Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Difference Between Glamour and Pishogue

Magicians are notorious for making things disappear. Typically they do this by controlling attention.

While the crowd is 'looking over there' the magician does something 'over here' and presto! An object appears or disappears in a seemingly impossible fashion and everyone has a bit of fun being amazed and amused.

Before the Age of Reason, however, such tricks were accepted as a part of daily life. Pranks of altered consciousness were played on ordinary humans by faeries and household sprites, by witches and sorcerers, by ghosts and demons, and by all manner of other supernatural forces.

Two specific types of trick--the glamour and the pishogue--were especially common and were regularly discussed.

A pishogue is when someone or something casts a spell over a person that confuses or changes how that person perceives an object. A glamour, by contrast, is when the spell is cast over the object itself in order to change how it appears or even to make it disappear entirely (or cause it to become invisible).

Faeries were said to be especially skilled in the art of pishogue. Faeries could easily alter human perception to make people see whatever they wanted them to see, and could appear to humans in whatever form they wished. (Many writers versed in faery lore believe that today's 'aliens' are actually the same faery folk our ancestors talked about as a matter of course.)

Faeries are notoriously private and don't appreciate human nosiness into their affairs. Their skill at deception and the alteration of human consciousness remain legendary to this day.

Glamours were more often cast by witches or sorcerers. The Malleus Malleficarum, the infamous 15th century text that allowed the Church to burn and torture thousands of women accused of witchcraft, goes into great detail on the matter of the use of glamours, especially in regard to stealing the male member or causing it to disappear altogether:

" is no doubt that certain witches can do marvellous things with regard to male organs, for this agrees with what has been seen and heard by many, and with the general account of what has been known concerning that member through the senses of sight and touch. And as to how this thing is possible, it is to be said that it can be done in two ways, either actually and in fact, as the first arguments have said, or through some prestige or glamour. But when it is performed by witches, it is only a matter of glamour; although it is no illusion in the opinion of the sufferer. For his imagination can really and actually believe that something is not present, since by none of his exterior sense, such as sight or touch, can he perceive that it is present."

It's easy to look at a piece of text like this one and conclude that the author must have been speaking metaphorically, but the quote is actually pretty clear: It says plainly that the guy whose dick has been glamoured off isn't dealing with impotence or a mere loss of confidence. He literally can't see a dick where once a dick used to plainly obvious.


Witches also cast glamours to make themselves appear to be beautiful when in reality they were hideously ugly or deformed. This is where we get the modern usage of the word 'glamour' as having something to do with sexy women's clothes and the proper make up and attitude. It's important to point out, however, that nothing that pedestrian was meant by the original term. Today's 'glamour' is a very watered down, tame version of the original concept.

It's odd how the everyday practice of magic has lost so much credence even though we absolutely know magic exists and that it is a powerful, amazing art. It's almost as if science has cast its own glamour over the notion of glamour itself.

Illusionists like David Copperfield successfully make large buildings disappear and Chris Angel hovers in midair, and we accept all these feats easily as long as it is a form of entertainment. We've given our consent, asked to be amazed, suspended our disbelief, and are happy when we get our wish.

Yet when we read defunct texts from the prescientific era we laugh off such claims as simple ignorance and superstition--as though it would be impossible to fool anyone who hadn't given advance consent. We are not all that comfortable with the idea that magic can be used against us when we don't want it, or when its aim is something other than entertaining games and fun. We know on some level that it can be used this way and is used this way, but we don't like it so we pretend it's all impossible.

The Church wasn't all that comfortable with that idea either. They responded rather badly. 

Basic principles of magic such as pishogue and glamour are still used today by the press, by Hollywood, by the government, by amateur and professional hypnotists, by psychotherapists, and most especially by the advertising industry. This is just a short list of the open uses of pishogue and glamour. Think of the art of 'spin' and how big a part of all our lives that art really is.

When I read accounts from alien abductees I often wonder about covert uses of these techniques.

Just because the Church reacted in a totally batshit manner to accusations of magic 500 years ago doesn't mean magic isn't real and isn't still being practiced today by those who know how.

We don't really need to roast anybody.

But it is food for thought.


  1. Very interesting piece Pam. I enjoyed reading this post.

  2. Thanks! I love this sort of thing. Reading a fabulous book about it right now. I'll review it here when I get done. :)

  3. Wow Pam. Very interesting.