Thursday, October 09, 2008
Your Magic or Mine? by Ann Macela (A Preview)
The Blurb from the back cover:
A battle over the “correct” way to cast spells is brewing in the magic practitioner community. Theoretical mathematician Marcus Forscher has created an equation, a formula to bring the science of casting into the twenty-first century. Botanist Gloriana Morgan, however, maintains spell casting is an art, as individual as each caster, and warns against throwing out old casting methods and forcing use of the new. A series of heated debates across the country ensues.
Enter the soul mate phenomenon, an ancient compulsion that brings practitioners together and has persuasive techniques and powers-the soul mate imperative-to convince the selected couple they belong together. Marcus and Gloriana, prospective soul mates, want nothing to do with each other, however. To make matters worse, their factions have turned to violence. One adherent in particular, blaming Marcus and Gloriana for the mess, wants to destroy the soul mates.
Something’s got to give, or there will be dire consequences. The magic will work for them…or against them. But with two powerful practitioners bent on having their own way, which will it be-Your Magic Or Mine?-and if they don’t unite, will either survive?
The essence of the argument:
Marcus Forscher, who has devised a formula, an equation for casting a spell, is explaining it to an audience. This is from Gloriana Morgan’s point of view:
"My ideas and recommendations started, as many scientific investigations do, with questions," Forscher began. "What is at the heart of that which makes us practitioners in the first place? Many would answer, it is the ability to use magic in our everyday work. Given that, how could we as practitioners cast better, more effective spells? Refine and understand the process and methods for casting? What factors, elements go into a spell in the first place? How can we understand a spell mathematically?
"I drew on ancient and present masters for hard data and inspiration. What I learned led me to postulate a basic equation, one that would encompass the casting of every spell. The equation, which some call a formula, is on the back page of your handout."
Paper rustled as audience members flipped pages. Gloriana did the same. She had not looked at the pamphlet, thinking she already knew what was in it. Another assumption gone bad.
There on the last page was the infamous formula. How sneaky of him to supply it. What was the matter with her? Why hadn't she thought of printing handouts of her major points for the audience as she would for a class? But she couldn't worry about that now. He was still talking.
"I realize," Forscher said in a self-deprecating tone, "developing the process for the use of this formula moves me from my purely theoretical base into the realm of what some call 'applied mathematics,' or mathematics that everyone can use. So be it. As my thinking led me to speculate on the nature of magic reality and from there to create the equation, it became clear that I had a foundation on which to build and from which everyone could benefit. Let's look at the formula now."
Gloriana looked down at the page. It displayed the equation,
(sT + Ls + Lp) * Ep * R * I = S
She drew little stems, leaves, and petals to make the last S into a flower.
"A cast spell contains six elements," Forscher said. "The last two may not be required, but the first four always are. You begin with the spell, small or lower-case s, you are going to cast. The exact spell depends on the particular, specific talent, sub T, of the practitioner. Capital L sub small s is the level of the spell being cast. Capital L sub small p is the level of the practitioner. In casting, these three 'ingredients' are multiplied by the amount of magical power or energy, capital E, the practitioner, sub small p, puts into the spell."
Gloriana felt her eyes almost crossing at this recital. Too many capitals, subs, and letters.
"For example," Forscher continued, "when casting the light spell lux, a small amount of energy input would create a dim light and more would create a brighter one. R refers to any ritual, gestures and so forth the spell requires, and I to any item used or required. The ritual and/or item provide energy themselves and act as multipliers on the casting to increase the potency or longevity or some other aspect of the spell. I used the asterisk instead of the normal mathematics symbol to show multiplication because there seems to be something else going on besides a straight multiplying effect. I haven't identified the 'something' yet. The result is the spell as cast, capital S. Does everyone follow me so far?"
Gloriana kept her expression neutral as she looked out over the audience when he paused. Several people nodded, but a few shook their heads and others frowned. She couldn't tell if they didn't understand or if they were disgusted at the idea. No one, however, said a word.
"As I said, this equation is a foundation," Forscher went on. "We need to do more work with the spell elements, defining and calibrating them. I maintain that eventually, by applying this formula, arranging the elements precisely in his mind and with his actions, a practitioner will be able to cast more efficiently, make better use of his energy, and generate more powerful spells. We will all understand the process completely. Spell-casting will become more coherent, more regularized, less haphazard, less risky."
He paused again, and when Ed leaned back, Gloriana managed to see her opponent's face in profile. He had a small smile on those perfect lips-a smile that sent a shiver of anticipation down her back. Would he repeat the words that had set off a firestorm?
"It's time," Forscher stated, "to move forward, to put the cauldron-stirring, potion-making stereotypes and unorganized, disorganized, non-productive, energy-wasting methods of the past behind us. We must not look back, only forward, as we seek to understand our practice and wield it objectively, without emotion, scientifically, without messiness. Tradition-just because we've always done something a particular way since the tenth century-has no place in the twenty-first. We can remove ourselves from the limits our history and our laziness have imposed upon us. We will enhance our powers and live up to our full potential."
Gloriana Morgan’s rebuttal on casting magic spells. This is from Marcus Forscher’s point of view:
"And, here I am," Morgan began with a big smile, "a certified potion-making, cauldron-stirring practitioner, who delights in the craft and the feel and the subtleties of practicing magic, who revels in the traditions of our art, and who believes in the innate ability of us all to live up to our magic potential."
That drew a chuckle from many, and Marcus felt his lips twitch at her turn of his phrase. To gauge the effect of her words, he alternated his gaze between her and the audience.
"To me," she continued, "one of the pleasures of practicing magic is learning how to manipulate the forces all those letters in Dr. Forscher's equation stand for. To work magic in reality, not theory. Until a spell becomes an integral part of me and I don't need to think of every single step. Making a spell my own, with my individual refinements. Practicing, practicing, practicing."
