodied spirits a "fact?" No, but I have a pretty limited view of what "facts" are. If I say that it is a fact that George Washington was the first President of the United States, that's because we all pretty much agree what the "United States" is, and what it means to hold the office of President.

Sometimes after a performance I am approached by people who want to talk. As much as possible, I try to listen and mirror them. If they say that it was a cool show and they don't know how it worked, but they are sure that it was tricks, I tell them I'm glad that they enjoyed the show. If they tell me I have a great gift, I tell them that I think that we all have gifts that we should develop as much as we can. I don't say anything that I don't believe, but there are ways of saying things so that there are fuzzy edges. If you are being friendly, people will assume that you share their views and will interpret what you say that way. Be nice!

As for the fundamentalists, here's one for you. At a fair, some tract-bearing fruitcake approached our Gypsy Fortune Teller booth to drop off some fire and brimstone. My wife, who was the gypsy at the time, said, "This is a business. If you don't leave, I'm going to call Security."

That's why we marry them, eh?


Message: Posted by: Clifford the Red (May 11, 2005 12:12PM)
Part of eliminating issues is doing enough research when you write your scripts. I want as much accuracy as possible, enough that an expert would have to agree with me. The lottery day is when it really happens! All those wild tales you have been spinning suddenly are ominously credible to the audience. And they just might be compelled look behind the curtains before they go to bed :devilish:
Message: Posted by: ptbeast (May 11, 2005 12:33PM)
I think that a lot of it comes down to how you present your show.
If they understand that what they are seeing is theatre, then I
don't think that you will have too much of a problem. People are
used to, and often expect, a "Hollywood" interpretation of the facts.

I think that there are three things that you can do to limit offending
true believers: first, make it clear that what you are doing is theatre.
If you are doing horror shows this is easy. It is sometimes not as
clear with séances or readings. Secondly, write your script in such
a way that what you are doing in based on more arcane knowledge. Don't
claim any relationship to Wicca or other faiths. Lastly, as others have
said, do your research.

If you are confronted, depending on your view of such things, you can either
politely explain that it is theatre or you can say that your system of
magic (or whatever) is simply different from theirs. If you have made no
claims that they be the same, then there should be little problem.

Message: Posted by: Clifford the Red (May 11, 2005 12:48PM)
That point about differentiation is good. Sometimes you will get people with a very faith/ethno-centric point of view about their world. You can broaden their horizons!

"Oh, you must be referring to one of those...published systems." :)
Message: Posted by: Moonlit Knight (May 11, 2005 01:32PM)
Having done all of the things you mentioned, except getting “cornered and being told I am misrepresenting the facts” - I think I can offer some assistance. Not having seen you perform - I believe that, at least as it comes across in this posting, there may be a one word difference between us and that word might be able to settle your problems. It’s the same word sung about by Aretha Franklin - the word is respect.

Respect for the individuals whose beliefs you are incorporating enough to…
1. learn something about the people involved
2. try and understand where they are coming from

Respect the belief enough as to…
1. try and understand it on the believers terms
2. not misrepresent it

Respect yourself enough as to…
1. avoid debates with people whose views may be opposed to your own
2. avoid situations in which discussions can turn into debates
3. never be afraid to ask questions and learn, as long as this can be done in a non-confrontational way

Saying that you “present experiments of stories I have seen or heard and showing representations of those” is fine, but it’s your duty to find out how much of those stories is fictional, then correcting the problem(s) that is/are present. Unless, that is, you are able to build into your presentation the “fact” that what you are presenting is solely based off of what you have seen or heard.

In regards to ptbeast suggestion that what you do is theatre - is good - but, depending how the performance is framed or how personal it is may garner you more of a negative response than a positive and accepting one. To say “your system of magic (or whatever) is simply different from theirs” does not hold the same water that it once did. Believers often want to learn more about the system they are unfamiliar with, or test those proclaiming such systems. Such a response will invariably leave one open to more questions.

Bizarre magic is a performance art and there is some level of allowable artistic license, but to get to that point you must first understand the basics. After all, how would you like it if someone took the beliefs you hold, whatever they may be, and misrepresented them?

You’re a live entertainer, not a t.v. show or a movie. As such, you must face your audience with each performance. If someone finds offense, then there is the possibility that they will let you know. The possible complaints or negative reactions received by a bizarre magician can come from many sides of the belief spectrum. One of the key things that someone following this performance path must learn how to do is defuse any negative or potentially negative situation that could arise, whether it is before, during, or after the show.

