|“||It's a craft... witchcraft, which means you have to figure out how to access and control it||”|
— Leo Wyatt giving helpful advice to the Charmed Ones.
Magic sometimes known as sorcery, is a conceptual system that allows an individual to affect matter and energy by utilizing certain universal energies whose nature is generally beyond the scope of the technologically oriented science of all known sentient races. Magic can be considered a substance and sorcery the manipulation of that substance. Many magical creatures exist (e.g. unicorns, merpeople, giants, genies, vampires, etc.) and objects can even be enhanced or imbued with magical properties.
Certain people consider magic a science that simply works with a different set of rules (in line with Arthur C. Clarke's Third Law "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic"). Macy Vaughn has occasionally integrated the talent for sorcery she inherited from her mother into her inventions and schemes.
Magic does not rewrite the laws of physics, but instead "works off physics"; adhering to the basic physical laws of nature. Consistent with the Laws of Conservation of Mass and Energy, magical energy cannot normally be created nor destroyed, but transferred with the help of a catalyst (for example, Kraken's tooth, skin of Draconis, ground up Baltic stones etc.).
The basic components to magic was the energy being transferred, the individual or objects transferring that energy and the specific actions involved that influenced the result of that energy's transfer. According to Rupert Giles, magic could be considered an exotic form of energy that could be disrupted, not unlike conventional energy.
According to Phoebe Halliwell, magic was not only a means for changing reality, but also an essential aspect of life overall as it was responsible for the immaterial gratification experienced by everyday people (especially such things as art, love, music, poetry and even the will to live).
|“|| Henry: Wow. That's magic, right? I mean, when most people when they meditate don't get extra skin, right.|
Paige: It's magic. I'm drawing power from the Earth to heal myself.
Henry: We're on the second floor.
Paige: You know Leo says everything's part of the earth. This bed. The air. Us.
— Paige Mathews explaining the interconnections between magic, the Earth and everyone.
Magical energy is the potent force that is channeled and manipulated for magical purposes, and often manifested during these moments as colorful plasma-like matter. This energy — when being extracted or absorbed — usually resembles small spheres of light, though its appearance varies between different spells.
Magical energy is a key component in performing magic as this energy fuels the applications magic allows and using too much magic at any given time will make the user lose that energy thereafter and thus limit their capacity to perform magic for a period of time, potentially requiring the user days to recuperate.
Some species (e.g. witches and demons) are capable of harnessing this power. It is also known that those who could use magic in life may also use it at spirits, and they even retain their magical powers if turned into cyborgs as a whole cell of technology-enhanced demons employed glamours to disguise themselves. Even a cyborg duplicate of Piper Halliwell could activate the Staff of Devosynn.
|“|| Kyle: You're expending way too much of your mystical energy to maintain your powers. At this rate you're going to ... burn out. And up.|
Neena: Blah blah blah.
Kyle: Neena, you... you need to stop.
Neena: What I need... is a little pick-me-up.
— Neena about to drain Kyle Brody's energy.
In order for magic use to be accomplished, the user has to channel that energy from a source and exert it through themselves. While more experienced magic users can use the magical energy inside of them, magical energy usually needs to be drawn from external sources. These sources range from special artifacts (such as the Phoenix Sword), higher beings (like Yeska) which granted this power, or even drawn from the Earth itself; which according to Melinda Warren is where the true essence of magic came from. The amount of ambient mystic energies in the surrounding environment is dependent on the location, and certain dimensions have greater concentrations of mystical reservoirs.
In the Earth Dimension, Earth itself acted as a conduit for magical energy and a person can draw on the magic inherent to the Earth and the forces of nature. Similarly, a person can increase their mystic strength by channeling external forces of energy (e.g. the elements, the moon, the sun, etc.). There also exists "magic hotspots," places eternally marked with magic when a powerful magical being suffers a violent and brutal death. These magical hotspots allow magic users to tap into the power of the dead creature, or creatures, and use as their own. Even if the supernatural creature is resurrected, the hotspot still works.
|“|| Rack: Just relax, I'm not gonna hurt you. You gotta give a little to get a little, right?|
Amy: It's okay. It's over fast.
