Fantastic Magick

Posted on Friday, August 10th, 2012 at 18:20

I thought I’d make a post about how I use real magick in my writing. It’s a pretty extreme claim, so perhaps I should explain.

Not the image I want the word Elf to call up

In the Paradox War trilogy one of the main three characters is an Eelafin Mage. The Eelafin are my take on Elves… I didn’t want to be burdened with any preconceptions from using a word that has a lot of baggage from the Icelandic Eddas onward. So I’ll put that word aside for a moment and concentrate on the next one. Mage…

Mage… Magus… Wizard… These words carry almost as many preconceptions as that word Elf does, and I did think that it might be necessary to use a different term for a magic-user… I considered dweomerist and sorcerer, thaumaturgist and others, but I felt that most of those felt like flavours of magic. A true Mage would be exactly that… A Mage, but what sort of magic should a true mage do?

I thought about it for quite a while. I’d read a lot… I’d once worked as a juggler, and had fallen into designing magic tricks for professional magicians… I was familiar with the work of performers like Derren Brown and his excellent TV shows and books. Early on he claimed to use NLP to perform some of his tricks and it had prompted me to investigate this concept of hypnotic language, which I thought would make an excellent basis for illusionary magic.

I read science-fiction, fantasy and horror that had some magic to them, and I certainly don’t feel any need to distinguish between magic and psionics.

  • Five-twelfths of Heaven by Melissa Scott :
    The image of Five-Twelfths of Heaven

    Lionel Jean’s Cover art….

    Which has great ideas regarding star-ship navigation and magic. The other books in the series complete the story, but the magic arrives fully formed in this first book.

  • The Stalking by Robert Holdstock (written as Robert Faulcon): Which has fantastically real feeling magic and magical themes.
  • Lovecraft and anything else from the Cthulhu Mythos
  • The True Game by Sheri S. Tepper : Modern Worldbuilding Fantasy that just happens to be Science Fiction.
  • Master of The Five Magics by Lyndon Hardy:
    Master of the Five Magics

    Geoff Taylor’s cover for Master of The Five Magics

    Lovely magic that has consistent and simple rules. Of course the writing is superb, each step and master building upon the knowledge of the previous masters.

  • The Harry Potter Novels by JK Rowling: Whilst the magic may occasionally be inconsistent, there is a sense of depth to the wizarding world and its history that doesn’t require a glossary.
  • Sir Terry Pratchett’ s Discworld: Especially Equal Rites, Sorcery but pretty much any book with a pointed hat on the cover. The magic of Discworld obeys very strict rules that bear more than a passing resemblance to Natural Philosophy, the main difference being that the fulcrum is usually located in the head of the practitioner.

I’d read traditional and folkloric sources, myths and legends… I was surprised how little material survived that discussed magical practices. Even our most famous folkloric Wizards’s rarely do more than a little light illusionary work, and I already had an idea about that.

I’d read and played roleplaying games since the eighties and reviewed those, mostly from my book shelves in various editions and by various publishers, once described by a friend as the shelves where RPGs go when they die. Safe to say if you are a roleplayer you’ll have heard of at least a few of these. If you aren’t then you’ll probably have heard of only one. Either way I’m not going to find links to any of them as you’ll either know where to go or won’t care.

  • Ars Magica
  • Call of Cthulhu
  • Feng Shui
  • Rifts (etc – Palladium RPG)
  • (A)D&D
  • (Advanced)RuneQuest
  • Deadlands
  • Everway
  • Rune
  • In Nomine
  • 7th Sea
  • Marvel (SH & U)
  • Warhammer
  • White Wolf’s Mage: The Ascension etc…

Magic in games is usually restricted for purposes of balance, but often in ways that make little sense from a reading of fantasy novels and the comics they are based upon. They did often have good bibliographies and further reading suggestions… And there was one notable exception : Authentic Thaumaturgy by Isaac Bonewits… which lead me to his original book Real Magic.

It was real magic theory, he examined magical practices catalogued by anthropologists and those of fantasy characters, as well as his own experimentation as a Druid/Neo-pagan practitioner, and produced a list of magical laws that he believed underpinned real magic. It was lovely stuff, complex, and yet built from simple rules, like all good chaotic systems.

So I started looking at web resources, neopagan websites, New-Age ‘woo’ books and older magick grimoires.

The most thought provoking in no particular order.

  • Oberon Zell(-Ravenheart): Transpersonal psychologist, metaphysician, naturalist, theologian, shaman, author, artist, sculptor, lecturer, teacher, ordained Priest of the Earth-Mother Gaia, Fortean, Wizard, Primate of the Church of All Worlds (another Heinlein fan), and the first personal to use the terms “Pagan” and “Neo-Pagan” to describe the emergent New-Age religions; he is Headmaster of a school of magic and the man knows the secret of living Unicorns (Really). He (and his Wizard’s school) have also produced a number of good books on magickal practice intended for Kids and Young adults that takes a very open-minded, neo-pagan approach to the whole thing.
  • Scott Cunningham: His books Earth Power and Earth, Air, Fire & Water I found to be an excellent modern magical take on medieval elementalism.
  • The Farrars: Who wrote the amazing ‘A Witches Bible’ detailing their take on the Wiccan religion, its practices and beliefs. Which in a heavily modified form inform the religion of Dai-Nubathor and the Bulmäs
  • Raymond Buckland: Notably his complete book of Witchcraft. He is known as the Father of American Witchcraft, he presents a similar religion to the Ferrar’s, but with some differences.
  • The Urban Primitive by Raven Kaldera & Tannin Schwartzstein: A book that takes all that tree hugging and applies it to Urban Living. It gave me a lot of ideas as to how Garner could work his Techno-magic.
  • Peter J. Carroll: One of the first Chaos magicians. His work profoundly altered the direction the Paradox War took, not just how Garner thought about and taught his magic. It influenced concepts about how religion would ‘work’ in these novels.
  • Patrick Harpur: Specifically his magnificent Daimonic Reality and amazing The Philosopher’s Secret Fire. Both works altered my perceptions of reality, religion and meme theory. If you have any interest in forteana and haven’t read these books, go do that now!
  • and a lot of online conversations and forum lurking around entities whose true identities will forever be unknown, but who rejoice in names like Ithaqua, ChaosStar, HailEris, FraterLiber and Morgana Wolf-Star. People who claim to be Atheists, Christians, Pagans, Neo-pagans, Sufi clerics, Chaos magicians, Witches, Wizards, Satanists, Wiccans, Forteans, Were-wolves, Erisians, Vampyres, Part-time Acolytes of the Cosmic Joker, Jedi, Reincarnated Elves/Dragons and even stranger things… People for whom the borderlands of fringe science are far vaster than normal scientists might dare believe.

I fell into the long dark stacks of the soul that lurk between Dewey Decimal 110-199 and are usually filed under 299.

Engulfed in a realm of Neoplatonic symbolism, Hermetic correspondences and Daimonic plastic realities, I dreamt odd dreams…

When I awoke I knew what Garner’s magic must be. His concept of True Magick was the all encompassing grand unified theory of absolutely everything. Physics, and its strict rules, were simply a subset of models that dealt specifically with energy, fields and matter, purely empirically. Chemistry was nothing more or less than the empirical form of Alchemy.

And so that is what I wrote. Garner’s magic doesn’t actually perform as many illusions, as I initially thought he would, instead he reaches beyond the physical nature of reality, and through metaphor manipulates the world, just like I do as his author…