As a Magic Circle magician I get asked a lot of questions about this famous magic club. In the UK, even amongst laymen it’s widely known, enveloped in secrets and myths. And because of these shrouds of mystery, many questions are left unanswered. So without giving away too many Magic Circle secrets, here are some answers to questions I often get asked about The Magic Circle.
What is The Magic Circle?
A group of magicians founded The Magic Circle in 1905 as a private magician’s club. One of its founding members was David Devant who was one of the most influential British magicians of all time. For ninety three years the Magic Circle was an itinerant club that met in hired rooms. It first met in Pinoli’s restaurant in Wardour Street and carried on with its meetings through the century in different venues.
But finally in 1998 The Magic Circle moved into its Magic Circle Euston London Headquarters in affiliation with The Centre for The Magic Arts. Club nights take place weekly. There are also competitions, public shows, trading days, and an annual awards night. The Magic Circle’s purpose is ‘To promote and advance the art of magic.’
What does the club’s motto ‘indocilis privata loqui’ mean?
An impressively well-dispersed piece of misinformation has to do with the matter of Magic Circle secrets themselves. Indocilis privata loqui is the latin motto of The Magic Circle. But almost everyone who tells you what it means is wrong. As the tale goes, it means ‘Not apt to disclose secrets.’ Generations of magicians have told each other and their audiences that it’s a posh Latin way of saying the popular phrase ‘a magician never reveals their secrets.’ The only problem is, it doesn’t actually mean that…
Scholars, including the silent shorter half of the double act Penn & Teller who was once a Latin teacher, have corrected the myth about the meaning of the motto. In a 2019 interview on The Magician’s Podcast, Teller explained (yes, Teller really can talk) that the phrase derives from a description of Julius Caesar trying to go in disguise amongst the common people – but not quite able to pull it off undetected. Still being recognised as Caesar, came the phrase indocilis privata loqui which actually means ‘not skilled at speaking of commonplace things’. Despite the correct translation of the motto being known in circles within The Circle, the false translation has so far prevailed. It still is on the club’s logo to this day.
Revealing magic secrets remains a harshly-penalised activity for the club. The Rules of The Magic Circle (1925) photo above explain the expulsion guidelines for spilling the proverbial magic beans. In 1935 Magic Circle member and first president David Devant was temporarily expelled for revealing some of his own magic in The Windsor Magazine. Incidentally, Penn & Teller are not Magic Circle members due to the fact they reveal magic secrets in their shows. This has led to divisive reactions in the Magic Circle magician community.
Do Magic Circle Magicians Have a Secret Handshake?
Magic Circle magicians might be known for their arcane ways but no, we do not have a secret handshake.
How do I get into The Magic Circle?
If you want to become a Magic Circle magician, you first need to be nominated by two current members who have known you for two years. After the nomination, you will have an interview to confirm you are capable of presenting magic competently for the interviewer. This can gain you access to the first tier of membership: Apprentice level.
An examination date will then be set up at which time the Apprentice member performs to an audience of members and (hidden) judges whose score determines whether the candidate has been successful.
After you are a member (MMC or Member of The Magic Circle) you can take a further exam to become an AIMC or Associate of the Inner Magic Circle. After that, the title of MIMC or Member of the Inner Magic Circle is still up for grabs. The sitting President awards this swanky title annually to members for outstanding achievement in magic. The Circle’s Council also awards membership due to academic or literary contributions to magic such as historical research.
Are there female magicians in The Magic Circle?
Yes. The Club raised the vote in 1991 when 75% were in favour. At the time of publishing this article, there are also 75 women who are members from the total membership of 1,788 magicians worldwide.
How old do you have to be to join The Magic Circle?
To become a full-fledged Magic Circle magician, you need to be at least 18 years old. However for anyone younger, you can join The Magic Circle’s Young Magician’s Club instead. It was founded in 1996 and is a fun place to meet others who love magic. It’s also a valuable opportunity for guidance on how to become a better magician. You will likely learn a few Magic Circle secrets yourself. I would have loved to have a club like that near me when I was starting in magic. I had to wait a whole year for the next annual convention near me! If you’re getting your feet wet in magic, you also might want to check out these articles on the different kinds of magicians there are and how to practice magic.
Where is the Magic Circle?
Mystery and Magic Circle Magicians await you, tucked away in a cobblestone alley in London’s King’s Cross district. The Magic Circle is at the Centre for the Magic Arts, 12 Stephenson Way, London NW1 2HD. The closest train station is Euston and the nearest Underground station is Euston Square. However The Circle is also an easy 15-minute walk from the major hub King’s Cross station.
What lies behind the doors at The Magic Circle Headquarters?
You can actually come and see for yourself! The Magic Circle has always presented its Christmas Show and other public shows through the years, but you will have even more opportunities once theatres open again post-Covid. Under the leadership of current President Noel Britten (voted in 2019) the Circle is developing plans to broaden its offerings of public events. The Magic Circle headquarters houses The Magic Circle Theatre that has a capacity of 126, a small Museum full of historical magic treasures, and a magic library (for members only). On the social side, there is also a bar and The Devant Room where members can perform close up magic. Check the website for updates on shows as the Covid storm passes. Maybe when you’re there you will discover Magic Circle secrets worth keeping yourself.
Thanks for coming along. Say hello and drop me a note in the comments below. I hope to see you again after a few more turns in the trail.
Article Cover: The Magic Circle Staircase
Rules of The Magic Circle, Harry Price Collection
Lecture at The Magic Circle, Photo by Mark Hesketh-Jennings