Category Archives: Magic/Illusions

Modern Griots Recap: Divination 101


Divination (n): the art or practice that seeks to foresee or foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge usually by the interpretation of omens or by the aid of supernatural powers.

Divination, Science and Technology, Transhumanism and Futurism:

Definition, including implied ones, are important because they affect our perceptions. That is true for some modern perceptions of divination. The way many think of divination is as some ancient practice associated with magick and witchcraft where people read signs on chicken bones, sheep intestines, tea leaves or any other natural substance and that it has no practical application to our lives now. But is that the truth, or is that modern dismissals of practices done in spiritual systems outside of Abrahamic religions, and Western scientific misunderstandings of practices created by ancient people and of people of color who mostly do these. Last night, I went to CCCADI’s Roots and Stars event about divination and below are some notes I took from it:

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Modern Griots: Do You Believe in Magic?


Have you ever heard of Black Herman? Born in Virginia in 1892, the stage magician, entertainer and hoodoo dabbler, whose original name was Benjamin Rucker, was one of the most prominent of his time. Learning his skills from Prince Herman (Alonzo Moore), Rucker took Herman’s name in honor of him after he died in 1909, and became popular in Harlem.

In 1925, Rucker published “Secrets of Magic, Mystery, and Legerdemain,” which contained  semi-autobiographical account, instructions for simple illusions for amateur magicians, advice on astrology and lucky numbers, and a sampling of African American hoodoo folk magic customs and practices. An announcement on the book’s title page, “Black Herman Comes Through Every Seven Years”, referred to Herman’s pattern of returning to venues on a regular basis; the book was sold at his performances, although it has been determined that he was not the author.

Rucker died in 1934 while doing a stage act in Louisville, Kentucky. Known for his “buried alive” act, audience members refused to believe he died. His assistant, Washington Reeves charged admission to view Rucker’s corpse in the funeral home, bringing a dramatic end to the entertainer’s life. Rucker lived on through musician Sun Ra, who was named after him because Ra’s mother liked Rucker’s performances, and as the detective-sidekick in Ishmael Reed’s 1972 novel Mumbo Jumbo.”

Cabinet Magazine article on Black Herman

Black Magic: Religion and the African American Conjuring Tradition

Conjure Times: The History of Black Magicians in America

Black Jack (Although I disagree with some of what he said, he does talk about Black magicians and the Harlem Renaissance)

Modern Griots Review: Pumzi, The Power of Dreams


The best science fiction is the one is based on reality of the times we live in and given the current world crises of famine, water contamination and global warming, Pumzi is definitely an appropriate film.

Written and directed by Wanuri Kahiu, the 20-minute film is about Asha (portrayed by Kudzani Moswela), who lives in an indoor community in East Africa, 35 years after World War III, the “Water War.” The outside world is now dead, no plants and no water. Inside, the community lives on water from their own bodies and everything runs on human-produced electrical energy (they uses exercise machines). Asha is a museum curator who has found a small clump of dirt that is able produce life and wants to go outside to find out if more exists.

Not only is the dirt pushing her to go outside but also her dreams, which she is told to repeatedly suppress. She is also denied access by the Council to go outside. Still she manages to make it outside. Is she successful? That is not the point of the story. The film is reminiscent of two speeches from Martin Luther King, Jr., the “I Have a Dream” speech and the “I Have Been to the Mountaintop” speech. Even if she does not make it, her dream and willingness to try may help those in the future.

Pumzi stresses the importance of dreams because dreams open the door to, or plant a seed for alternative worlds and alternative futures.

To see this film and other great African films, check out Africa First: Volume One.