Juggler, one who practises or exhibits tricks by sleight of hand, or who makes sport by tricks of extraordinary and deceptive dexterity. The further we go back in history, the more do we find the juggler assuming the character of the thaumaturgist or worker of serious marvels; and in the 16th century men were burned alive in Spain and Italy for performances which now excite but little wonder. In the earliest times, when knowledge and science were devoted to strengthening heathen religion, juggling was a real power, and formed the most efficient means of sustaining the dignity of the priesthood. The hierarchy of India and Egypt carried thaumaturgy to an incredible extent, and it is by no means impossible that a great proportion of the marvels ascribed by legend to magicians were actually or apparently performed. The investigations of Salverte have shown in what manner most of these could have been done, and with what effect, especially in the depths of temples, before witnesses filled with awe and devoid of doubt. Thus Iamblichus (De Mysteriis, cap. 29) and Porphyry speak of those who showed the apparitions of gods in the air; a trick explained by Robertson ("Memoirs," vol. i., p. 354) to be of easy performance.
The wonder-worker Maximus probably used a similar secret when, on burning incense before a statue of Hecate, the goddess was seen to laugh so plainly as to fill all present with horror. Ordinary jugglers at the present day show the face of another person to those looking in a mirror; a trick also used by fortune tellers to exhibit future husbands to superstitious girls. This, which is done by a very simple optical contrivance sold in many shops, perfectly explains the manner in which the Agrippas and Fausts of the middle ages, as well as the earlier magicians, showed those who were supposed to be absent, or the forms of the departed, as Cleonice appeared to Pausanias. Juggling, properly regarded, is a science, the principal of whose divisions is that of sleight of hand or substitution. The commonest tricks performed by these means have been known to all cultivated races. The tosser of knives and balls, the marvellous balancer, the producer of unexpected objects from strange receptacles, occur in Saxon manuscripts and on the walls of Egyptian and Etruscan tombs; they amazed the Norseman and the Roman; and when the troubadour degenerated to a vagabond, he became a jongleur (Lat. joculator), whence the word juggler.
The tying and untying of intricate knots, which has even in these days been attributed to supernatural agency, yet which is shown by every juggler, leads us back to the Scottish warlock whom no bonds could hold, and to the symbolic mazes of Runic and Gordian ties. Not many years ago London was amazed at a man who could tell one person in secret what card it was that another thought of. Lord Bacon (Sylva Sylvarum, cent, ix., 946) tells of one that "did first whisper the Man in the Eare, that such a Man shoulde think such a Card." Those who have seen glasses or chains broken, and handkerchiefs apparently torn to pieces, and then restored to the owners, may be amused to know that a learned writer of the 16th century, Fromann (Tractatus de Fascinatione, p. 583), really believed that this was done by magic, though he tells us in the same book that in his time many common jugglers (conculatores aut saccularii) were often mistaken for magicians. Modern wizards simply amuse by showing us eggs or other objects which dance and follow the motion of the hand, an invisible silk thread or hair being the medium used; but of old the king of Babylon stood at the parting of the ways and used divination with arrows which leaped up and pointed the way he was to go, as they did in after times for the Arabs (Koran, v. 99); and for the Tartar Genghis Khan the same trick was used.
Reginald Scot, in his "Discoverie of Witchcraft," explains how the head of a man may come through a table, upon a plate, and being duly whitened like a corpse may astonish the world by talking; an account which throws much light on the talking heads of Arabic, Greek, Hebrew, Norse, and mediaeval fable. Down to the present century ventriloquism was regarded as a physiological mystery, and of old it seemed awful when the river Nessus saluted Pythagoras, when a tree spoke before Apollonius, and when a new-born infant, or animals, or statues talked. Every modern juggler allows himself to be shot at; the first European, Laing, who went among the Sulimas, near the source of the Joliba, saw a native chief perform the same trick on a grand scale and in a curious manner, the muskets always flashing in the pan when aimed at him, but shooting well when turned, however unexpectedly, to other objects. In all ages, and especially in the East, wizards have stuck arrows and swords through their own limbs, and driven nails through their hands; but when in 1859 a so-called "India-rubber man" attempted to astonish by similar feats, his secret was quickly exposed in the newspapers.
Ancient jugglers performed extraordinary feats by mechanism, which is defined by Cassiodo-rus (Varia lib. i., c. 45) as " the science of constructing machines whose effects shall seem to reverse the order of nature." In those days the floors of temples heaved like waves, doors widened of themselves to admit portly visitors, tripods advanced to salute them, statues wept, nodded, and bled; all which marvels are imitated by modern jugglers. In the 17th century, by acoustics, invisible sprites called trararmes rapped audibly on any object indicated; in the 19th, Haller, Blitz, and others summon them again. The abbe Mical and Maelzel in modern times astonished the world with androides, little speaking figures; the Egyptian priests made gods and statues which prophesied and explained dreams. Stone statues of the gods which rang like a bell when struck (Pausanias, " Attica," c. 42) are still found in China as the jade-stone images of Buddha. In optics, the Chinese jugglers show a clear metallic mirror which, when it reflects sunshine on a wall, exhibits in the circle of light an inscription; the secret of which was accidentally discovered several years ago in Paris by seeing a letter stamped in the back of a daguerreotype plate reflected in like manner, though not visible on the reflecting surface.
The magic lantern fully explains the images of the gods shown in the water by ancient wizards, and the devils seen by Benvenuto Cellini in the Colosseum. In hydrostatics, the bottle yielding all kinds of wine, which has often appeared in romance, as on the table of Faust, has been realized by many wizards of the present day. Many tricks performed by modern eastern jugglers have however never been fairly explained. Their placing a boy in a basket on the ground and stabbing through it, causing blood to flow and the boy to vanish and reappear, is one of these; so too is their curious trick of making trees grow visibly in a few minutes. Something like this was shown by a Neapolitan, who professed to make lettuce seed sprout by electricity, and who thereby long puzzled the scientific world. In modern Egypt (Lane, "Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians," vol. ii.) a naked juggler is tied up in an empty bag, and comes out bringing with him plates of food and lighted candles. The Indian and Japanese jugglers are also exceedingly skilful. - Common jugglers are said to have originated in Egypt, and thence made their appearance in Greece; in Rome they were termed prcestigiatores, pi-larii (ball players), ventilatores (tossers), and 8accularii, "those who tricked with bags and into pockets." The real Faust of the middle ages was a common juggler, and much below the dignity of black-art scholars like Agrippa and Paracelsus. Of his class was the Bohemian Zito. Among the most remarkable jugglers of modern times have been Pinetti, Eckartshausen, Philadelphia, and the famed Katterfelto. More recently we have had Bartolommeo, Bosco of Turin, Dobler, Prof. Anderson, Heller, Houdin, and Hermann. Most eminent of these was the Frenchman Robert Houdin, who applied to his art both genius and science.
His memoirs were published in Paris in 1859. For other works on the subject, see Reginald Scot, "Dis-coverie of Witchcraft" (1584); the works of Wiegleb, Halle, Funk, and Eckartshausen; Sir David Brewster, "Letters on Natural Magic" (London, 1831); and Eusebe Salverte, Des sciences occultes (2 vols., Paris, 1829).