TDTO: An Introduction To Basic Magic
by Ken Young and Imran Inayat
Magnus: "Right, first I will cover course requirements. While this
lecture is compulsory for all students, the rest of the course is not.
It is required for anybody wanting to take the practical magic classes
and can count as course credits for other students. This is an
introductory lecture on Magical Theory and will skim over subjects
that I will cover in detail later.
"First, why does one need to take this course? Nobody needs it.
Magic can be learned by rote and it works. Non-magic users do not
need it either. However, rote learning does not help when none of the
spells you know are applicable and a knowledge of the limits of magic
is important for anybody facing a magic user. At the end of this
course I expect magic users to be able to improvise spells for the
situation they are in and the others to know how to make a magic
user's life difficult. Practical work will be covered by other
teachers, though I have been consulting with them on what is covered.
When you finish this course you should be able to adapt whatever magic
you know to changed conditions and produce new spells to fit a new
"First, what is magic? Nyssa?"
Nyssa: "A breaking of natural laws."
Magnus: "It can be done, but it is not a good idea. You get punished
for breaking laws. The successful magician will bend the laws of
nature and exploit loopholes. Where this is not possible you need to
rely on magical sleight of hand, and convince the universe that what
has happened is possible. Failing to do that is likely to be painful
at best and fatal at worst. In my experience there is little that can
be done by magic that cannot be duplicated by technology. I expect
anybody taking this course to be familiar with Clark's Third Law.
"Now, magicians. Contrary to the popular view, anybody can become a
magician. There are, of course, differences in what they can accomplish.
Oh, and also in the types of training they need. Some have a natural
talent, Sirens for example, and others have the ability to see magical
effects, though you do not need that to use certain types of magic.
Magical knowledge and the ability to think on your feet are important,
when faced with something you have never seen before, with no idea of
"Now, definitions. First we will cover the three basic sources of
magical power. These definitions are arbitrary and my own, and when
checking texts I expect you to make sure they are using the same
assumptions I am.
"Witchcraft uses the innate resources of the magician. As a
result the symbolism involved is something that each magician has to
develop on his or her's own.
"Sorcery involves using an outside non-sentinent source, either
made by the magician or found.
"Wizardry involves making a deal with an outside source of
power. This could be a god or a demon, but in all cases will involve
trading off your interests with those of the provider.
"Usually most magicians use two or all three of the sources. When
using wizardry it is important to remember that the other party
usually goes by the letter of any agreement not the spirit, and in a
lot of cases will actively be looking for any loopholes. Dealing with
demons or gods is best left to lawyers, that is unless you have the
power to compel them.
"Right, types of magic.
"There are various systems, most of which overlap. The definitions I
will use are the ones I learned. First we have the Elemental forms,
fire, air, water and earth, these also function as the basis for
alchemy and the humours. Some people extend these to include spirit,
light and dark, dividing spirit into good and evil. Nice idea for
those who consider eight as significant. My refutation of that is in
"Thaumaturgy is the manipulation of energy. This is one of the main
overlaps with elemental magic as natural energies are the easiest to
use. It is limited in some respects as most uses are destructive.
"Necromancy is fairly obvious, though as it is concerned with flesh,
healers will tend to have some knowledge of it. In some respects
necromancy is the hardest of the arts to use, raise the wrong being
and you are going to have problems.
"Divination is next; this includes predicting the future and the
various forms of remote sensing. Prophecy is not something to be used
lightly, views of the future are usually highly misleading and not
helpful anyway. In fact it can be extremely dangerous - a future once
viewed can not be changed in most cases. The more precise the view the
harder it is to change. Anybody thinking of studying prophecy should
check out Greek myth, Oedipus comes to mind.
"Next, we have shape changing or metamorphism. This is not always
magical; I know of at least three different species who have a natural
ability to modify their shape. A good knowledge of biology is useful
for shape changers.
"The last but one category is translocation, which includes
teleportation and time travel. Something else that can be duplicated
with technology. Oh, and also something else that is dangerous. The
dangers of time travel will be covered in your temporal theory
classes. The dangers of telportation should be obvious. Any error in
the end point could result in you trying to coexist with something
"The final class is conjuration and summoning. This varies from
summoning inanimate matter to appealing to gods. In case anybody is
wondering the definition of a god is a supernatural being that cannot
be compelled, if it can, it is a demon. This is not a skill that is
generally encouraged as the possibilities for disaster are too great.
"I remember a student who tried to summon gold and got the atomic
weight wrong - he ended up with a radioactive isotope.
