What is magic?
To be quite honest, this isn't really the right question, but I'll answer it anyway. Magic is merely the specific application of natural forces through the conduit of a person. This application of force is not physical, and beyond a certain point it is rarely intuitive.
What do I mean by this? Magic is merely the name for the process by which talented individuals take power from their environment and convert it to suit their needs. There is a point up to which individuals can do this without thinking about how to do it, but beyond that point there must be a specific focus. Furthermore, the unguided application of this process is likely to bring unintended or unwanted results and side-effects.
A much better question is:
How is magic learned and used?
There is a distinct process that my colleagues and I have developed for making it easier to teach the skills required to control the application of magic. It should be noted that this process is general, and each step may be performed in many different ways, depending on the person using the magic.
The first step is simple; the individual must have the requisite talents involved. These typically include the talent for the internal manipulation of force and the talent for seeing metaphysical forces (so that they might be manipulated).
How individuals access these talents is dependent on how they view their world. In general terms, it's easiest to consider the subject in terms of metaphors. By what metaphor does the magic user access her talents?
An extended example would be that of music. First, if the person is ill-suited to music, there is little that can be done. Similarly, if a would-be wizard cannot see or manipulate metaphysical forces, there is little that she can do.
The next step requires a magic user develop their metaphysical senses. In the musical example, this would be analogous to learning to read musical notation. If a wizard cannot quickly and carefully identify the presence of metaphysical forces and the particular metaphysical forces present, the manipulation that is to follow cannot possibly be as skilled as a that of a wizard that can. Similarly, if a musician cannot quickly read and understand the musical notation, her playing will suffer.
Thirdly, a magic user must develop a fine control over her manipulative talents. If a musician could only play three notes, he is likely to be much less successful than one who can play an entire scale. In the same way, a wizard who lacks fine control over the manipulation of metaphysical forces will be limited in the types of weaves that are available.
Fourthly, at the same time as the first three, a would-be wizard must enlarge her repertoire of basic and complex weaves, practicing each. Enlarging a repertoire allows for a greater knowledge of what possibilities exist, which is important for both wizard and musician. Furthermore, the practicing of such pieces assists in the developing of senses and fine control, as well as providing practical demonstrations of theoretical concepts.
How, then, does a wizard use magic, once her talents have been developed?
There are three steps to successfully creating a weave at its most basic level. Each of these steps has its own sub-steps.
Visualization: This is the stage where the wizard takes stock of what is. Accessing metaphysical senses, she quickly visualizes what metaphysical forces are possible assets, and which are possible distractors (though these are typically few). She also takes note of what weaves already exist in the area. This step is deceptively important. Without taking the moment to establish how metaphysical forces interact in a given area, using magic can produce unintended results.
Manipulation: This stage is the actual use of the forces to create a weave, and subdivided into many steps. This is typically done through reasoning from intended effect. That will make more sense in a moment.
- First, a wizard must decide what the intended result of the magic is. This can be as convoluted as "I must nudge the currents of spiritual earth power so as to remove the negative effect from the nearby water supply", or as simple as "Protect me!".
- Next a wizard must decide how best to achieve the effect. Though, in practice, this often takes the form of any weave which achieves the desired effect, regardless of efficiency.
- Once the manner of affecting the effect is decided, the wizard must reach out to the necessary forces and manipulate them into a weave, often tying different threads of power together to create specific effects.
This lecture was given to seven students of magic by Eladrine Darkweather, the current Mistress Chronicler of the Dusk Citadel. At the time, she was working with students and assisting Brix Lagander with research.