Magic has existed as a known performance art since 2700 BCE in Egypt when the performer Dedi performed an act where he conjured balls. This act was repeated in Rome by the Acetabularii between 50 and 300 BCE as "cups and balls."

Magic performance remained mostly an Egyptian and Roman art for the first few thousands of years after its invention but quickly spread worldwide after the Middle Ages. The Dark Ages saw magic fall into disfavor as a performance art because it was considered occult, especially in Europe. English Parliament member Reginald Scot published "The Discoverie of Witchcraft" in 1584, which was heavily influential on the spread of magic performance in England and subsequently throughout the Western world.