A short history of the Magicians Oath. When magic began to be accepted in society and magicians were revered for their special talents, the need to save the art was strongly felt.
Thus as a means of protecting their trade secrets, the oath of secrecy was established as long ago as 2400 years ago by the Greek Father of modern magic, Charlatates.
The original magicians oath which was in vogue until as recently as 2008 was:
‘As a magician I promise never to reveal the secret of any illusion to a non-magician, unless that one swears to uphold the Oath in turn. I promise never to perform any illusion for any non-magician without first practicing the effect until I can perform it well enough to maintain the illusion of magic.’
This oath was meant to serve as a key in the magician’s hand to the gate beyond which lay the elusive and mesmerising world of magic.
Its additional purpose was to unite magicians all over the world under a single umbrella of brotherhood, and act as a constant reminder of their responsibilities as entertainers.
Hence whoever takes the Magicians oath is granted entry into the barred kingdom and is educated about all the mysteries pertaining to it.
By taking this oath magicians pledge to themselves and to others that under no circumstances would they reveal the secrets of their trade to their audiences.
Magic has always held an attraction for people and much of this proclivity is attributed to the unknown factor, meaning the part of the trick which keeps you guessing.
People come to magic shows because they wish to be transported into a ‘make believe’ world and sit back and enjoy the feeling.
While most of the adult audience is aware of the tricks of the trade, they still do not make any attempt to shatter the illusion for their children because the awe and admiration inspired by a magic show has very few parallels in this world.
Moreover, it is one of the few remaining family entertainments wherein everyone can take a break, relax and laugh together for a couple of hours.
Shattering this illusion would be like destroying icons like Santa Claus and Peter Pan – apart from being painful, it would deprive the art of its enigma and spoil the entire show.
Therein lays the importance of the
magicians oath because revealing a trick to the audience means it can
never be enacted again and the long term implications of this are that
no-one would ever enjoy performing or watching this trick.
A more serious consequence is that it would deprive another fellow magician of his livelihood and as in other professions it is unacceptable in this field too.
It is essential for the magician to understand that in the case of magic, a secret told means the trick is lost forever.
In a constantly evolving world, if tricks become stale quickly, then it is just a matter of time before people will lose faith in this art and it will recede into oblivion.
However, equally true is the fact that the audience does not like to watch the same trick many times and usually crave for something new.
One of the best ways of handling this situation is to present the trick in a totally different manner so that it appears new while maintaining secrecy at the same time.
Of course, this entails creativity and imagination but then these are attributes which all born magicians possess and only need to hone further.
Reneging on the magicians oath is as good as committing career suicide for a magician as such an individual would soon find themsleves isolated from the brotherhood.
Not only does this professional stop receiving updates in the form of new tricks but no-one is willing to teach them anything about the profession as well.
History has been witness to the fact that even renowned magicians who have revealed secrets have been ousted from the brotherhood and are eventually forced to assume a passive role in the profession.
Much of this closing of ranks is a way of self-protection and self-preservation of the community as also the assurance that magic as a means of entertainment would endure for generations to come.
The original oath was revised in 2008 and presently all magicians who wish to owe their allegiance to the community must take the following oath:
‘If accepted, I agree to elevate the art of magic, abide by the constitution, by-laws, code of ethics and rituals of The Society of American Magicians.
I will cooperate with the Society in the promotion
of its objectives, promote harmony and advance the ethics of the
I will not condone the dissemination of trade secrets and principles related to magicians or magic effects with no effort or expectation by the recipient to obtain or acquire the information.
will not expose the secrets and principles of magic, nor will I support
those who do. I will not copy, imitate, manufacture or sell the
materials, ideas, principles, trade secrets or presentations of others
I will treat all my fellow compeers and all magicians with respect, encouraging fellowship, unity and cooperation.’
Upholding the magicians oath implies that the puzzling and overwhelming aspect of magic will remain unblemished for centuries to come and people will continue to flock to magic shows wherein an entertainer will mesmerise them sufficiently to cause them to temporarily forget their troubles.