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Let's discuss magic


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Initial post: Jul 5, 2012 5:25:19 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 6, 2012 6:12:45 PM PDT
Although magic is- by virtue of it's nature- magic can be used in two major schools of thought:

Ethereal Magic: Through interaction with the "ether"- that is taking the inherent magic of the universe and shaping it to ones purpose.

Divine Magic: Not to be confused with "yahweh the divine" rather any magic that has been decreed by A god or other deity.

The major difference is that divine magic is only accessible because some deity has willed it so. This would also explain why magic words or gestures have effect. Because some deity has made that universes "rules" work that way. In an ethereal magic universe there is no reason that speaking words would have any effect except as a method to frame the mind to shape or form the magic.
Divine magic on the other hand uses words more to get the attention of some deity.

Of course divine magic is also how stories might function in which there is some "primordial language" spoken by some ancient precursor to contemporary intelligent beings ( humans included).

Any thoughts?

Posted on Jul 5, 2012 5:52:14 PM PDT
Gamer4Life says:
Well yesterday my Fire Spell backfired and now i have no hair on my nuts.

Posted on Jul 5, 2012 5:58:54 PM PDT
who's got a Black Lotus to sell me?

Posted on Jul 7, 2012 10:22:42 PM PDT
Man, I was hoping for SOME response

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 7, 2012 11:20:46 PM PDT
Based on your logic, I am not sure that magic words or gestures would necessarilly have no effect on ethereal magic. As you stated, a diety would have to set the universe's rules up to include them in order for 'divine magic' to work with magic words or hand gestures, so what is to say that 'ethereal magic' wouldn't work the same way? If the rules of the universe require those things to work, does it matter if it is because of the rules created by some god or if the universe just simply works that way already?

Posted on Jul 8, 2012 3:41:55 AM PDT
If you want to read some good books check these out
The Witch Fairy series By Bonnie Lamer
Witch Light trilogy and A Modern Witch series By Debora Geary
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Posted on Jul 8, 2012 6:55:09 AM PDT
Magic can also be a combination of the two. In my own fantasy series (not named or linked, so please don't blast me) magic was originally created by a divine entity, but was infused into the world so that anyone could use it making it more ethereal. Magical chants and symbols can be used for focusing techniques, but a magic user can cast increasingly difficult spells with just their thoughts as they grow in skill and expertise.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 8, 2012 7:30:54 AM PDT
Shawn, it is possible for a deity to set the rules of a universe to make it function like an ethereal magic universe. But I think it's unlikely for a universe to emerge in which magic can be conjured through gesture without some outside agency willing it so.

Remember the magic itself is still magic, it's how it's enabled that matters here.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 8, 2012 7:31:36 AM PDT
Well, no I think thats still more of a divine magic scenario.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 14, 2012 9:23:19 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 15, 2012 9:25:10 AM PDT
Ashwood says:
Random Configuration of letters says: But I think it's unlikely for a universe to emerge in which magic can be conjured through gesture without some outside agency willing it so.

Ash : The agency doesn't have to be divine or even conscious of what it is doing. There is also the idea that mages can affect magic on a semi-permanent basis like wearing down the grass on an often used path. After a few centuries of mages using the word "Fuego!" while framing their mind to conjure fire, it become easier for new mages to use that word to conjure fire than any other word. Once the meaning of the words and gestures get etched into the ambient mana, it might become possible to do rituals by rote without understanding the meaning yourself.

So you could make up your own school of magic with all new words and rituals, but it would be like pushing through the jungle instead of taking the beaten path, more effort for less effect.

Posted on Jul 15, 2012 11:38:46 AM PDT
darkwulf11 says:
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Posted on Jul 15, 2012 4:12:42 PM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Jul 15, 2012 4:54:02 PM PDT]

Posted on Jul 16, 2012 8:55:42 AM PDT
This is a favorite topic of mine, and my blog has about a kerzillion posts about magic and world-building. I'm going to fall back on an old categorization system for fantasy magic systems - internal, external, and method.