Rack: That's right. I'm just gonna take a little tour.
— Rack, before absorbing some of Phoebe's magic.
One way of gaining magical energy is through transferring it with other beings. It can be shared among other users, or forcibly taken. This usually requires physical contact, but an exceptionally powerful practitioner could drain that energy without any contact and not only drain the energy without the other person knowing, but also decode it to manipulate as they wished. Draining too much energy from one user can kill or at least weaken them as it also drained their life force. Alternatively, one can drain another's magic in order to naturalize them. Phoebe was strongly opposed to it and compared it to cutting off someone's hand, while other witches considered it a form of mutilation.
Magic users can also likewise give some of their own magical energy to others, shown when Amy transferred a portion of her energy to Willow via a spell. Absorbing unexpected bursts of magical energy can have unwanted effects, such as vomiting, one's eye color changing and unintentionally magically-affecting one's surroundings. Prue claimed that absorbing surplus amounts of magic gave a feeling of being over-energized which made it harder to control.
Magic can also be transferred into a host for a limited time, as was the case with Prue Halliwell, who had immense magical power bestowed upon her by a very powerful coven in England who then sent him to San Francisco in an attempt to stop a rampaging Neena from destroying the world.
|“|| Leo: They tracked us down because of all the magicks you guys have been using.|
Paige: We'll find a work-around. More layers of magic hide the magic. Besides, it's not just us. All these magical creatures--they're magic right out of the box.
Leo: So you just let it happen?
Paige: If the Hollow smells magic, it'll smell all of us.
— Leo Wyatt and Paige Matthews discussing the difficulty in avoiding the Hollow due to the amount of magic used by the Charmed Ones.
When a person casts a spell, they are channeling magic through themselves and a portion of that magic remains within them. The magical energy is detectable by certain beings (such as Sweet and Rack) who can sense that energy from practitioners and can inform them of that person's magical power, including what spells they cast, the magnitude of their power, if that power was depleting and what they intended to do with it. Aviva Wilson, who possessed some magical ability, could "practically feel" that Phoebe was running out of magicks, while Rack immediately knew that Amy Madison was previously a rat, years after they last had contact, and a coven from Devonshire sensed the dangerous magical force Neena possessed fueled by her grief. The Charmed Ones are so powerful that they could sense energy from another plane and Phoebe deduce that some of Amy's spells "reeked" with tech and could trace back to where she teleported from. Paige and Leo were able to infer the summoning of a storm dragon was a deliberate act from analyzing the energy infusing it.
Casting powerful spells can exert a notable amount of energy that is capable of interfering with the casting of lesser spells and make the location of the casting susceptible to being discovered.
Triad Industries possessed technology that detected large amounts of magic usage, but it wasn't easy to pinpoint the exact origin of the energy as it was abundant in all magical beings (which encompass beings that were inherently magical, possessed magic, and/or used magic). Also, Leo used a lodestone to detect concentrations of magical energy within London.
While all beings on Earth are connected to magic, supernatural beings (e.g. dragons, demons, witches, and warlocks) possess a greater concentration of energy. As this fact made the Brotherhood of the Five more detectable to Triad Industries, they decided to withdraw their energy by practicing the tradition of Bon, which stated that a person could make their internal magical energy flow out of themselves and redirect it back into the Earth. They did this by performing hard labor on Oz's farm without using their enhanced physical conditions. This method also allowed werewolves, such as Oz, to control their lycanthropy. It was later revealed that they were actually redirecting their magic to a trio of earth-bound goddesses who protected the monastery in exchange.
It was stated that it took many months for a person to completely clear themselves of magical energy. This was demonstrated when Phoebe successfully summoned the god Osiris without any tools or special preparations after months of not using any magic.