"The other uses of magic, like transmutation, use combinations. Alchemy,
for instance, uses a combination of elemental magic and thaumaturgy,
plus a strong slice of science. Battle mages usually use a mix of
elemental magic and thaumaturgy.
"One thing to remember is that all magic is dangerous, especially if
you are trying something you have never done before. Magical texts
usually leave something vital out, and if you are designing your own
spells, well... failure to run any spell you develop by one of us
teachers is automatic grounds for failing the course - assuming you
"That is it, anybody who is still wanting to take the magic course
should stay behind to sign up."
[Varne had been sitting at the back of the class.]
Varne: "Not as detailed as the introductory lecture I remember."
Magnus: "That was an introduction to advanced theory, you got the
basic stuff at home."
Varne: "Where do skills come into it?"
Magnus: "The advisability of learning unarmed combat and weaponry
skills is something I expect the PE teachers to point out."
Tara coughed. "Alright. Um... welcome to Basic Applied Magic. My name's Tara
Maclay, formerly of the Terran 20th century TV series 'Buffy the Vampire
Slayer', seasons 4 to 6. For all those of you who don't recognise the name:
sorry about that, and I promise to avoid the injokes.
"This" - she indicated the woman standing next to her - "is Gaia, my counterpart
from Paul Gadzikowski's imaginary TV series 'St Pudentiana the Fairy Bane'." She
winced. "It's a really, really long story, okay? And before _anyone_ asks, I
have to put this to rest right now: no, Gaia and I are _not_ sleeping together.
I mean, _yes_, we look identical, _yes_, we're different versions of a character,
_yes_, we're lesbian, but there is no way I'm _ever_ sleeping with myself.
"Is that understood?"
"...Yes, Miss." came the chorus from the class.
"Alright." Tara said. "Now, you've had Magnus's introductory lecture on the
theory of magic, at least as we're going to be teaching it on this course.
This's the lecture on _applied_ magic - on the casting and application of magic.
"Now, as Magnus has said, you _can_ learn magic by rote - it's how Gaia and I
first learned it, after all. Repeat the words, repeat the gestures, repeat the
components, get the spell. And that's fine, as far as it goes.
"But..." Tara hesitated. "It lacks something. It lacks _experience_. It lacks
the awareness of how and when to apply it - and how and when _not_ to apply it."
She took in the looks of the students. "Yes, when _not_ to apply it. You know
that old line about 'if you have a hammer, all you see are nails'? The same
applies to magic. A big problem for an adept magic-user is the tendency to try
and sort everything out using magic.
"It's not that simple.
"Gaia and I prefer to use magic when no other option's available - when nothing
else springs to mind.
"This shouldn't be an excuse for lazy thinking, for jumping in with a spell
_because_ you can't think of anything else.
"Think about yourself, first. Think about what, if anything, _you_, the person,
can do about the situation. Think about what tools you've got at hand. Think
about what everyone else is doing.
"_Then_ use magic.
Gaia nodded. "Both Tara and I follow - or at least try to follow - the Wiccan
Rede, which states 'An it harm none, do what thou wilt'.
"Think about that. Even when we _do_ do magic, we try to anticipate whether or
not it's going to harm someone - not just physically, but mentally, emotionally,
"That's not always possible. Sometimes, doing magic is going to end up hurting
"Part of the reason for the Rede - but not the only one - is so that you stop
and think before you take that step, to know _why_ you're breaking the rule.
"Those who _don't_... are ones to watch."
She let out a long breath. "In crisis situations, there's often no time to
think. You can't prepare for every possibility that'll come up, not even with
"I can't emphasise that enough. _You'll never be prepared enough._ No one is. No
one can be. You'll have to react on a second-by-second basis, dealing with
everything that comes up - a lot of which you almost certainly weren't
expecting. That's part of the problem - for a lot of people, magic is a learned
skill, not innate. It's not instinctive - and in a crisis situation, where you
often don't have time to think, that's a big problem.
"This is where improvising comes in, and it's why improvisational magic is an
important part of the discipline.
"We can't possibly hope to teach you how to improvise a spell on the spot - at
least not on a high school course - but we do hope to teach you to think about
when to apply magic, what magic to apply, and how to apply it."
Tara nodded. "All right. Now, our definition of magic...
"Magic is _not_ breaking the laws of nature, odd as that sounds. When you
perform magic, you're performing something that is possible, that can be
accommodated, within the terms of the world you're in. Magic isn't about doing
the impossible. If it _were_ impossible, then it couldn't be done. The world
quite literally won't _let_ you do it.
