Page 23 September 1982
THE DEVIL STICK
By Mary Saucier
juggling prop, which consists of two simple hand sticks and a longer,
heavier manipulated stick (the Devil Stick), has an obscure Asian
origin. Trying to track down specific facts was similar to putting
together clues to solve a murder mystery... without the murder!
the library and bookstore, I found books on the subject of juggling, but
hardly a mention of devil sticks. Two notable exceptions were Circus
Techniques by Hovey Burgess and Holden's Manual of Juggling,
both of which give instructions on its manipulation. Neither, however,
shed much historical light on the prop.
I contacted jugglers across the country. Many people performed with
devil sticks, but no one had any knowledge of its history.
Dave Finnegan of Jugglebug said he had visited
said they are referred to as "the Flower Sticks," possibly
because of the large pom-pom attached at each end. These prevent the
stick from breaking when it falls, and also slow down its rotation.
"Flower sticks" are longer than the 24-inch American devil
stick, Finnegan said, but have the same hourglass form. Chinese jugglers
make' 'flower sticks" more visually appealing to their large
audiences by the addition of colorful ribbons wrapped around their
length, Finnegan added.
Jay, a Hollywood magician/juggler and collector of juggling information,
dug up from his files some valuable historical information on devil
sticks in the West. The earliest mention he could find was an 1813
curious," Ricky explains, "is that as popular as the devil
sticks were in the Orient and in
said modem records of devil sticks show its reintroduction in the 1940s
with Karl Rappon, a craft (heavy object) juggler.
fact that the history of devil sticks is shrouded in mystery leads to
some interesting "made up" explanations on their origin. Dario
Pittore of the
ancient Chinese legend holds that a troupe of Tibetan performers played
before the emperor of
shares the legend with me while demonstrating his own agility with a devil
stick. He tosses and catches it back and forth between his hand
sticks, twirls it high in the air, uses only one hand stick for a
propeller effect, and occasionally uses his feet in the manipulation.
there is something magical about the devil stick after all! Dario uses his
with ease and grace, and you can learn, too. The homemade whiffle ball
devil stick explained below is especially handy for beginners!
1/4" round-head screws and washers Hammer and nail
roll of cloth bicycle handlebar tape One roll of cloth first aid tape
ONE: Cut one of the dowels in half to make the two hand sticks. The
other will be the devil stick.
TWO: Drill a hole at each end of the longer (devil) stick.
THREE: Carve a hole, using the file, into the solid half of each whiffle
ball. Make it just a little smaller than the end of the dowel.
FOUR: Force a dowel end through each whiffle ball hole and screw it into
the dowel using the screw and washer. Prick the whiffle ball first to
make a screw hole in it by using the hammer and nail.
FIVE: Wind cloth bicycle tape around the devil stick dowel using the
same technique as for wrapping handlebars. Start and end just
underneath the whiffle balls at each end.
SIX: Wrap each handstick with cloth first aid tape.
You are now the proud owner of your own devil stick set. They may be
jazzed up with the addition of paint and/or glue.
The principle rests on finding the point of balance on the stick and hitting it just above that point with alternating hand sticks. It may be helpful to balance the devil stick on each hand stick to get the feel for that point. The devil stick is passed between the hand sticks, making a half-circle rotation from side to side.
begin, sit in a straight back chair with the devil stick standing
vertically between your knees. Now gently pass the devil stick from hand
stick to hand stick without raising it off the floor. Hard to do, isn't
you feel ready, start with a slight upward motion with each hand stick.
The devil stick will begin to rise up off the ground. The key here is to
rise up with it, maintaining control.
That's the basic move. Other tricks develop through the use and practice of the devil stick, and especially from practicing with others and seeing their tricks. Remember, mistakes often turn into new tricks!
Oriental and mysterious of origin, jugglers keep discovering its limits. Andy Allen, junior champ, made this baffling move.