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World Sword Swallow Day is celebrated every year on the last Saturday of February


World Sword Swallow Day has been organized by the Sword Swallowers Association International since 2008  to raise awareness for the ancient art of sticking a sharp blade down the throat, and of course removing it again, without getting hurt in the process.

Sword swallower in India ca. 1868

Sword swallowing is a performance art that goes back several millennia.
Though one may say that any act that involves doing something dangerous as a performance before an audience might be as old as the day that monkeys evolved into the devious beings that they are. Humans are basically still monkeys. Even if we biologically classify as an ape species.

The oldest mentions found of sword swallowers are of performers in India several millennia BC.
Along with several other famous dangerous looking acts, like coal walking and snake charming.
Around the year 0 this performance art spread to Greece and Rome.
And soon it also spread to Asia and Europe….and the rest we know.

Just like in the present times, these performances were often done as a proof of someones spirituality or extreme self control.
No science has ever found proof of spirituality playing a part in these performances.
But the knowledge of how to control the self to perform these skills is getting more common.

Hopkins, Albert (1897)
Magic; stage illusions and scientific diversions

First, of course the sword used is generally not sharpened. It is still dangerous though because it is pointy and our soft flesh is not made for sliding in hard steel objects.
Second,you suppress your gag reflexes and hold perfectly still in a pose that guides the sword perfectly straight down.
Third, never panic and move in any way that makes the sword pierce you anyway until you carefully remove it.
Fourth, people do get hurt performing this trick because even the best practice does not prevent accidents from happening in this act of extreme precision where there is no room for any accidents.

Sword swallowing is a dangerous skill.
But long and careful practice enables people to actually perform it kinda safely, so they say, before a captive audience, that still can’t get enough of watching other people do dangerous stuff …. even after thousands of years!




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