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ClintonMagus
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Realizing that the Cups and Balls is one of the most ancient of magic tricks, do any of you know where I might be able to come up with the type of story line these folks might have used? I have put together a "History of Magic" presentation, and would like to put the C&B in the proper context.

I have presentations for various effects using Robert-Houdin, Houdini, Henning, and several more magicians as a backdrop, but was hoping to come up with something representative of that era.

Thank you,

Amos McCormick
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JamesinLA
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Which era? Ancient Egypt? Roman? My advice would be to read a history book and "inform" your presentation with the details and people you find. Best of luck.

Jim
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Jonathan Townsend
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It might be simpler to reconstruct the premise from context.

Three cups. One ball. If people aren't betting, play it for a laugh and produce the loads.
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rannie
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The cups and balls Is said to be the earliest recorded megic effect. the pharoa's favorite magician was a guy named Dedi. Hope this helps.

Rannie
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Jonathan Townsend
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Might want to take a good look at that mural again, It seems to be a bread baking scene. Traditional magic of ancient Egypt may have been a bit more symbolic and political as there were two huge provinces with semi autonomous cultural systems. If you look at the Pharaoh's statues, they have one or two items in their hands. these are the symbols of the upper and lower kingdoms. They did not have the 'one wand' or 'one god' or even 'one world' in their way of thinking, so alot of what we relate to would be ineffective for them.

Definitely worth doing some serious reading about the props and where and how they were used over the ages. Again, I suggest having a look at the movie 'Time Bandits'
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Peter Marucci
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Jonathan is right; that tomb mural has nothing at all to do with magicians and the cups and balls (unless they were using ENORMOUSLY large cups!)

It's a bread-baking scene.

Which goes to underscore that a lot of what we believe just isn't right. For example, you will frequently see the line that the Great Wall of China is the only man-made object on earth that is visible from the moon.

That would be fascinating if it were true; unfortunately it isn't!

Common sense should tell you why: It's about as wide as a modern highway; therefore, every highway would also be visible from the moon if the Great Wall were.

They aren't. And it isn't.

BTW, Jonathan, statues of Egyptian pharaohs were carved with the crook and flail in their hands, symbols of agriculture (the crook for herding sheep, the flail for separating grain from chaff). The pharaonic headpieces (helmets or crowns) were the symbols of the two kingdoms of Upper and Lower Egypt. (And occasionally the king was carved wearing the war crown.)

Just another service of Peter's House of Useless Knowledge!

cheers,
Peter Marucci
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sdgiu
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I think their are a lot of common misconceptions about heiroglyphics, I agree with the school of thought that the pictograms are actually a comic strip about a character named Sphinxi.
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ClintonMagus
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So, are you saying that the cups and balls is not one of the most ancient of magic tricks, or just that the heiroglyphics don't depict it?

I am still looking for a contextual story line, in whatever context might be appropriate - ancient, semi-ancient, hemidemisemi-ancient, etc...

Thanks,

Amos McCormick
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Peter Marucci
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Oh, the cups and balls are, indeed, an extremely old trick. No question about that. It's just that the tomb paintings don't predict the two guys doing them.

The cups were originally used for drinking cheap wine (very close to vinegar) and, therefore, the performer who used these cups was called an "acetibularius" (a user of wine cups, roughly translated from the Latin.)

They reached their peak (if that's the right word) around the end of the Dark Ages and the beginning of the Middle Ages, as area fairs sprang up. The mountebanks would descend on these places and perform (not unlike buskers, today). For conjurers (or jongleurs, to be more correct), the standard presentation was the cups and balls.

And so, Amosmc, you might want to do a presentation involving these early travelling performers (who were as much thieves as performers).

cheers,
Peter Marucci
Jonathan Townsend
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Peter,

Is there a connection between the cups and balls and the three shell game?
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Rob Johnston
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I would suggest not using the traditional balls...but something gem looking (Kenton Knepper talks about the importance of gems and such).

That would provide a great and mysterious story line.
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Ronnie Ramin
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In Hocus Pocus Jr. there is a "script" provided, apparently as the Cups and Balls were presented back in the 1600's. Bill Palmer has a "Transliterated and Modernized" PDF of this for sale (at a reasonable price) on his website.

http://www.hocuspocusjr.com/

I hope this helps,
Ronnie
Peter Marucci
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Jonathan asks: "Is there a connection between the cups and balls and the three shell game?"

I haven't a clue. But I would suspect that there isn't a true, direct connection.
Bill Palmer
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Time to correct the misconceptions.