Internal Magic: Magic comes from inherent qualities of the practitioner, often coupled with self-discipline. Examples include classic psychics, vampires/werewolves/dragons (usually), and comic book mutant superheroes (as well as some other kinds of superheroes). A lot of fantasy magic is restricted to people who are "born with the gift" that allows them to use it. This magic type can overlap with the others, but pretty much any powers accessible either instinctively or by pure force of will would be internal magic.

External Magic: Magic comes from an interested, external power source. The priest that channels the power of a god is an obvious example of this, but those who make bargains with spirits, fairies, demons, and other supernatural beings would also qualify. This applies whether the being directly intervenes (a fire spirit coming to the shaman's aid, for example) or simply grants the sorcerer a portion of its power (such as a fairy blessing a mortal with special abilities).

Method Magic: Magic is essentially part of the laws of physics, and anyone who understands how those rules work can wield the power. The obvious example is that big book of arcane rituals or spells that anyone can pick up and use to learn magic, but even stuff like sympathetic magic (especially as used in The Name of the Wind), certain fourth-wall-breaking narrative magic used in Discworld ("a million-to-one chance happens 100% of the time, so if we can make this exactly a million-to-one, it'll obviously work"), or even the Death Note (in the anime of that name). While the other kinds of magic typically have restrictions (largely for the sake of the author's sanity to keep the magic-wielding characters from running amok too much), method magic has strict rules. These rules often play an important role in the story.

There's a lot of overlap to these, not just in the same world but sometimes even in the same magic. It seems like every fantasy novel has an internal requirement so the world isn't completely overrun by wizards. Harry Potter uses internal (born a wizard/witch) and method (magic with rules). The One Power in The Wheel of Time is largely internal (able to sense the Source), but there are method elements to it (spells need the right mix of elements). Mistborn is very heavily method (very clear magical rules) with the internal factor (not all are mistborn or even mistings) to keep the number of magic-wielders down. The One Ring in Tolkien is largely external - its magic comes from the malevolent power of Sauron.

In any case, it works as an exercise, but there are many, many explanations for "how magic works" or "how people use magic" depending on the individual story and world. Odd though it might sound, the old Mage: the Ascension RPG from White Wolf has a pretty thorough accounting of all the "traditional" ways magic is invoked - rituals, words, gestures, objects, mana, etc. - as well as some of the hip new "technomancy" methods (magic as created by technology).

Posted on Jul 16, 2012 12:18:32 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 16, 2012 2:04:48 PM PDT
greymouse says:
Basically, we've got two underlying theories to consider:

Either the fundamental ground of reality is material, and consciousness arises out of physical bits bumping around together and interacting; or

The fundamental ground of reality is consciousness, and the material world exists within it like a dream. In other words, it's all quite literally "such stuff as dreams are made on."

Which of the two possibilities you believe in pretty much determines how magic would work.

If you accept the first view--the materialist view--of reality, refer to Arthur C. Clark: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Magic might present itself as it did in the classic 1956 movie Forbidden Planet, where a vanished, highly advanced alien race--the Krell--created a planet-size computer capable of reading their thoughts and directly translating their desires into reality. With the technology all hidden away below ground, what you imagine happening up on the surface is projected directly into the real world, as if by magic. (This, of course, didn't work out so well. Any sort of magic is fraught with great peril, because it can empower beyond the user's capacity to understand how those powers should be used.)

If you accept the second view of reality--that reality is a dream within some collective or universal consciousness--then the entire universe is primed for magic by its very nature. If the world is essentially a dream, it could be acted upon directly by any willful consciousness existing within it. A magician would be someone more awake in the dream than others, who has become accomplished at manipulating the dream to make parts of it conform to his or her will.

This distinction might be a fundamental difference between science fiction and fantasy. If you're a writer of either, the distinction might be a good thing to have in mind as you work, even if you never mention it. In writing, it's often what's below the surface and unstated that that gives rise to an internally consistent world on the surface.