If you are unable or unwilling to consider the possibility of such beliefs or acknowledge the convictions of others when designing your shows, then you may want to stick to less offensive forms of magical entertainment (if there is such a thing).
Message: Posted by: drwilson (May 11, 2005 01:35PM)
Lee Earle had a good line for people who disagreed with him about astrology:

"Well, that's a very...[i]solar[/i] interpretation."

That's another example of that [i]published systems[/i] brushoff.

I have grown to be a bigger fan of spending more time listening.


Message: Posted by: Grimm (May 11, 2005 04:38PM)
I agree with Knight that respect is key. However, I don't see a problem if you're not out right maligning any of these people. I've performed for various pagans and never had any real problem with it. I do try and study as many books on the occult as possible to make my performance a little more believable and I think that helps a lot too. On the other hand, you're never going to please everyone so when in doubt I would suggest following your own artistic vision in these matters.
Message: Posted by: Mystician (May 12, 2005 12:16AM)
Great question ! I've never run into that situation though - I wish I knew some paranormal types in my neck of the woods.
Oh, and I agree with Clifford on the subject of accuracy and detail. There's another thread here with quite a debate on that. It can only pay off, in more ways than one.
Message: Posted by: Clifford the Red (May 12, 2005 12:30AM)
To take that one further, as a writer, I have to delve much, much deeper into topics than I would ever put into a story. But that additional expertise translates into more believable characters, context and dialog. Likewise if we become experts in the topics of our scripts, we gain depth and credibility in discussing things informally offstage. We are always "on" after all.
Message: Posted by: El_Lamo (May 12, 2005 07:56AM)
On 2005-05-11 10:40, drwilson wrote:
Dr. North,

Make sure that you aren't misrepresenting the facts, such as they are. It would be a bad idea to state that thousands of people had been hanged for witchcraft in Colonial America, for example, because that is factually inaccurate. On the other hand, the interpretation of a particular Tarot card is not based on "facts." Is the existence of disembodied spirits a "fact?" No, but I have a pretty limited view of what "facts" are. If I say that it is a fact that George Washington was the first President of the United States, that's because we all pretty much agree what the "United States" is, and what it means to hold the office of President.

[url=http://home.comcast.net/~sharonday7/Presidents/AP060201.htm] The Presidents before Washington [/url] which goes to show that you can always find an out. You just have to make it convincing.

Cheers - El Lamo
Message: Posted by: DrNorth (May 12, 2005 04:13PM)
I want to thank you all for your ideas and thoughts. I want to elevate the performances to an over all sense of wonder and possibility, so I am not ken on saying that I am merely doing parlor tricks yet I am also unwilling to defraud people, everything I do is setup in a sense of theater and art, except the readings which are real. Who wants to watch a movie and have the actor do an aside that says now remember folks it's only a movie and special effects. It seems when we do magic esp. of a spiritual (rather then bizarre maybe) nature we are on a hazy line. A topic that has been debated to no end here and elsewhere through out magic history, with no clear answer. Although I am of the opinion that ALL magic is bizarre whether we are divining cards, transporting sponge balls or producing ravens and jackals...none of it is "normal" occurrences in life..So why take away the mystery?
Message: Posted by: Leland Stone (May 16, 2005 02:58PM)
Hiya, Dr. North:

In my experience, the one thing that the neo-pagans, Wiccans, New Agers, whatever, cannot say is "That's wrong -- it's not done that way." These people, in my experience, generally like to present themselves as open-minded and tolerant.

So, when I was conducting a seance for a gathering of such persons a couple of years back, I was surprised to be confronted about some of my "methods." The group leader actually told me I was "wrong" in my "approach to spirituality."

There's this thing in Yiddish called "chutzpah," which is all it really takes to deal with this situation. "Mrs. _____," I said, in a firm but friendly voice, "I understand and respect YOUR traditions, but MY traditions tread ANOTHER path."

For what it's worth,
Message: Posted by: Peter Marucci (May 16, 2005 04:50PM)
What a wonderful reply! I love it!
Message: Posted by: Moderncelt (May 16, 2005 06:58PM)
Leland :

The key word there is "present" as open minded and tolerant(Gods help you if they catch you walking out of a Walmart with a Starbucks in one hand and a porkchop on a stick in the other). After being a Pagan for the last 20 odd years (and some have been odd indeed), I've found you're most likely to catch flak from those who are newbies or it's their rebelion de jour. Those that have been around awhile will likely watch your act, they might come up afterwards and go "I like that piece, I might try and use some of it in some ritual drama" or "I liked that turn of phrase, mind if I borrow it?" But as with all things, your milage may vary.