1) There is no hieroglyphic record that has been discovered or translated of the Egyptians performing the cups and balls.
2) Dedi did not perform the cups and balls in the one mention of him that we have -- the Westcar Papyrus.
3) The earliest literary reference we have to the cups and balls: Seneca the Younger may have referred to the cups and balls in a letter to Lucilius (ca. 45 A.D.). However, his reference may have also been aimed towards the shell game or its equivalent. There is reason to believe that the two items are related.
4) There are no carvings of magicians performing the cups and balls on the walls of the Great Pyramid. In fact, there are no carvings or paintings on the walls of the Great Pyramid.
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Lawrence O
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Bill

I could not read Seneca as a potential three shell games for he refers to cups.
The earliest account of something similar to the 3 shell game was referring to the thimble rig (performed with thimbles obviously) and I could only see nutshell put in play at the end of the XIX or beginning of the XXth century.

Have you seen earlier accounts using nutsshells (or even thimbles)?

Now you don't need my support but the hieroglyphic representation often sneaked into magic as C&Bs is either bread (your interrogation, but Egyptians didn't use loafs of bread: they had the flat breads that the Lebanese are still using) or sugar or salt (this last one being my personal assumption for cattle was partly fed with salt including the cows appearing next to the two guys with the mysterious loaf); Definitely not cups and balls.

... and Dedi's main effect was only to cut the throat of a poor goose before restoring it and letting the poor beast walk away. As you state, there is no cups and balls on the papyrus kept in Berlin.
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Mr. Woolery
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Ricky Jay has a cups and balls routine that he calls the history lesson. He seems to start in the 16th century and work forward. Very entertaining. Check You Tube.

If you are not looking for a strictly factual presentation, I think that adapting Whit Haydn's patter from his 3-shell routine might go well. I seem to recall that he had a bit in there about how the oldest magic trick was a neanderthal with a pebble and a coconut shell. I personally like this better for cups and balls than for the 3-shell. It is on his site.

Penn and Teller don't get into the history, but they do mention that this is a magic trick that crosses just about every culture. They talk about the fine brass cups from India, the porcelain bowls from China and their own plastic cups because they are Americans. Again, the "hook" of the trick having roots far outside of just one culture or time period.

-Patrick
J.Warrens
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Since we're reviving threads...

Bob Sheets mentions that the 3 shell game arrived when slaves started watching dung (scarab) beetles in ancient Egypt, around 1700 B.C.

The female would lay an egg sack, and the males would protect it by clutching it underneath them and carrying it about so as to keep it out of harm's way. The wide-open environment required the constant movement of the egg sack for it's protection.

Of course, I've no idea whether this is factual or not, as Bob quotes no sources - perhaps a quick study of Scarab Beetles is in order.

Regardless, it does SOUND rather reasonable, OR at least makes for good presentational patter.

Cheers.
funsway
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For me, Cups & Balls type effects have to go back to man's earliest times -- far earlier than any recorded event. I don't need documented evidence to knwo that this is so. An early magician would have performed using small objects in his hands. He would have used available containers to hold these objects as substitute hands -- a scrap of bark, a basket, a hollow scull, whatever. The use of a container would ahve greatly expanded his repertoire of possible effects. As other containers evolved he would have used these also. It is inconceivable that magician with two hands, a couple of containers and some nuts or stones would not have done "Cups & Balls."

Magic is "of the imagination." There is no reason why we should limit our stories to what someone else can document. Create your own story about stones and baskets -- then use the "poor equivalents" of brass cups and fuzzy balls.
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panlives
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Quote:
On 2010-08-06 08:10, funsway wrote:
For me, Cups & Balls type effects have to go back to man's earliest times -- far earlier than any recorded event. I don't need documented evidence to knwo that this is so. An early magician would have performed using small objects in his hands. He would have used available containers to hold these objects as substitute hands -- a scrap of bark, a basket, a hollow scull, whatever. The use of a container would ahve greatly expanded his repertoire of possible effects. As other containers evolved he would have used these also. It is inconceivable that magician with two hands, a couple of containers and some nuts or stones would not have done "Cups & Balls."

Magic is "of the imagination." There is no reason why we should limit our stories to what someone else can document. Create your own story about stones and baskets -- then use the "poor equivalents" of brass cups and fuzzy balls.


Fantastic perspective, funsway.
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Lawrence O
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Ricky Jay's routine could be argued upon from a pure historian point of view but, as Ken rightfully underlines, what makes his routine fabulous is the great showmanship and superb script. This is not due to any lack of knowledge on Ricky's part (he is extremely knowledgeable on the actual history of magic, despite a small bias in favor of German magic that he knows even better) but he deeply knows how a story plays in the people's imagination and he has a capacity to trigger emotional reactions. It's simply called talent.

Now the story is about "history" but it's a story not an historical account despite some very accurate references aiming at supplying the needed credibility and consistency and frankly who cares? It's a show and and it is devilishly well designed and performed "for our entertaining pleasure."

Thanks Ricky
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