According to one dictionary, magic can be defined as: the power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces. Wikipedia defines magic as: “Representing a category used in the study of religion and the social sciences to define various practices and ideas considered separate from both religion and science.”
One of the beautiful things about magic is that it is difficult to understand. Arcane. There is a complexity and otherworldliness to the craft that allows it to stand out. Of course, because it involves secret knowledge and requires a high degree of technical proficiency, the art of magic may be too volatile, even powerful, for the novice.
Magic In Urban Fantasy
A consensus formed around the idea that one of the staples of urban fantasy is magic. From Butcher to Correia and beyond, magic is one of the things readers love. Because readers expect it, writers must deliver it.
But, what is magic, exactly? If it is, in fact, so magical, how can one learn how to create their own systems of spellcasting?
If we are to assume that the popular authors within the genre are not actual warlocks or reptilians, or part of some secret nefarious order like the Illuminati, then we must reach the conclusion that average people with little knowledge of the craft can create their own believable forms of magic.
As long as it fits the narrative and has some rational explanation that most people could accept, magical systems created by individual authors should do fine. After all, while magic is an integral part of the urban fantasy, it is just another tool.
People still care about the characters. Give them a protagonist they can identify with and root for and an antagonist they can hate, and a mission they can empathize with, and the technical details of magic can be lacking.
What Is Magic?
So, then, what is magic? How do I make it?
To help detail some of the more essential elements of magic, I will provide some details about a death spell. A death spell was chosen because magic in fiction is often used to help kill an adversarial force. Before moving into the details, this is an actual spell from an occultist website.
At risk of sounding boring and paternal, please do not actually attempt to perform this rite. It appears here for informational purposes only. The following spell allegedly brings death to people in a nightmare, though it could backfire and kill the caster.
An Example Of A Spell
According to the website*, the spell must be conducted on a full moon at midnight. One needs to have the ingredients gathered and prepared beforehand, in order to ensure punctuality.
At midnight, one must be in a room completely smothered in darkness. Absolutely no light should be visible to the naked eye. In this room, draw a pentagram on the floor.
One must have the following ingredients with them as they sit near the pentagram: 3 red candles 3 black candles 3 yellow candles 3 dark purple candles, a small mirror. You will also need a clump of hair from your victim, a few drops of blood from both and a small bowl.
And don’t forget a few herbs, aconite, agrimony, almond, althea, bay, and borage, (cut into small pieces and burn) and a lighter. The candles should be placed around the pentagram.
Before casting the spell, the individual performing the rite should say words aloud from a script. After this, the caster must place the bowl in the middle of the pentagram, then put the herbs inside. Subsequently, the caster would place the victim’s blood on the mirror, then their own blood into the bowl.
After a few more steps, one celebrates a successful remote assassination. Of course, it may be necessary to continue with the spell on a nightly basis for a month.
Elements Of Magical Spells
What the above should help show is that there are certain classic elements evident in most spells. usually involve a pentagram, though one could easily create their own symbolic version of this.
They often involve hair and blood from the intended target. They almost always involve chants and other ritualized behaviors that must be performed in a certain order in a precise manner. Finally, they usually focus on a particular lunar period.
As with most things in fiction, however, there are no real “rules,” for using magic in your story. Fictional magic exists on a wide spectrum that goes from Gandalf soft to Dresden hard. There is no “best,” approach. As long as the magic is consistent in its application and fits the story, everything should work out fine.
*I made the conscious decision to omit the website name, as well as some details about the spell, to help protect any curious readers.
I also changed a few of the ingredients. If one must search for themselves, a simple internet search will take you wherever you want to go and help you find whatever it is you may be looking for.