When I was a kid, I remember really wanting to be able to do magic. Not just magic tricks, mind you, but real magic, spells and all. After watching the movie The Young Magician (which I think was Polish movie dubbed into English about a boy who acquires telekinetic powers), I remember staring at things around my room for what seemed like hours, willing them to move with my mind.
I mean, it worked for Luke Skywalker and the young magician in the movie, so why not? That logic made sense to a twelve year old. Of course, it didn’t work, which was a slight disappointment, but I was unfazed and figured I just wasn’t trying hard enough.
Around that same time, some of my favorite series of books were written by John Bellairs, who wrote a whole slew of books about young protagonists my age who got themselves involved in a variety of paranormal situations.
One of the covers to a John Bellairs novel done by Edward Gorey. He also often did illustrations inside the books as well.
They were often aided by older, generally bumbling adults who were actually wizards and witches in disguise (or had knowledge of the arcane and supernatural). Even through the books were fiction, they were written so well and so convincingly that it seemed like maybe magic was real, if you knew the right people, looked in the right obscure text, or uncovered that secret buried in the magic clock in your uncle’s old mansion (vaguely recall that as a plot to one of the books, or something similar).
So it was with great trepidation and anticipation when I found my first book in the library about “real magic.” I remember it had a dark hard cover and was written in the 70s, so had the requisite black and white photos of thin white men with lots of facial hair in robes doing magicky looking things (kind of like what would have happened if John Lennon forgot to shave for a year. Or maybe that was just the 70s). The book talked about various spells and how to become a witch or wizard. But not in a tongue and cheek way. It was actually a fairly academic book, and I didn’t understand most of what the book was talking about. It struck me as one of those books that people read when they’re interested in something but already have prior knowledge, kind of like those books that talk about things like karate and even show a few techniques, but is more of an overview or enhancement for a knowledgeable interested party, not something one could use to teach himself from scratch. So even though the book listed spells, you probably had to know something about magic in order to have any semblance of success.
I remember showing my father the book, asking what he thought. Even though he said he didn’t think there was such a thing as real magic, only magic tricks, on the off chance there really were real spells, if it were him, he wouldn’t mess with things he didn’t understand. I’m not entirely sure he meant it as a warning, but looking back, I think it as actually a nice way of providing the requisite parental guidance without dashing my hopes. And I think I did take he said to heart, because I recall flipping through the spells listed and found one I thought couldn’t do too much damage to either myself or my home: a rain spell. I even wrote it down in a little notebook (which I’d love to find one of these days since I have no idea what it entailed now) and stood by the window of my room, reciting the words. Nothing ever happened, which was both positive and negative – I eventually gave up and moved on to other things, figuring that either I lacked the skill to do it right, meaning, like most human endeavors, it required practice and actual hard work (bummer) or that there actually was no such thing as magic, which, in some ways, was somewhat of a relief, too. Because then there was no such thing as black magic, and the curses and enchantments of stories were really just fiction, and that was reassuring on some level.
Flash forward twenty some years. I recently finished reading a book by fellow Goodreads authors Lori Schiele, called Wiccan Shadows, about a group of practicing witches and how they deal with the mysterious disappearance of one of their coven members.
Interwoven in her disappearance are a series of ominous dreams and real life appearances by a mysterious black dog that seems to have vaulted straight from a dark, cold corner of hell. There are spells, rituals, shapeshifters, and bad guys using dark magic. As someone who knew nothing about Wicca or magic other than what I’ve described above, it really kept me turning the pages, and I’d totally recommend it if you are looking for a interesting read, especially if you normally like thrillers, romance, and paranormal fantasy books. Once again, I am left wondering – what happens if there really is magic?
There are so many things in this world we don’t understand. Who knows, perhaps one day, we’ll get a scientific explanation of things like ghosts and spells and such. And plenty of people have written about how belief in something like, either for or against, is responsible for some very interesting things, like the placebo effect responsible for medicines working when they’re inert and the nocebo effect responsible for perfectly good, well studied medicines not working when a person doesn’t want them to. And we really understand so little about things like the unconscious and how it shapes our behavior. So the possibility of magic existing out there is not too far of a stretch. And that’s good enough for me, as someone who writes about fantasy and fairy tales. Why not?
Speaking of which, stay tuned for a future guest post by fellow fantasy and Goodreads author Angela Chrysler. In the meantime, you can check out her website and the epic trailer for her latest book, Dolor and Shadow, here: http://www.angelabchrysler.com
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