We have a guest today. Please welcome Marie-Claude Bourque.
MAGIC, MAGICK, ZEN AND QUANTUM PHYSICS
Marie is a French Canadian living in Seattle, former scientist and fitness professional, now mom-at-home to two boys. She writes dark paranormal and urban fantasy. The manuscript that finaled in the American Title V contest is titled Ancient Whispers. Set in modern Rhode Island and inspired by the poem Evangeline by Longfellow, it is filled with sorcerers, dark mages, alchemists and Celtic priestesses.
When the characters of my story ANCIENT WHISPERS decided they were to be sorcerers, alchemists and practice witchcraft as ancient Celtic priestesses in modern time, I was stumped. Where do I start? How do I write all this magic and how do I make it coherent. After trying to fill the brilliant world building questionnaire at SFWA, I had to pause and think. Write what you know….Okay, I can do that. I’m a former Dungeons and Dragons geek, a physicist and have been studying Pagan witchcraft and Zen Buddhism for a long time. So let’s see where that leads me?
Most people are familiar with magic as wizardry: Harry Potter and Dumbledore, Gandalf in The Lord of the Ring, even Samantha in Bewitched. And also for D&D geeks, wizard Raistlin Majere in the Weiz & Hickman, Dragonlance Chronicles series. They all use spell casting types of magic. Using a wand or not, chanting incantations that have been studied and practiced over a long time, using talismans, powders, herbs and crushed flowers, reading scrolls that destroyed themselves once used.
The writer’s imagination is limitless here, but things have to be kept logical. Rules have to be obeyed and the wizard need a certain weakness or it will make for a very boring story. I just love how the character Raistlin become weaker and weaker physically as he becomes a stronger and stronger wizard and thus has to rely on his strapping twin brother for help. And what of Harry Potter who navigates the angst of a growing boy while trying to learn magic from scratch. Would he be less endearing if didn’t have all these normal muggle problems?
So what if you want to try writing wizardry and don’t know where to start? Well, you can start having fun by generating some unusual spells and artifacts names. Seventh Sanctum has a comprehensive series of magic generators, from spell casting to dark rituals and magical items. And if you want to get into serious magic research, you can take a full seven-year degree in Wizardry at The Grey School of Wizardry for about $50.00 a year. I was as lucky to take an excellent course on Falconry by one of their faculty member: fantasy author Eva Gordon. Or you can also choose to get inspired by looking through manuals of role playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons, or anything else you may be more familiar with.
I have used the “k” here in spelling ritual magic, but let it be known that a variety of Pagan scholars prefer to simply spell it “magic” when referring to witchcraft rituals and I personally also prefer simple spelling.
Now how can we use ritual magic in writing? A book that showcases ritual magic well is Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley (think of Igraine’s fire ritual to enter Uther ‘s mind and warn him he will be murdered). The movie The Craft also portrays ritual magic realistically (for example the cord binding ritual to prevent witch leader Nancy from doing anymore magic). Ritual Magic resembles a prayer. It uses rituals and tools to call deities that will make things happen or simply empower the witch or priest/priestess to achieve things in their life, a “cleric” in the D&D world. The rituals I describe in ANCIENT WHISPERS are spiritual journeys where my heroine performs realistic Pagan witchcraft ritual to encounter the triple goddess to learn more about herself and also to heal a love one and eventually raise a protection shield during a large magical battle. It is both a self discovery and a tool of magic.
To portray realistic rituals, it is important to know that Wicca, which has a comprehensive series of set rituals, rules and tools such as the Wiccan Rede, Threefold Law, Pentagram, Book of Shadows and Athame, is a new religion. Any modern witch pretending to have this knowledge past down from her great-great-grand mother is perpetuating a myth that has been debunked by historians. See for example historian Ronald Hutton: The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft and the site Wicca for the rest of us.
That said, if we are writing fiction, we can invent what we want and all is fair game. A lot of neo-paganism is based on ancient religions such as Celtic and Greek Mythology, as seen in all the different traditions. For a list of traditions, try Pagan Traditions at Witchvox.com, the largest Pagan forums on the net.
To describe ritual magic here would be too long, but I recommend as a start a book by Pagan author Christopher Penczack: The Mystic Foundation: Understanding and Exploring the Magical Universe. He goes to describe all sort of ritual magic, Pagan, Wiccan, Druidic, Shamanic and more. Most of these traditions follow the wheel of the year, loosely based on Celtic Mythology. As my story span over nine months, I found myself using the book Celebrate the Earth: A Year of Holidays in the Pagan Tradition, by Salem-based witch Laurie Cabot, mostly for her celebrations suggestions, such as what to eat at Yule and how to decorate at Samhain.
And if you need just a little more, you can join me as a student of Sharon Gunn for her online class Druids: The Ancient Priesthood of the Celts starting Nov 1st through the Celtic Heart Romance Writers.
How on heart can you use Zen to showcase magic? Well, I find this interesting. How can you explain psychic abilities? Buddhists see themselves as being one with the world and the world being one with them. As Buddhist peace activist and Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh says in his book The Sun My Heart, we are all interconnected. So how can a wizard/psychic/sorcerer use this? By completely letting go of his conception of self and becoming one with the matter he tries to manipulate or the person he is trying to read.
I have used this in WHISPERS where I show my hero first being so joined with elements around him, that he becomes one with them, he becomes one with the water molecules around him, with each gas of the atmosphere, he feels the pull of gravity clearly, the tides pulling on the ocean, on the earth mantle. And only when he can completely come out of his own self, can he enter the mind of the villain and reads his dark thoughts.
And to think at the molecule level got me to look further. What if our wizard/psychic/sorcerer can now act at the quantum level, alter quarks, small bundles of energy inside the nucleus of atoms, or even further, alter the string of energy waves that essentially creates quarks (for more on this check out the book by Brian Greene: The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory.
Now you’re going wooah, where is she going with that? Well there is so much we don’t know and I’ll spare you the physics lecture and encourage you to watch the movie What the BLEEP do we know!? It is hilarious and poses some real question on how we communicate as human beings and perhaps may give you some inspiration for cool psychics!
And if we are on the subject of science, I cannot ignore the topic of Alchemy. Is it science, magic, or spirituality? You decide and check alchemy rituals and history and alchemy spirituality.
All that said, today is a very important day for Pagans: Samhain, the beginning of the new year, the day when the veil is thin between the word and the underworld, the day when the departed are honored.
So bright Samhain blessings everyone. It’s time for me to take my boys trick-or-treat for Halloween. Hope they meet all sorts of magical beings tonight!
What kind of magic do you like?