Usage and Execution
While in essence, the rudimentary process for using magic is simply drawing mystical energies and manipulating it for a desired effect, there are many factors involved that determined how successfully this energy can be used and what it can be used for. Successful magic involves a combination of knowledge, power, resources and experience. Possessing an intricate mastery of these aspects could reduce the need for complex preparation and strengthen the individual's ability to perform powerful magicks without using as much time or effort but will and power alone.
Magic is the manipulation of energy, and technology is just another way to control the process. Imara has admitted that magic was not as difficult as it seems and that one need only know the secret true names of things.
Magic practitioners employ a number of methods to practice magic:
See main article: Spells
One of the most obvious characteristics of magic is the casting of spells; a "spell" being the word used to signify the means employed to carry out a magical action. A spell could consist of a ritual action, a set of words, a verse, a gesture or any combination of these. According to Morgan le Fay, ceremony and naming are the beginning of all spellcraft, and are the first steps to binding magic to the will of the mystic. Particular spells can also be activated by personal phrases predetermined by the caster. While one normally needs a voice to speak a spell, a powerful enough spell-caster with lots of experience can cast spells non-verbally, albeit with a hand gesture (e.g. by drawing sacred sigils) or even a thought. The latter technique requires the caster to concentrate on the incantation and recite it mentally. All spells leave a trace signature after they are cast which isn't perceptible to the human eye unless the ritual Tirer La Couverture is performed.
Certain objects possess magical properties, and thus can form the catalyst for magic use. For all intents and purposes, magical practitioners may use various tools to perform magic (e.g., candles, colored sand, crystals, wands and etc.).
- Magical Artifacts: Physical objects that have been imbued with mystical properties.
- Cauldrons: A container used to mix ingredients in.
- Potions: Mystical substances created from the mixing of certain ingredients which results in a concoction with magical properties.
Magic can manifest as a specific supernatural ability or power (e.g. telekinesis, cryokinesis, shapeshifting, flight and teleportation), which allows one to perform specific magical feats without the need of a spell or potion. Powers vary with every magical being; with the Old Gods they are usually a reflection of their realm of influence. Powers are usually accessed by one's emotions, mind or instinct.
Training and Potency
Although genetic and personal affinity is needed to use magic, sorcery still requires training and practice. Going beyond one's current limits poses a danger to themselves and others because they are invoking other-worldly forces. The use of magic also requires energy, usually provided by the user.
The Tribunal rated a magical practitioner's power and skill by a "magical proficiency level". Though how such a scale functioned was never explained.
Deities and other Higher Beings
Some advanced spells require the magic user to call upon deities and other higher beings as part of their incantations. Some of the higher beings that can be invoked are:
- Aradia: Guiding spell
- Babalú-Ayé: The Exorcism Ritual
- Cadria: Blinding curses
- Diana: Love spells
- Eligor: The Vampire Restoration Ritual
- Granath: Reanimation spells
- Hecate: Transmogrification spells
- Janus: Halloween transmogrification spell
- Kokopelli: Presumably spells about fertility
- Minerva: Protective barrier spell
- The Moirai: Invoking the Moirai spell
- Osiris: Resurrection spells
- Temeluchus: Tartarus Imprisonment spell
- Thespia: The Demon Locator Spell
Other spells called upon demons such as Proserpexa. Whether these deities granted the practitioners wish was dependent on the situation. For example, Osiris refused to resurrect Tara Maclay since her death was caused by another human, which was either not his jurisdiction or beyond his power. Another instance included Hecate, who was known for her impatience, seemingly refused to de-rat Amy when Willow summoned her, even though Amy originally summoned Hecate to turn her into a rat, as Willow wasn't as powerful as Amy at the time. Also, the Davric Demon Yeska, falsely considered a goddess among wizards, granted them power on their 50th birthday in exchange for a virgin sacrifice.
Types of Magic
There were several branches of magic that focused on a specific application and differed with the level of difficulty associated with performing them.
- Chaos Magic: Chaos Magic is the name of a magic so powerful that it was thought to be non-existent by even the Elders themselves. This magic can manipulate, warp and reconstruct the very fabric of existence and reality to the user's very whims and bring about total destruction to the cosmos.