That's just my theory, of course, but if you take issue with it I might write you into something where I turn you into a newt.

Posted on Jul 16, 2012 2:44:02 PM PDT
Mr Karats says:
this is a great thread!

Posted on Jul 16, 2012 4:01:59 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 16, 2012 4:03:58 PM PDT
Tori Ley says:
I've enjoyed this thread :) The use of magic, and/or the causes behind it, has heavily influenced my writing and my books. There have been some things here that I've not considered.
Thank you :)

Posted on Jul 17, 2012 12:19:29 AM PDT
Greymouse, I love the 'dream with in a dream concept' there. Anyone for 'The tempest'?

That one works well for me though, and does link back to Forbidden Planet. And, rot you, I'm going to be thinking about Anne francis all day now!

Posted on Jul 17, 2012 7:21:11 PM PDT
Interesting topic.

Eric Zawadzki -- great breakdown of the different kinds of magic in fantasy.

Greymouse -- your excellent post makes me think of a book that strives to combine the two seemingly irreconcilable bases for reality you mention -- T. Lee Baumann's God at the Speed of Light (the subtitle is 'The Melding of Science and Spirituality'). I struggled a bit reading it, at least with the section detailing the experiments on light photons. The overview of the experiments was to show that light demonstrates consciousness, and I did grasp that point even if I didn't understand the specific details of each experiment. It's a fascinating book, and although not about magic per se, it certainly reminded me of your post.

Another interesting book related to your post (a book that's difficult to get a hold of, as it's been out of print for awhile) is More Alive Than Ever...Always, Karen. At first glance, it seems like your standard book about the afterlife and near death experiences, along the lines of 'Embracing the Light' and other such books that I for one have a hard time swallowing. However, 'Always Karen' is different--it's the first book I've read about the afterlife that I could actually believe. The author posits that the entire universe is engaged in "an evolution of consciousness" and that when our physical bodies die, it's merely a shift to the next level of consciousness, and that there are infinite levels beyond that. It's an elegantly simple premise, which is the main reason I believe it.

I think of the two systems of magic/reality you mention, I would have to be in the consciousness camp. If I start thinking about the physical reality of the universe, my brain shuts down. Physical reality has boundaries, which means the universe must have an end, and if it does have an end, a boundary if you will, what's beyond that boundary? What's outside the universe? It really makes my head hurt to think of the universe as a purely physical thing, because that means it has edges, boundaries, and I can't imagine what would be beyond those boundaries.

Posted on Jul 18, 2012 6:38:52 AM PDT
I've just been reading The Dresden Flies, and by the end of the first book, apart from hints there's been no real explanation for the magic. And none needed either for enjoyment of the work

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 18, 2012 6:42:21 AM PDT
Planning to "Channel Fireball" someone, are you? ;-)

Posted on Jul 18, 2012 7:27:19 AM PDT
The-One says:
engineering Magic, developing the thought.

First, its origin, the source.
1) Powers granted by higher powers:
If you do some research on religion and cults and their histories you'll soon conclude that mess/ritus/ceremonies (services to the higher power) are hold to learn, receive orders and to bringforth sacrafices. Sacrafices are important in order to not be punished or to receive gifts in return. Interestingly the same method was applied to appeal to the kings (or the wealthy and influential people). You linger in the shades, whisper, bow, bring presents or simply be in their presence not to be forgotten, so you can call in favours (or upon their grace). Even today our society and especially the economic systems are build upon the principle of "reward and punish".

2) Power circling around or within the earth
Still, why can't everyone see/feel/touch that source and extract energy from it.

3) Power dwelling within us.
Which needs to be focused on or has to be somehow activated.
Increase of potential by usage. Does everyone have such powers.
Are they only available at a certain age, or in a special situation.
Eg. it is proven that our brain adapts to the bodily capacities. If you lose your sense of smell others will increase. What if one would loose several senses or bodilyparts, how would the brain adapt? We always try to blend in, bring everything into line, because we are afraid. A human without social attachments, could it develop differently and form abilities?

