The first time I heard about the Showman’s Guild was from my Dad’s uncle Certini. He was a Norwegian magician and the one who got my father into doing magic. As often happens the Apprentice became a very different magician to his Master.
Certini was a manipulator. He made cards, coins, thimbles, and lots of cigarettes, appear and disappear at his finger tips. Dad was always more interested in the shows as events and happenings than in the practice of slight of hand. Dad worked miracles with mechanical marvels and electro engeneering from his own workshop rather than producing endless streams of coins. But the main difference seemed to be more of a feeling. As you watched Dad you got pure escapism, perfect entertainment, whilst with uncle Certini there was a different intent. Although he did standard gentleman magic, by his presence, poise and intense presentations each coin that materialized in his empty hands seemed symbolic. Like it was one thing but meant something much more significant.
On rare occasions when I visited uncle Certini he talked about a secret brotherhood of showmen, called the Showman’s Guild. He talked about how the Illuminated Showmen had a different mindset, and different goals to most magicians. This kind of talk didn’t seem so strange to me since I was also part of a secret brotherhood of magicians. I mean the Magic Circle of Norway wasn’t a secret society as such, but it certainly was a society with and about secrets. What made the Guild different was partly my father’s reaction to uncle Certini talking about it. Dad always tried to end the conversation and get onto more practical matters.
Uncle Certini had bad nerves I was told. He sometimes had to travel to rest them at a sanatorium in the Fjordlands. Dad later told me that he believed there was a connection between uncle Certini needing to rest his nerves and his preoccupation with the Showmans Guild. I was never so certain.
A product of mental instabilities or over active imagination, this all piqued an interest and a life long research project into first of all trying to establish the reality of this obscure organization, which proves to be most difficult, then puzzle together the tenants of their teachings which they called the Way of the Showman.Through snippets found, quotations interpreted, reviews found in old news papers and most of all the hand written notes from uncle Certini’s inheritance I’ve got a fair outline of the societiy’s secret history and the goings on in this most singular initiatory Guild.