- Chi: Chi or Qi is the bio-electric energy that surrounds all life-forms. Some people have been able to train themselves to enhance their minds and bodies. It can also be used to heal themselves and others.
- Divination: Divination was the process of gaining insight into future or unknown events without resorting to psychic powers, trances or visions, instead employing magical tools and resources. It was apparently a rather simple form of magic as those with little power or experience with magic were known to use it, though this could depend on the method of divination that was used.
- Flesh Magic: Flesh Magic, also known as Blood Magic, is a kind of magic based on the employment of flesh and blood to perform spells and rituals. It supposedly predated word-based magic and was considered by some to be more powerful.
- Glamouring: A glamour is a spell used to conceal or hide the true form of an object, person or area under an illusion. Glamours were not only optical but also auditory as well. While some of them could remain for an indefinite amount of time, others had a time-based existence and eventually faded. Unlike reality alteration or transmogrification, glamours did not cause actual modifications in reality but rather distorted the perception of certain beings.
- Herbalism: A form of magic that associates with the study of botany and use of plants intended for medicinal purposes.
- Transmogrification: Transmogrification is a form of magic that involved transforming another person's or object's shape into another form of matter. It was different from glamours in that the latter were merely illusions. Shapeshifting was the term employed for the ability of a being changing his or her own shape, whether by nature or by using magic.
The approach to performing magic varies widely and there are different types of magical practice based on what methods the practitioner used and what results they hoped to accomplish. These practices can also serve as the practitioner's religious/spiritual belief system.
Differences aside, mage is the umbrella term that referred to any individual with some degree of magical potency or skill. Known magical practices and their adherents include:
- Witchcraft: Witchcraft is a word used colloquially to describe the more specific Maleficium, a Latin word which means "wrongdoing" or "mischief" and is the basis of the English word "malice". Malice, often poetically referred to as "Crooked Way," is an extremely dark and powerful form of sorcery that draws on malevolent powers and may be used for negative purposes (e.g. to cause destruction or misfortune, to injure or kill, or for the profit of oneself rather than for the benefit of others). Unlike other forms of magic, the specific practice of witchcraft appears to corrupt its practitioners by distorting their perception between right and wrong. However, some practitioners of witchcraft, such as Nora, consider themselves good, and their magic is labeled "white". According to the Evil Enchantress, objects enchanted by witchcraft can only be destroyed by using the elements of water and fire.
- Necromancy: Necromancy, or death magic, is a form of witchcraft that involves the manipulation of death. Practitioners of this trade are known as a Necromancer. Necromancy revolves around manipulating the dead, death, and life-force. Necromancers can also communicate with the deceased either by summoning their spirit as an apparition or raising them bodily for the purpose of divination, imparting the means to foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge. Many practitioners find a way to cheat death one way or another, whether by becoming some form of undead creature or by bypassing their own ability to die. According to Dorian Necromancy is everywhere in occult literature and a it is a form of sorcery that dates back to ancient Greece. The Necromancer was world renowned in necromancy though an unknown event caused the world to forget him and his legacy.
- Alchemy: Alchemy is a magical practice that allows a magic practitioner to physically destroy elemental foundation of an object in order to create another or to magically imbue said-creation with harmful, supernatural properties, thus creating a Dark Object. It crosses the boundary between magic and science, utilizing aspects of both and on the chemistry and connection between witches. Thus, it is able to physically and magically alter the properties of object.
- Gypsy Magic: Gypsy Magic is a magical practice founded by a subculture of witches known as the gypsies. This form of sorcery specializes in spirit possession and divination. Since most gypsy tribes were cursed and consequently are unable to channel the powers of nature, gypsy magic is highly dependent upon the magic of the gypsy along with their connection to other gypsies. Magic of this type relies on combined human energy, the more humans the farther the range of the spells involved. Gypsy magic also specializes in using specific sources of magical energy to power their spells, be it from blood, ritual sacrifice, or deities.