How to increase the potential by (...):
... committing your life to the cause (service or study) and practise.
... learning ways to access a (more powerful) source.
... most likely it does also depend on the right state of mind - kind of self-fulfilling-pophecy. Is one willing to use what is given?
... in general it would seem highly likely that one needs a catalyst or a focus.

The range of abilities, gifts, skills:
What about teleknesis. Sharpening of the senses like improving sight or smell. Telepathy. Charisma (manipulation). Letting people see what they want to see. Or increase of physical strength. A higher resistace to pain, poisons, nature, fire, disease or illness. Accalerated regeneration or after-expansion of bodyparts. Certain mutations, which do not hinder but increase abilities. Intelligence, ingeniounty, memory-improvement, sheer/stunning beauty, youth. The ability to be overlooked, to blend in. Quickly adaped to situations. Quick learning and understanding of languages or difficult patterns.
And now simply cross several of these generally not to absurd abilities, skills. Extraordinary coincedence or blessing, why not the use of some sort of power.

It becomes even more incredible if the "gift" is not attached to the character in any way, like the moulding of the elements. However some people e.g. artists do have the gift to see statues in the raw stone or a piece of would. Maybe it is some kind of adaption, not everyone can paint strucking pictures, or withstand the flames. I don't believe that everyone is fit to become a stuntman or is capable of taking on several roles.
Speaking of adaption, the use and the source of your power would most likely change you in some way, creating something new. What about a bullied person, bitterness turns to hatred. One claims to have a mission, a cause, a duty. What about misuse, flattery and temptation. What about the government, those who want to come to power. Becoming a mere tool?

I think its fun to make up your mind about things like that. Maybe its not utterly impossible to channel energy in such a way. Who knows. Never forget: With great power comes great responsibility.

(pardon my gramma but I am from abroad. And yes, you could apply the responsibility-thought on the money you spend on some waste.)

Posted on Jul 18, 2012 7:39:30 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 19, 2012 3:21:50 PM PDT
The-One says:
I' ve heared of dreams which are supposed to feel pretty real. Awaking with aching arms, because one was scrached by a cat or bitten by a dog. That dreams somesort becomes physica should infact be possible; due to the neurons, the way our nervous system functions, via electrical data-transmission and hormones. Just thinking, how can the severed part of a finger still itch? :D

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 18, 2012 8:59:09 AM PDT
Lara says:
Will,
I have just finished Murakami, (1Q84), all 3 books in 1 volume. Over 900 pages. And the H meets h at approx. page 900. Magic is not explained, it is attributed to Little People. Have you heard of those?

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 18, 2012 6:09:04 PM PDT
D. Sandlin says:
First, you need to clearly define what magic is. That is to say what falls into the category of magic and what does not. Your ethereal magic could simply be an impression that causes changes in the world due to human thoughts and emotion. While divine magic would derive from the will of a deity and perhaps be channeled through mortals. These could both coexist as different forms of magic. Also would divine magic be any change to the universe derived from a deity? For example, if a god or a group of gods, decided to enact some universal change without mortal agency would that be considered magic. It could also be possible that magic could stem from outside the universe, though, this raises problems when using the traditional definition of what a universe is. interesting discussion though. I am pleased by the general irrelevance of the issue despite the interest that it evokes. good job.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 19, 2012 2:15:12 AM PDT
Lara, I have heard a lot of good things about that book, but not read it. I saw it in a bookshop last weekend. The paperback price was about 120% of an equivalent hardback book, so I didn't buy.....

Maybe I'll search ebay! Did you enjoy the read, though?
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Discussion in:  Fantasy forum
Participants:  26
Total posts:  53
Initial post:  Jul 5, 2012
Latest post:  Nov 5, 2012

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