Chances are if you grew up in the 70s or 80s you’ve heard of the parlor trick game, Light as a Feather. The basic gist of the game is to make someone become light as a feather and that you will be able to levitate them off the floor using just two fingers from each person that participates.
Many people were first introduced to this by the masses in the movie The Craft but it dates all the way back to the 1600s. It first popped up in the diary of Samual Pepys. Samual was an administer of the navy of England and a member of Parliament. Here is the account told to him by a friend who witnessed the game being played.
“He saw four little girls, very young ones, all kneeling, each of them, upon one knee; and one begun the first line, whispering in the ear of the next, and the second to the third, and the third to the fourth, and she to the first. Then the first begun the second line, and so round quite through, and putting each one finger only to a boy that lay flat upon his back on the ground, as if he was dead; at the end of the words, they did with their four fingers raise this boy high as they could reach, and he [Mr. Brisband] being there, and wondering at it, as also being afeared to see it, for they would have had him to have bore a part in saying the words, in the roome of one of the little girles that was so young that they could hardly make her learn to repeat the words, did, for feare there might be some sleight used in it by the boy, or that the boy might be light, call the cook of the house, a very lusty fellow, as Sir G. Carteret’s cook, who is very big, and they did raise him in just the same manner.”
The next recorded account was in 1857 in the Magicians Own Handbook. And then made famous in the 90s movie, The Craft.
The actual science of the game is based on the principle that everyone lifting at the same time in the right place on the body, distributes the weight just right for the body to be easier, lighter to lift. And not that we ever think of this, but the fingers are stronger then we think.
Along with the chanting of light as a feather, stiff as a board there is also a quick back story to set the stage and get the person who is being levitated to loosen up. Here is one version from the 1700s.
“Behold, a dead body,
Still as a stone,
Cold as marble,
Light as a spirit,
We lift you in the name of Jesus Christ.”
Cheery isn’t it? But I never thought of dead weight as loosening up, so when we played we would talk about feeling like you were drifting on a cloud, or you’re a marshmallow etc. but now that I think of it, I remember I was always the one being lifted. Know why? Because my house was a haunted one and we were all afraid a ghost was going to jump inside us! I’d be funnier if it wasn’t actually a possibility.
When we did it we also treated it more like a seance. Candles lit etc. but no matter whatever we chanted or did, it actually worked! Now I know they say your memory could can play a little trick on you with time. But we all remember it working. Now we had lots of lifters, the group of us from the neighborhood would hang out and this is one of the things we all did together. (That didn’t piss the whole neighborhood off) I wish we took some pictures when we did it. But unfortunately only my grandfather and and myself took the family photos and I was always playing the part of Linda Blair.
So, if you’ve never tried it, you should. I recommend it as being one of life’s rite of passages we all should do, even if nothing happens you’ll have a good laugh and memory I’m sure. I know I do.