- Shamanism: Shamanism is a magical practice used by indigenous witches known as Shamans. Shamanism is described as a way of life, focusing on connecting with Nature and creation where interaction with the spirit world through altered states of consciousness is used to achieve divination and healing. A tribe of shamans have been known to create the Huntress, sacrificing their lives to imbue her with great power to destroy vampires. This practice has slowly faded from the world and is rarely seen, though legends and lore has kept this all but gone.
- Technopaganism: Technomancy is a type of magic that can affect or replicate technology. The user is capable of communing with technological entities, using their own body as a conduit to technology and casting spells and enchantments that result in some sort of cyber-related effect. The user is basically utilizing science and technology as though as if it was a paranormal element like fire or blood.
- Voodoo: A religion worshiping deities called the Loa, and a system of mystical practices ultimately derived from the Loa. The term 'Voodoo' is derived either from the Loa's alternate name, "Vodu", or from a 12th century French sect called "Vaudois".
- Hoodoo: Hoodoo is a magical practice that mixes occult elements of African, European, and Native American witchcraft along with some Christian mythology. Contrary to Voodoo, Hoodoo is not a religion, but rather an eclectic practice of witchcraft that is strongly based in herbal knowledge and can be used negatively or positively. According to Vincent, Hoodoo is but one of the many branches of witchcraft and is popularly practiced by many of the witches in New Orleans.
- Druidism: Druidic Magic is a magical practice normally used by Celtic priesthood. Magic of this type is nature-based and practitioners are known as Druids. Druids are said to possess great influence over the forces of nature.
Good and Evil
Different magicks can be defined by their moral implications, power and source.
- Dark magic is often associated with powerful spells that pose a risk to others, the universe or the caster, and often involves subjects that are considered against nature, such as resurrection spells. These magicks can be found in certain books and come from a "place of rage and power".
- Good magic can be channeled for equally powerful spells and are sourced from things like the Earth, the Scythe and the human soul.
Individuals can be subject to either types of magic. One such individual is Willow Rosenberg who was prone to being consumed by dark magic when upset or enraged.
|“||Magic always comes with a price, I know.||”|
— Phoebe to her sisters.
Magic also had its limits and could have negative consequences on the user and those around them, both physically and mentally.
Overuse of magic could lead to a drug-like addiction which, if left untreated, caused the practitioner to eventually disintegrate or burn out. For instance, a group of African shamans became addicted to dark magicks to the extent that they eventually died. Phoebe once compared magic to cocaine, stating that once a person gets a taste of it, it's surprising what they will do.
A prime example of magic addiction was Richard Montana, who originally started to practice magic as a way to aid his current girlfriend, Paige, in the fight against evil. However, as his powers developed, he began to use magic for his own enjoyment and to solve his own personal problems. The addiction reached a climax after he cast a karma cleansing spell and contacted the warlock Rack. Rack supplied Richard with magicks that fueled him for days without any burn-out factor. These magicks created notable changes in his behavior; making him spaced-out and irresponsible, giving him symptoms characteristic of what one would receive under the influence of stimulants. It also caused physical changes in Richard: his eyes turned black, and he began emitting magical energy from his body. It was after the event wherein one of her spells caused the creation of a demon when he realized things needed to change. He relinquished all of his magical items, such as crystals, tarot cards, crystal balls and herbs, and vowed never to cast another spell again and had Paige bind his powers.
Since magic required physical energy in order to function, only so much could be used at any one time as posited by Willow Rosenberg in her battle against the hell Goddess Glory and after resurrecting Buffy Summers. Likewise, after a night of heavy magic use, Willow returned home exhausted and unable to use even simple magic to close her blinds. This clearly indicated that overuse of magic and lack of energy had localized detrimental effects on the practitioner's magic use. Magic could also cause mental duress and painful headaches, (e.g., after Willow used a very powerful teleportation spell on Glory, she had recurrent headaches for roughly a week or so after). Heavy nose bleeding was also common of magical overuse or after completing a very powerful spell as was the case with Willow Rosenberg a number of times, (e.g., creating a large force field when the Scooby Gang were on the run from Glory and the Knights of Byzantium and, likewise, when Willow created a force field to defend the Summers' home against a Turok-Han). When the Slayers' base was under attack by Twilight's army, a few of the witches protecting the keep had what appeared to be brain aneurysms through severe overuse of magic, one of them even collapsing dead after having what Willow called a "brain fry".
