Performing magic is not simply about entertaining, David points out in this interview. "The task of the magician is to startle our senses and free us from outmoded ways of thinking." The magician also plays an important ecological function, he says, by mediating between the human world and the "more-than-human" world that we inhabit.
Abram: I had learned my craft from American magicians and from books and had thought of magic as a craft that originates as a form of entertainment. But it turned out that it was the oldest craft there is. Sleight-of-hand itself has its origins in the work of the shaman or sorcerer in altering perception and the organization of the senses.
London: Do medicine people ever practice sleight-of-hand magic?
Abram: Well, we've all heard of psychic surgeons, these folks who use a certain style of what we could call magic. In the Philippines, for example, they extract illness from a person's body by passing their hand over it and making a kind of invisible incision. Then they reach into the body and draw out some... (Click title for more)