Broken Wand Ceremony for Magicians

by J-Touchette
Harry Houdini's gravesite in Queens, New York.

Harry Houdini’s grave, located in Queens, NY has the crest of the Society of American Magicians inscribed on it. Every November since he died, the Society holds a Broken Wand ceremony at his gravesite.

When a magician has died and is a member of the Society of American Magicians, a special ceremony is held to remember his or her love for magic.

A Broken Wand ceremony is held for magicians who have passed on, although it is usually only held upon request of the family, since the Society does not require magicians to have the ceremony.

It is held before any religious services, as is common for most ceremonies performed by a social group or association. In most cases it takes place the night before a funeral at the funeral home and family and friends are invited to attend.

The ceremony is performed by at least one fellow magician who is comfortable with the words of the service. The magicians introduce themselves  to the people and then begin the ceremony with these words used by the Society of American Magicians.

“One we talked with yesterday is silent today. A friend who we walked with has gone on without us. We shall miss and remember (him/her). And no greater tribute can be paid to anyone than this; that (he/she) lives on in the hearts and esteem of friends.

Compeer (Name of magician), when you were initiated into the Society of American Magicians, you were presented with a wand, this ancient emblem of mystery. It symbolized the magic power that was yours as you used your knowledge of magic secrets and your skill in their exemplification. Now it’s power is gone… It is a mere stick… Devoid of all meaning and authority… Useless without your hand to wield it.

The magician’s wand or a ceremonial one is broken. (It is partially sawed through first to ensure it breaks evenly.) The breaking of the wand is an acknowledgment that a wand without a magician is simply a piece of wood.

Fellow compeers, may the broken wand symbolize our submission to the mandate of the Supreme Magician to whom all secrets are known, even of life and death. Into the surety of his love we commit the keeping of our brother/sister.”

This tradition began with one of the most famous magicians of all time, Harry Houdini, who at the time of his death was President of the Society of American Magicians. It was performed for him after his funeral on November 4, 1926, and since then, has been performed by magicians every year on the anniversary of his death.

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Society of American Magicians

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