Ventriloquism

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Ventriloquism, or ventriloquy, is an act of stagecraft in which a person (a ventriloquist) manipulates his or her voice so that it appears that the voice is coming from elsewhere, usually a puppeteered "dummy". The act of ventriloquism is ventriloquizing, and the ability to do so is commonly called in English the ability to "throw" one's voice. However, the term "throwing one's voice" is misleading, because it implies that a sound's physical origin has changed, when really the change has been perceptual and not physical.

Contents

Origins

Originally, ventriloquism was a religious practice. The name comes from the Latin for to speak from the stomach, i.e. venter (belly) and loqui (speak).[1] The Greeks called this gastromancy (Greek: εγγαστριμυθία). The noises produced by the stomach were thought to be the voices of the unliving, who took up residence in the stomach of the ventriloquist. The ventriloquist would then interpret the sounds, as they were thought to be able to speak to the dead, as well as foretell the future.

One of the earliest recorded group of prophets to utilise this technique was the Pythia, the priestess at the temple of Apollo in Delphi, who acted as the conduit for the Delphic Oracle. Python subsequently became one of the most common words used in classical Jewish and early Christian writing to refer to necromantic ventriloquism; it has even been used by some early English versions of the Bible to translate the word gastromancy in the Septuagint and in the Acts of the Apostles.[2]

One of the most successful early gastromancers was Eurykles, a prophet at Athens; gastromancers came to be referred to as Euryklides in his honour.[3]

In the Middle Ages, it was thought to be similar to witchcraft. As Spiritualism led to stage magic and escapology, so ventriloquism became more of a performance art as, starting around the 19th century, it shed its mystical trappings.

Other parts of the world also have a tradition of ventriloquism for ritual or religious purposes; the Zulus, Eskimo, and Māori are all adept at this practice.[3]

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