Marcus noted many nods, especially among the older spectators. She had some supporters, and he had expected that.
"No matter how great or small our potential power or level, or how simple or complicated the spell, or how difficult or easy the demands of our specific talent, casting a spell is a matter of art as much as precision, individual experimentation as much as following a precise recipe, and warm emotion as much as cold science. And, let's face it, as we all know from teaching children, making magic is often downright messy."
The audience as a whole laughed. A few applauded. Marcus stopped himself from frowning, but damn. With only a few words, she had captured them. Practically the entire lot were hanging on her words. He'd never been able to accomplish that response unless he was with a group of mathematicians on his level.
"And I'll admit," she said, "some of the spells and techniques I use have their origins back beyond the tenth century and even farther, to ancient China and Egypt. Does that make them any less potent, efficacious? Does the age of a spell in the hands of an experienced practitioner make it any less efficient to cast?"
Several people-both young and old-shook their heads.
"Those ancient spells have been tested and refined by the greatest practitioners, and that knowledge has been passed down to us. As for emotion, who among us does not feel a thrill, a warm satisfaction when casting precisely the right spell, exactly to the requirements of the job? Who is not driven to create new spells for the sheer joy of manipulating magic to make our professions easier, more useful, and, yes, more efficient? The practice of magic is not, has never been, static."
A few practitioners clapped for her statement, but Marcus remained sure of his argument and disregarded them. It may feel good, but emotion had no place in the actual casting.
"I agree wholeheartedly with our ongoing spell research and development," Morgan stated. "As we enter professions that didn't exist even fifty years ago, we must have new enchantments for them. As our own older professions change to meet the demands of the modern world, we need new wizardry. If Dr. Forscher's formula helps only one practitioner create only one spell to solve only one problem for only one profession, that's great! If it helps more, that's even better."
At last, Marcus thought, she's going to address what I'm really talking about-theory, not practice.
"Tonight I'd like to address a point about this issue that has bothered me from the beginning but which has not really been touched on in this debate. I'd like to look at the larger, more general, more practical picture before it gets lost in the intricacies of the formula. Theory is all well and good, but working magic is not easy or simple, as all of us can attest. Let us beware of thinking this formula, or others like it, will solve all our casting problems.
"Educational fads come and go. One method of teaching any subject, magic or not, can rise to the forefront and supersede all others-but not always to the benefit of the students. Such could be the case here. Urging, especially going so far as forcing, the use of this equation in all spell training and ignoring our tried-and-true systems could have unintended results," she said, a grim look on her face.
"Let us consider two situations, the first involving our young practitioners in whom magic has recently manifested itself. These people are working hard to master the concepts and manipulate the powers within themselves. We all remember the difficulty in our own first spell attempts."
Marcus felt himself begin to frown at his opponent. Forcing use of his equation? Did she think he was advocating exclusivity? Where was she going with this idea?
"Trying to use this formula may help some and hurt others," she said. "For example, in the lowest level universal spells-where we all begin and where differing casting methods abound for each spell-a young practitioner learns to manipulate the energy within her and move that energy outward to cause something to happen. Five different people could, and probably do, have five different processes to accomplish the same result. Indeed, during training we stress the need to develop our own individual method.
"Will we let this 'messy' learning procedure continue, or will we try to impose a 'regularized' method? What if a young person cannot think in formula terms? Cannot at first separate the parts of a spell into discrete sections? Can't deal with manipulating all the parts at one time? How will we handle the frustration and feelings of failure sure to follow?"
Marcus frowned harder. She wasn't speaking to the point at all. She was a scientist herself, but she was appealing to emotions rather than the scientific worth of his equation. She hadn't done this in her articles. There she'd dissected spell casting into its constituent parts with examples of different processes. And no mention of frustration or feelings. What was she up to?
His opponent took a sip of water and gazed out over the audience. Marcus tried to find the focus of her gaze-ah, there. An older woman with dark curly hair and a heart-shaped face. This had to be her mother. In fact, the younger woman next to her must be a sister. The older man and one of the younger men had the same coloring, the same nose. Her entire family must be here. A pang of . . . he didn't know what . . . something seemed to strike him in the chest, but he ignored it. Now was not the time for him to succumb to any emotion.
Morgan was speaking to her second point, and he concentrated again on her words.
"The second situation," she said, "involves casting at higher levels. I can speak with some experience here. My mother, a level ten, and I have the same basic talents with plants. We use them differently in most cases, but many of our spells are the same. Enchanting is such a highly individualized art that even my mother and I, with similar talents and closely attuned to each other's powers, do not cast our high-level spells exactly the same, even those requiring precise ritual. We achieve the same overall ends, but their details may differ.
"Could we cast our spells truly the same, with identical results? We have experimented with Dr. Forscher's formula, but our enchantments remained slightly different in their amount of power, duration, results, and other aspects. The closest analogy I can think of comes from cooking. Two cooks make the same recipe, using identical ingredients, but . . . her meatballs taste better than mine."
No, she has it wrong, she hadn't, couldn't have, cast precisely, Marcus thought, as another chuckle rippled across the room.
"In conclusion," she said, "I applaud Dr. Forscher's ingenuity, creativity, and effort in developing this equation. I'm sure some practitioners will benefit greatly from using it. I agree, we all need to cast our spells as efficiently and productively as possible. All I ask is for those who want to drag us into the future or impose a casting regimen, please, consider the reality of working magic. It's a matter of art and mastery, a 'feel' for the forces within us, knowledge of and respect for our history, and above all, the combination of individual experimentation, experience, and emotions that result in great magic. Thank you."
Come back tomorrow to visit with Ann Macela as she blogs about Magic and her books.