"Like science, magic has tools. Like science, magic has systems and methods.
Magic and science aren't opposite ways of looking at the world - instead,
they're _alternate_ ways of looking at the world, alternate ways of
understanding it, of seeing and doing things. They can even be complementary, as
in the case of technomagic and magitech.
"And - just like science - there isn't one universally agreed system of magic.
Different systems of magic have different approaches, from chaos magic to
"The system we're teaching here is one system among many - a widely recognised
one, but just one system for all that. You're probably going to find _something_
that's outside the system - when that happens, all I can say is learn to get
used to it. Gaia and I still haven't..."
Soft chuckles from the students.
Tara grinned. "Gaia?"
"Ahem." Gaia said. "Alright. Magnus breaks magical practice down into three -
witchcraft, which uses your innate resources, sorcery, which involves using a
non-sentient resource, and wizardry, which involves bargaining with an outside
"Tara and I have had experience with both witchcraft and wizardry - yep,
wizardry." she added, to the startled looks of the students around her. "Some of
what looks like witchcraft is actually wizardry. You're invoking the power or
authority of an entity to invoke the spell. Sometimes, it's founded on a long ago
bargain. Sometimes, it's because the entity in question is willing to allow their
invocation in a spell, for whatever reason. And sometimes..." Gaia winced.
"Sometimes, the entity in question _isn't_ willing.
"Sorcery... we're still learning, and we may get guest instructors in to cover
for us. We'd rather you get it from someone who knows than from someone new to
it. We'll have to see when the time comes.
"Magic types. Okay. We'll be doing this in tandem with Magnus - theory with him,
application with us, going through elementalism, thaumaturgy, necromancy,
divination, alteration, translocation, conjuring and summoning, and enchantment
"Yes?" Gaia said.
Sharon lowered her hand. "Um, Mr Magnus didn't mention enchantment and
Gaia and Tara winced in unison.
"It's not an area Magnus is... comfortable discussing." Tara said. "Alright.
Enchantment and glamour are where you get the spells that alter what people see
and think, the mind-altering and perception-altering spells. This's where you
get all the illusion and charm spells.
"These are among the most dangerous spells there are - mainly because once you
start messing with how someone sees the world, you start messing with their
sense of reality. They can't trust what they experience, what they're going
through, what they've been through.
"Gaia and I both have personal experience on the recieving end of such spells -
however, we'd prefer to talk about those experiences /after/ class, if that's okay.
This isn't the time or place."
Nods from around the classroom. Tara inclined her head in gratitude, and
"Yes, we _will_ be demonstrating these spells during the course. What we will
_not_ be doing is demonstrating them on any students, or on any but a willing
candidate. This is a sensitive and delicate subject - but still one you'll come
across - so we'll be treating it with the utmost attention when it comes up.
"Which is not to say we're going to disregard the other areas. We can't repeat
this enough - magic is a dangerous subject, and one in which you need to pay the
utmost attention - so no sleeping in class, please."
Soft chuckles from the class.
"Magical safety is among the most important areas of the discipline." Tara went
on. "Our first topic after we introduce the basics will be Magical Safety, and
we'll expect all of you to at the very _least_ have the notes available for the
rest of the course. If need be, we'll provide them ourselves.
"Sorry to all those of you who were expecting a course on how to cast fireballs.
Gaia and I aren't in that line of business. If you stick around, though, we'll
give you a taste of what the Art can be - and just why it's called the Art.
The class nodded.
"This next bit is important." Gaia looked around at the class. "Misuse of magic
on school grounds is seriously frowned on. The Wiccan Rede is a good rule of
thumb here. If it harms someone in any way, _don't use it_.
"If someone still goes ahead, it _will_ come to the teachers' attention. In such
cases, either Magnus or ourselves will deal with it personally. Self-defence
will be judged as extenuating circumstances - but even then, it only goes so
The students nodded.
"Okay." Tara said. "So... if no-one has any more questions, we'll see you at the
next lesson. Anyone?"
Headshakes from around the room.
"Okay." Tara said. "Class dismissed."
Summary: Introductory magic lectures at H. G. Wells. Pay attention, this may be
Magnus and Varne - as well as the whole first half of this story - are Ken
Young's, and are used with permission.
Nyssa is the BBC's. Sharon is Marvel's (Fourth Doctor comic strip companion).
Gaia - as mentioned - is from Paul Gadzikowski's work. Tara is Mutant Enemy's.
Copyright 2003 Imran Inayat.