Despite all the negative effects, using magic can have a good effect on the user. After casting the Slayer Activation spell, Willow was overcome with a powerful force of transcendence as the spell took effect, leaving her in a spent yet gleeful state as she collapsed on the floor.
Practicing magic was a risky operation as things could easily go wrong, resulting in an unwanted or even harmful after-effect. Maintaining control while preforming a spell was challenging in of itself and required concentration. Willow could levitate a pencil at her will so as long as she retained "emotional control" and upon hearing something to her dislike, she accidentally torpedoed the pencil into a tree. When imprisoned in a frat house under the influence of a demon, Buffy warned Willow, only then a witch practicing since last year, that she shouldn't cast a conjuring spell and her spells were just "50/50". A stubborn Willow proceeded to perform the spell anyway and it ended up backfiring. Tara seemed nervous in summoning the goddess Thespia and she, along with many others expressed hesitation that Willow would be able to pull off a resurrection where the ritual itself was a trial of torture. Although Willow ended up successful, the offering was ruined. Spells could have unwanted results if things were to go wrong during the performance of one. A love spell that Xander Harris had Amy perform on Cordelia went wrong, resulting in every woman in town falling for him as Cordelia already loved him. Willow tried to alter the memories of Buffy and Tara but ending up removing all the memories from them, herself, Xander, Rupert Giles, Spike and Dawn Summers, simply because she unknowingly left a bag of Lethe's Bramble to burn, a necessary ingredient which enhanced the effects of the spell.
Magic could also have manifestly visible and bodily changes on the caster, the most common of which was the caster's eyes turning completely black when using very powerful magic, or when wielding magic with evil intent or uncontrolled emotions.
Laws of Magic
Magic has its own set of principles and regulations, more specifically every spell has a price and every cantrip has a consequence. For every magical action, there is a reaction. In many ways magic seems follow the laws of physics, specifically the Laws of Conservation of Mass and Energy. Vanishment does not make objects cease to exist, but, according to Professor McGonagall, "into non-being, which is to say, everything". Also, while it is possible to conjure things out of thin air, it is far more tricky to create something that fits an exact specification rather than a general one; moreover, any objects so conjured tend not to last, and objects cannot be enlarged beyond a certain point without becoming unstable and exploding.
- Emotional Spells: If one uses magic to change the way a person feels about one thing, they risk changing the way that person feels about other things.
- Personal Gain: Spells rely on a system of balance. So when magic is used for personal gain (e.g. say to wallow in the superficialities of the Greek system), there will be personal consequences.
- Resurrection Spells: If one uses magic to bring someone back from the dead, there will be consequences. The most basic price being that to save a life, a life must be taken in order to restore the universal balance. One may also absorb a person's death and will die themselves unless they return it or give it to someone else.
- Money Spells: Spells to conjure currency are generally frowned upon because the money has to come from somewhere, therefore the person casting the spell would be stealing.
- Reversing Spells: Spells can only be reversed, broken, or counteracted with spell of equal or greater strength, however this doesn't always work.
- True Love: There does not seem to be a standardized formula for love spells or potions, as love is too "precious" or "weird" to tamper with. Despite this, there are a number of spells and potions that seem to, in theory, replicate the effects of a love spell. An infatuation spell does also exist, creating, as the name implies, feelings of strong infatuation. The witch Lucy brewed a magical tea that made Willard Kraft supernaturally obedient and she forced him to think he loved her. Witches can also summon Cupid to manipulate love in their stead. An act of true love (e.g. a true love's kiss) can break any curse, no matter how powerful.