SM asks: “Now that I’m beginning to learn more about the New Age and the occult, I’ve become concerned about a children’s game we used to play at sleepovers where we used to levitate one another by using just one or two fingers on each hand. The person would lay on the floor and we’d encircle them, everyone with one or two fingers slipped under their body. We’d say some kind of chant and then, on the count of three, lift them into the air. Are you familiar with this game and were we inadvertently consorting with occult powers when performing this trick?”
This is a really great question and yes, I am familiar with this game. In fact, I used to play it myself in the basement of a schoolmate’s home where we’d often gather to have “pajama parties.” We’d all take turns being lifted into the air and would hoot and holler the whole way up – and down!
This levitation game is also known as “Stiff as a Board, Light as a Feather” or the “Finger Lift” game and has nothing to do with the occult. As Dr. Karl S. Kruszelnicki describes at ABC Science, there are several explanations for why a few people are able to lift someone with just two fingers.
First, our fingers are much stronger than we think. In fact, there is a record of a French Canadian man named Louis Cyr who lifted 553 lbs. with his right middle finger. His record was beaten by American strongman Lincoln Travis who lifted 560 pounds – on his 50th birthday – with a single finger.
The second reason is because several people who lift in synchrony are each lifting only about 26 to 44 pounds depending on how many people are involved. The key here is to do the lift in unison. If you remember correctly, the game usually began with everyone trying to lift the person before the so-called “magic chant” unleased the “magical powers” that enabled the feat to be performed. Of course, none of us were in unison, and because no one person could lift so much weight on their own, the levitation didn’t occur. It was only after the “magic chant” (which was usually some kind of rhyme meant to get everyone into sync) that the lifting occurred.
And let’s not forget that the person never hovered for long. From what I recall, we barely held them up for a split second before they crashed back down to the ground.
But that’s not to say there’s no connection between levitation and the occult. There is – just not in this children’s party game. It’s much like the relation of stage magic to occult magic. Where stage magic is really nothing more than tricks of illusion, real magic (as in spell casting) is directly related to the occult because it actually relies upon occult powers to operate. Stage magic does not.
The rising of objects into the air in defiance of gravity – such as tables and chairs, pots and pans, etc. – has long been associated with poltergeist phenomena and spiritualism.
However, it is also associated with the saints. This article appearing on Answers.com lists several saints who levitated – St. Dominic (1170-1221), St. Francis of Assisi (1186-1226), Thomas Aquinas (1226-1274), St. Edmund, archbishop of Canterbury (d. 1242), Blessed James of Illyria (d. 1485), Savonarola (1452-1498), St. Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556), St. Philip Neri (1515-1595), St. Peter of Alcantara (1499-1562), St. Joseph of Copertino (1603-1663) and St. Alphonsius Liguori (1696-1787).
I would like to add St. Teresa of Avila to the list. She once levitated in full view of her community after receiving Holy Communion one day. The episode so terrified her that she later said it made the hair on her arms stand up.
St. Joseph of Cupertino made some 70 flights, one of which took him up into a tree. St. Peter of Alcantara was also famous for levitating and was once raised to a height above the tree line.
Jesus Himself walked on water, which some have equated to a type of levitation.
However, we all know that the devil loves to mimic Christ, which is why levitation is so often associated with witchcraft and victims of demonic possession – as a kind of parody of the transports of our saints. In fact, witches are said to fly on their broomsticks thanks to a form of levitation.
This article appearing on Answers.com gives one of the most thorough treatments of levitation that I’ve come across. If you’d like more information, this is the article to read!